Lincoln Home
Historic Furnishings Report
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Both the Leslie's Illustrated drawings and the surviving original Lincoln furniture show the Lincoln Home furnishings to be excellent examples of solid middle-class household goods at mid-century. Caroline Owsley Brown, in "Springfield Society Before the Civil War," described the furnishings of the more fashionable houses in Springfield:

Many of the houses were furnished very handsomely, with velvet carpets, damask and lace curtains with silk brocatelle, and the tables boasted gold banded china and solid silver and almost everyone kept their own carriage. [1]

The Lincoln house was furnished similarly but with slightly less expensive items. For example, Mrs. Lincoln purchased cotton damask for draperies rather than silk and the parlor furniture was mahogany and walnut rather than the more expensive rosewood.

The Lincoln furnishings in Springfield were not the most up-to-date styles; however, they were reflective of the major decorative trends at that time. The house contained a variety of late Empire style, Gothic, Rococo Revival, and Cottage style furniture. Some furniture appears to have been locally made while other furniture is characteristic of the early factory furniture exported from the east and larger urban centers, such as Cincinnati and St. Louis. For example, J. A. Hough advertised in the Illinois Daily Journal May 11, 1849:

Cabinet Warehouse--Cabinet Furniture, Chairs, Looking-Glass Plates, Mattresses, Willow Wagons, Clocks, etc., etc. of New York, Boston, and Cincinnati Manufacture. [2]

Although Lincoln was able to purchase eastern furniture in Springfield, the selection would have been better in St. Louis or Cincinnati. Lincoln purchased carpeting in St. Louis and it is logical to assume he purchased other furnishings there as well. Indeed, according to advertisements by Springfield cabinetmakers, St. Louis cabinetmaking establishments were considered competition. For example, an advertisement by J. Hutchinson, January 2, 1850, in the Springfield Illinois Daily Journal read:

The extensive Warerooms of the establishment will always be supplied with a large stock of FURNITURE, consisting in part of Sofas, Secretaries, Bookcases, Centre and side Tables, Work and Card Tables, Sideboards, Dressing Bureaus, Common Bureaus, Cupboards, Wardrobes, Presses, High-Post, French and Common Bedsteads, Lounges, Washstands, Chairs, Cribs, and Cradles, &c. &c &c: and in order that the public may have a full and fair opportunity of judging for themselves, between our own manufactured articles and those from abroad, we further invite their attention to the following articles, just received from the eastern markets, viz:

Mahogany Centre Tables
Cherry Card do.
Dressing Bureaus,
Common do.
Mahogany Toilet Stands,
Common do.
Plain and Tufted Sofas
Fancy Divans
Mahogany Wash Stands,
Plain do.
O.G. Pillar Card Tables,
Rocking Chairs, &c. &c.

The patronage of the public generally is respectfully solicited, and all who visit this very extensive establishment will be made satisfied that it richly merits the confidence and support of an intelligent and judicious community, who appreciate the importance of encouraging Home Manufactures, and building up our own region of country, instead of furnishing our means to add to the wealth of St. Louis, Cincinnati, and the eastern cities. J. HUTCHINSON. [3]

Another advertisement in 1857 showed that J. Hutchinson was still concerned with the competition from St. Louis. It read:

I have also made arrangements for a constant supply of Eastern work .... Persons wishing to fill orders can do so at as reasonable terms as St. Louis or any other western city. [4]

Thus the Lincoln home would most likely have contained furniture from Springfield and other cities. Locally manufactured furniture was made of native woods and in a variety of styles. In central Illinois, furniture was made of walnut, cherry, ash, and sycamore; and in northwest Illinois of maple, oak, birch, or pine. Betty Madden in Arts Crafts and Architecture in Early Illinois (Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois Press, 1974) illustrates numerous examples of this Illinois-made furniture.

Section E of this Furnishing Plan is based on the surviving original Lincoln furnishings and period documentation. Where it has been necessary to fill in additional furniture, items have been added that correspond to the tastes reflected in the original furnishings. Placement and quantities of furniture are based largely on the Leslie's drawings, other period illustrations, such as paintings and prints, and household guidebooks--in particular Miss Leslie's Lady's House Book (Philadelphia, 1846), a copy of which Mrs. Lincoln owned. Miss Leslie's was a very popular household manual.

Although there do not seem to be many surviving records of the 1952-1955 restoration, refurnishing was comprehensive, and the majority of the furnishings now in the house are of an appropriate date and style for the Lincoln Home. Over the years, however, additional items have been acquired and in almost every room, according to recent research on furnishings, there are too many items. The changes recommended by this report will mean the elimination of many items.

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Last Updated: 08-Feb-2004