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Robert Todd Lincoln

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President Abraham Lincoln's oldest son responds to an autograph request

Robert Todd Lincoln, 1843-1926.  Oldest son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln; United States Secretary of War, 1881-1885; American Ambassador to Great Britain, 1889-1893.  Bold signature, Robert T. Lincoln, in the margin of a letter requesting his autograph [ca. January 1895].

This piece comes from a large collection of letters, notes, and signatures assembled by a professor of penmanship at the State Normal School at Emporia, Kansas, now Emporia State University, who had his students write to prominent men and women to request a handwritten letter expressing a reminiscence, a favorite sentiment, or a word of advice.  Lincoln responds by signing the margin of a letter containing Gertrude Limbocker's request for "some sentiment with your signature" for "an album of autographs of the noted men of the world.

Lincoln was the only one of President Lincoln's four sons to survive to adulthood.  Because his father was often gone from home, riding the legal circuit, while Robert was young, he had a somewhat distant and competitive relationship with his father.  Yet the 21-year-old Robert greatly admired President Lincoln and openly wept at his deathbed following his assassination in April 1865. 

Finally overcoming his mother's objection to his service in the Union Army, he served as a captain on Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's immediate staff during the last weeks of the Civil War and was present at Appomattox Court House when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant.  After the war, he returned with his mother and his brother Tad to Chicago, where he completed his legal education.

Lincoln served as the Secretary of War under President James A. Garfield and his successor, President Chester A. Arthur.  Later, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's.  His last public appearance was at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 1922.

Lincoln was not at Ford's Theater in Washington when assassin John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  He was, however, either present or nearby when the next two presidential assassinations occurred.  He was in the Sixth Street Train Station in Washington, D.C., with President Garfield when Charles J. Guiteau shot Garfield on July 2, 1881.  He was also at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, although not present in the room, when Leon F. Czolgosz shot President William McKinley. 

This is a nice 2¼ signature of Lincoln in black fountain pen.  The ink has bled on some of the letters in his first name.  The letter on which Lincoln has signed has some wrinkling at the edges, including the edge with the signature.  There are also some damp staining along the bottom and mounting traces on the back, neither of which affects the signature, from prior mounting in the album. Overall the piece is in very good to fine condition, and the signature is fine.  The letter could be matted out if the signature were framed with a portrait of Lincoln.




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