• Inside the Lincoln Sitting Room

    Lincoln Home

    National Historic Site Illinois

Courtship and Marriage

Their backgrounds could not have been more different. Abraham Lincoln was born and raised in a one-room log cabin; Mary Todd was born and raised in a fourteen-room house. Abraham received less than one year of formal schooling; Mary received education throughout her childhood. Despite these opposite backgrounds, they met one night at a dance in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham approached Mary, and told her that he wanted to dance with her "in the worst way." As she later related the story, she said he did just that - danced with her in the worst way. She overlooked his two left feet and they began courting. However, her eldest sister - Elizabeth - and Elizabeth's husband - Ninian - disapproved of the uncultured Mr. Lincoln. The young couple broke off their courtship on what Lincoln referred to as the "fatal first of January" 1841.

For over a year, Abraham and Mary avoided each other, until mutual friends brought them back together. They dated in secret. Mary did not tell Elizabeth until their wedding day, November 4, 1842, that the couple was courting again. Elizabeth apparently gave in, and permitted the wedding to be held in her house. Afterward, the couple went to the place where they spent their first year of marriage- a single room on the second floor of a rooming house. In those humble conditions, Mary gave birth to their first child - Robert Todd Lincoln. After renting a small house for a time, Abraham Lincoln purchased his first and only house. In May of 1844, Abraham, Mary, and Robert moved into a one-and-a-half-story cottage - a house which they eventually expanded into two stories, and a home where they lived as a family for the next seventeen years.

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Did You Know?

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Lincoln never returned to the family home in Springfield after the death of Abraham Lincoln. She instead lived in Chicago and in Europe until returning to her sister's house in Springfield later in life. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois