Lincoln Home
Historic Furnishings Report
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Plank Bottom Wooden Side Chairs Two, one in the Lincoln Home Collection (LIHO 1062) and the other in the Oldroyd Collection

LIHO 1062 was transferred to the Lincoln Home from Ford's Theater. One chair, a painted, plank bottomed side chair, with flowers on the top rail and back splat, is said to have been used in the Lincoln dining room. The second, a matching plank bottom chair, remained in the Oldroyd Collection (location unknown in 1980). Coe's 1896 Descriptive Catalogue of the Oldroyd Collection described them as "No. 9. Chair, common wooden, used by the family in the dining-room, Lincoln homestead." No. 10, chair, same as the preceding." No other documentation has yet been found, and Coe gives no information as to how Oldroyd acquired the chairs or from whom. Although these chairs may be Lincoln associated chairs, the evidence to support that claim is very slim and, therefore, they should be listed only tentatively with those items having a much stronger provenance.

Rocking Chair Upholstered in Black Horsehair (LIHO 38)

This chair should not be listed with the original Lincoln home items; however, it has a Lincoln association. According to the Pickarel family of Springfield, this chair was "Lincoln's favorite" when he visited them. The chair was donated to the Home by a Pickarel grandson, George Pasfield.

Rocking Chair, ladder back with splint weave seat (LIHO 126)
Rocking Chair, upholstered in black horsehair (LIHO 94)

The ladder back rocking chair was acquired for the Lincoln Home by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America through the antiques dealer Lucy Rhea. The upholstered rocking chair was also acquired from Mrs. Rhea. According to information found in the files, the catalogue card for the ladder back chair and a letter and statement from Mrs. Rhea concerning the upholstered rocker, both pieces of furniture had accompanying affidavits attesting to their authenticity. These affidavits have not been found. Both chairs supposedly belonged to the Lincolns and the ladder back in particular to Mrs. Lincoln. Without the affidavits, this association cannot be confirmed.

Rocking Chair, caned seat and caned panel on back with four turned spindles and curved crest rail above panel (possibly cherry) ca. 1840-1860. Located at Tuskegee, Alabama, in Booker T. Washington's study at The Oaks.

This chair was given to Tuskegee Institute (TUIN #24) with a history of having been owned by Lincoln. No records have as yet been located to substantiate this claim. The chair, however, is identical to the pair shown in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (March 9, 1861) drawing of the Lincolns' sitting room and no other chairs of a similar design have yet been found with a Lincoln history of ownership. It is of an appropriate style and date to have come from Illinois at that time. It has been refinished and one piece of wood on the seat has been replaced.

Rocking Chair (LIHO 56)

The files on this chair appear to be incomplete. It was acquired by the State from Mrs. Chester Dudley Tripp. The chair came with a history of having belonged to Mr. Lincoln. No affidavit is mentioned on the catalogue card and no correspondence relating to this chair has been located. There is not enough information on this chair to confirm the Lincoln association.

Rocking Chair (LIHO 64)

The files on this chair are incomplete. The State purchased the chair in 1956 from Mrs. Charity Coe Wood. The tradition which accompanied the chair is that it belonged to Mr. Lincoln. No affidavits or correspondence have been located in the files. There is currently not enough information available to determine Lincoln authenticity.

Side Chair, balloon back (LIHO 787)

This chair was donated to the Lincoln Home in 1973 by the Estate of Myrtle Burke. In 1970, Mrs. Burke wrote to the Department of Conservation to offer the chair and at that time outlined its history. She stated:

Many years ago, I purchased from a dealer in Jacksonville, Illinois, whose name as I recall was Caldwell, a chair that had been in Mr. Lincoln's home in Springfield when he left there to go to Washington to become President ....

This chair has been in my possession for a great many years (close to 45 or 50) and was purchased by me from a young man who dealt in antiques and he had acquired it from Mrs. Lincoln's nieces, to whom Mrs. Lincoln had left the house and contents upon her death. In my childhood these nieces had an exchange or gift shop ....

Mrs. Burke's account is questionable for several reasons. No balloon back side chairs appear in the Leslie's Illustrated drawings. The side chairs which do appear are of an earlier style, the late Empire. Mrs. Lincoln did not leave the house and contents to her nieces. After Mr. Lincoln's death, she quitclaimed her rights to the house in favor of her sons. The majority of the Lincoln furnishings were sold before the Lincolns' removal to Washington. Only a few pieces of furniture purchased by the Tiltons remained in the house and these furnishings appear to have been destroyed in the Chicago fire.

Mrs. Lincoln, however, did give away specific items to her family and it is possible such a chair was given to a niece. Unfortunately, Mrs. Burke was not able to provide further details and the evidence is not sufficient to support the claim that the chair came from the Lincoln Home.

Side Chair, balloon back (LIHO 260)

This side chair does not have a Lincoln home association. It was owned in Springfield by Mrs. Lincoln's sister and for this reason has been mentioned in this plan. It was donated to the Lincoln Home by Mrs. T. F. Mahoney (Olivia Reid Mahoney). The chair supposedly came from the home of Mrs. Lincoln's sister, Mrs. Ninian Edwards.

Side Chairs, Pair, Hitchcock style, stencilled gold lines (LIHO 31 and 32)

These chairs were acquired from Mrs. Hugh Morrison who believed they were originally in the Lincoln and Logan law office. It is possible, however, that they were originally in the Lincoln Home. As the Lincolns purchased new furniture, it is possible that old furniture was taken to Lincoln's law office. No affidavits or correspondence were found in the files. These chairs appear to be two of four Hitchcock chairs Mr. Hagen refers to as Lincoln chairs.

Chairs with Lincoln Association in Other Collections Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum

The Ford Museum has a collection of furnishings acquired by Henry Ford in 1930 from Ben and Dick Wilton, descendents of Harry Wilton, U. S. Marshal of the Southern District of Illinois. In his capacity as a U. S. Marshal, Mr. Wilton would have known Mr. Lincoln, the lawyer. In fact, among the documents listed in Henkels' sale catalogue (1894) from the Lincoln Memorial Collection is a note written by Abraham Lincoln of an order obtained by Wilton for the Southern District dated June 17, 1843, made in the case of Walter R. Bush vs. Robert Allen.

According to the Ford Museum, the furniture in their collection from the Wiltons includes a mahogany empire card table with acanthus carving on the lyre pedestal, a shelf clock by John Birge, Bristol, Connecticut, six cane seated side chairs and six late empire mahogany side chairs with acanthus carved front legs, decorative carving on the splat and top rail, and hair cloth seats.

According to an article on Lincoln chairs in Lincoln Lore (No. 1318, July 12, 1954), there were also two rocking chairs in this collection as well as six other unidentified pieces of furniture. There is no supporting documentation (such as affidavits or bills of sale) for this furniture and without additional evidence, this collection cannot be authenticated as having come from the Lincoln home.

Chicago Historical Society-Lincoln Home Furnishings

The Chicago Historical Society has a large collection of furnishings, more than half of which are chairs which have a history of coming from the Lincoln home in Springfield. Unfortunately, little of this furniture is well documented. The following is a list of those items (not already mentioned in the section on well-documented provenance, if furnishings) with their accession numbers and known: [69] (Also, see illustrations 8 and 9.)

Chair, small, painted brown, XA-2260, Charles F. Gunther Collection. The Gunther Collection was acquired by the Historical Society in 1920, and was not well documented.

Chairs pair, slat backed, pine with black stain, XA-2257. Charles F. Gunther Collection. These chairs were reportedly from the Lincoln home kitchen, but were not well documented.

Chairs four, side, rosewood with heart shaped back, Acc. No. 1920.242 a-d, Charles F. Gunther Collection. In addition to the absence of documentation, these chairs do not resemble any in the March 9, 1861, Leslie's drawings of the parlors or sitting room. Chair, rocking, mahogany, Acc. No. 1920.243, Charles F. Gunther Collection. No documentation.


The Leslie's Illustrated drawing of the Lincolns' front parlor shows two upholstered footstools. One, supposedly original, footstool is now at the Lincoln Home; however, unlike those which appear in the drawing, it is caned rather than upholstered.

Caned Footstool (LIHO 48)

According to the catalogue card, this footstool has a history of belonging to Mrs. Lincoln. No provenance was mentioned on the card. A letter located in Accession File No. 1, dated August 19, 1960, however, states that a footstool belonging to Mrs. Lincoln was donated by Emily C. Paschal along with a "furniture doily." At that time, Richard Hagen, Historical Consultant, wrote to thank Mrs. Paschal. A caned sewing chair (LIHO 47), with which this footstool would be appropriate, also has a history of belonging to Mrs. Lincoln. Without further information, however, the footstool cannot be authenticated as an original Lincoln item.


Lamp Coal Oil (Present location unknown)

A note in the Lincoln Home files, Illinois State Historical Society Library, outlines the history of a coal oil lamp supposedly owned by the Lincoln family. According to an affidavit (not found in the files but mentioned in the note) signed by Mrs. Ellen McCarthy Kent, Mrs. Cornelius McCarthy, Mrs. Kent's mother, purchased the lamp at the Lincolns' 1861 sale. It was the McCarthy family's first lamp. Mrs. Kent inherited the lamp and presented it to Bess Giblin Earseman. Cornelius McCarthy was living in Springfield at the time of the sale and could have attended it. In the 1860-1861 Springfield City Directory, he is listed as a laborer living west of Rutledge and First Streets, north of Miller. The McCarthy family history seems reliable; however, the location of the lamp is currently unknown.


Mirror (Chicago Historical Society) Accession No. 1960. 100

This mirror is said to have been purchased from the Lincolns by Colonel George H. Harlow in 1869 and hung in the Lincoln Home when George Harlow (Secretary of State of Illinois, 1873-1881) rented the Lincoln home in that same year. George Harlow's daughter, Georgia Harlow Whitacre, signed an affidavit, April 18, 1933, stating the above family history and that the mirror was purchased from her by Mrs. Jacob Baur. In 1958, Mrs. Whitacre's sister, Susan Harlow, signed another affidavit confirming the above story. Mrs. Baur gave the mirror to the Chicago Historical Society in 1960.

The provenance does not account for the mirror from the time the Lincolns moved out of the house in 1861 (and sold most of their belongings) until 1869 when the Harlow family moved into the house. Without further information, this mirror cannot be confirmed as an original Lincoln Home piece of furniture.


Music Box (Illinois State Historical Society Collection)

A mid-nineteenth-century music box descended in the family of Frances Todd Wallace, Mary Todd Lincoln's sister. According to Mrs. Wallace's granddaughter, Frances W. Patteson, her mother, Mrs. Patteson was given the music box by her Aunt Mary Lincoln. Copies of correspondence relating to this artifact are found in LIHO furnishing files. There is no evidence to indicate that this music box was located in the Lincolns' Springfield home.


Pedestal Stand (LIHO 1098)

This stand was transferred from the Lincoln Museum Collection at Ford's Theatre. According to their records (where it was catalogue no. 3202), the stand was one of the furnishings Oldroyd acquired from Miss Lydia Rockhill, a Springfield milliner and dressmaker, who had purchased these items at the Lincolns' 1861 sale. See pp. 59-60 and 69 for discussions of other artifacts purchased by Miss Rockhill.

The major points of this history can be verified. Miss Rockhill is listed in the Springfield 1860-1861 Directory, and the stand is mentioned in the 1896 inventory of the Oldroyd Collection. The available evidence, however, indicates this oak stand is not the one Oldroyd purchased from Miss Rockhill.

According to the Oldroyd 1896 inventory, the Rockhill stand was of black walnut. In addition to this discrepancy, the oak stand dates stylistically from the late nineteenth century. Oak pedestal stands with applied decoration were popular household items between 1890 and 1910. It is very unlikely that this stand was made before 1890 and, therefore, it could not have been in Lincoln's Springfield home.

Since the provenance for the Rockhill stand appears reliable, the oak stand was probably miscatalogued at Ford's Theatre, in place of the original stand, which now cannot be located.

In the stereoscope view of the Oldroyd Collection taken in 1886, a stand may be seen and it is emphasized by a number. This may be an illustration of the Rockhill stand.


Secretary-Desk (LIHO 6)

The secretary-desk, now in the Lincoln Home back parlor, descended in the family of Ninian Edwards, brother-in-law of President Lincoln. It was acquired from Mary Edwards Brown who inherited the desk from her father Albert S. Edwards who, in turn, had received it from his father Ninian Edwards. According to family tradition, Ninian Edwards purchased the desk from Mr. Lincoln prior to his departure for Washington.

There is a discrepancy in the records about where the desk originally was located. Mr. Lincoln's office and his home are both referred to in different documents. An affidavit (in the LIHO accession files), sworn to by Mary Edwards Brown, May 2, 1925, states that "the desk to which this certificate is attached... used by him [Mr. Lincoln] in his law office in said City of Springfield." Unfortunately, Mrs. Brown does not clearly identify the desk. She could be referring to another piece of furniture. A memo written in 1956 by Richard Hagen, Historical Consultant, to William Allen (Lincoln Home files in the Illinois State Historical Library) concerning acquiring funds for the purchase, however, reiterates the story that the desk was used in Lincoln's law office. Hagen more clearly identifies the piece of furniture by referring to it as a secretary-bookcase. The price mentioned is also the same as that paid by the State for the Edwards secretary-desk. The confusion arises because the purchase order states that the secretary-desk was used in the Lincoln Home and the catalogue card for this item contains the same story. Based on the evidence mentioned above, the logical conclusion is that a mistake was made on the purchase order and then was repeated at the time the collection was catalogued, which took place in 1973, many years after the original purchase. This secretary also does not resemble the one shown in the Leslie's drawing or the one in the Tilton stereoscope view.

Secretary, walnut, in two sections (Chicago Historical Society, Accession No. 1920.240)

No known provenance, said to have been used in Lincoln's home.

Desk and Chair (Chicago Historical Society, Accession No. 1920. 920 a-b)

No known provenance, said to have been owned by Lincoln while he was studying law at Vandalia and retained by him until his departure from Springfield.

Pine Desk (Oldroyd Collection, Ford's Theatre, Washington, D. C., Catalogue No. 3206)

According to Ford's Theatre records, this desk has a history of having been used by Mr. Lincoln at Springfield. No documentation, however, exists to support this claim.


Sofa, transitional style between late Empire and Rococo (LIHO 5). No material could be located in the files at the Illinois State Historical Society Library or at the Lincoln Home beyond information found on the catalogue card. The sofa was returned to the home by direct descendents of the Reverend Dresser (the donor's name was not on the card), who sold the 8th Street house to Lincoln. According to information on the catalogue card, the sofa was one Dresser left in the house at the time of the Lincolns' purchase. A problem with this history is that the sofa would have been in the latest style at the time the Dressers sold the house. Although possible, it does not seem logical that the Reverend Dresser would leave behind a brand new piece of furniture.

According to James Hickey, Curator of the Lincoln Collection, Illinois State Historical Library, the sofa was donated by Mrs. Clifford Conry, a Dresser descendent, as a piece of furniture which had descended in the Dresser family of Springfield. The sofa had not been in the Lincoln house when the Lincolns lived there. The sofa should not be labeled as a Lincoln piece of furniture.


Stereoscope (LIHO 273)

This stereoscope is identified by a metal label on the front which reads "A. Beckars, Patent April 7, 1857, Jas. Lee, N.Y. manufacturer." According to an affidavit signed by Annie E. Kavanaugh, June 16, 1926, the stereoscope was sold by Jack Hough to Mr. Lincoln in 1860 and acquired by her father, Hugh Gallagher, in 1868. Mrs. Kavanaugh does not state how Hugh Gallagher obtained it. However, it is possible that it was one of the items stored in Springfield by the Lincolns and Hugh Gallagher could have acquired it from Mrs. Lincoln after Lincoln's death. When Mrs. R. W. Ide, Jr. acquired the stereoscope was not noted in the records. Many of the Kavanaugh Lincoln items passed through the hands of a Springfield antiques dealer, Lucy Rhea; however, in this instance, it is not clear whether or not Mrs. Ide purchased the stereoscope directly. It is not mentioned in any of the existing Lucy Rhea correspondence. Mrs. Ide sold the stereoscope to the Lincoln Home in January 1954.

Since there are several unexplainable gaps in the provenance of the stereoscope, the Lincoln association must be considered unconfirmed though plausible.


Table, occasional, marble topped, Renaissance Revival Style (LIHO 55)

According to the catalogue card, this table was acquired by the Lincoln Home from Mrs. Bertha Gilmore of Massapequa, New York, with a history of Lincoln ownership. The records for this table are incomplete; however, stylistically, it is doubtful that the table dates prior to 1865. Therefore, its Lincoln history of ownership (at least during the Lincolns' Springfield period of residence) is not likely. No further information was located in the files.

Table (Present location unknown)

In 1953, Richard Hagen, Historical consultant to the Division of Parks and Memorials, purchased a whatnot, a table, and four pieces of china with Lincoln histories from L.C. Handy Studios in Washington, D. C. (see p. 101 for discussions of other items). According to Mrs. Evans, one of the owners of Handy Studios, these items were originally purchased by Isaac Strohm of Springfield at the 1861 Lincoln sale. Mrs. Evans purchased these furnishings from W. English who provided her with their history. No affidavits appear to have accompanied this purchase.

Proof of the provenance of these items is not strong. They changed hands several times, and they did not have any accompanying supportive data, such as a bill of sale or an affidavit by the original purchaser. Unless further information is found, these items should not be labeled as original to the Lincoln home.

Table, Center, Mahogany and Marble (Present location unknown) Information about the provenance of this table is incomplete. According to the files, this table was given to the Lincoln Home in 1942 by the Volicos family. At the time it was given, the table was said to have been in the Volicos' family for fifty years.

Table (Present location unknown)

Another table is mentioned in the Lucy Rhea correspondence as having come from the Lincoln Home; however, the records do not indicate that this table was ever acquired for the Home. It is included here in case further information becomes available. In a letter (July 17, 1934) written by Mrs. Rhea to Virginia (possibly Virginia Brown, caretaker at the Home), Mrs. Rhea lists a number of items with a Lincoln association that she wishes to sell, several of which were acquired for the Home (see pp. 5557, 75-76, 80-81, 93-94, 103-104, 125-127, and 132-133) with the apparent exception of this table and two pieces of fabric. In the 1934 letter, Mrs. Rhea described the table as "oval marble top walnut table formerly property of Mrs. Lincoln now in Springfield Art Association and filled with old glass cabinet on top that had formerly belonged to Lincolns." A statement by Mrs. Rhea listing four pieces of furniture was also found in LIHO Accession File No. 1. Two of the pieces of furniture were supposedly from the Lincoln Home, a rocker (LIHO 94), which was purchased from Mrs. Rhea, and the above mentioned table. In this statement, Mrs. Rhea adds the information that an affidavit was available although she does not say from whom. Another rocker (LIHO 126) was also purchased from Mrs. Rhea according to the LIHO catalogue and an accompanying affidavit states that it originally belonged to Mrs. Lincoln. The history of this table is not sufficient to state whether or not it was ever originally located in the Lincoln home.



Two whatnots are visible in the 1861 Leslie's drawings of the Parlor. The one in the northwest corner of the parlor may be a triangular shaped corner whatnot, although its shape is not clear from the drawings. One mid-nineteenth-century wall whatnot (now found in the Lincoln Home), a corner one in the Chicago Historical Society, and a whatnot owned by the Melvin family have a history of Lincoln ownership. The whatnot with the strongest Lincoln provenance is one owned by the descendents of Dr. Samuel Houston Melvin, a Springfield doctor, who originally purchased the whatnot from the Lincoln sale, February 9, 1861, for $10.00. The bill of sale signed by Abraham Lincoln was kept by the family along with the whatnot and a wardrobe. For many years, this whatnot was on display at the Oakland (California) Municipal Museum, to whom it was loaned by Dr. Melvin's son, Henry Melvin.

The other whatnot (LIHO 24) now in the Lincoln Home was purchased in 1953 by the Division of Parks and Memorials on the recommendation of Richard Hagen. He found several items supposedly owned by Lincoln at an antique store in Washington, D.C., the L.C. Handy Studios, owned by Mrs. Mary H. Evans. [70] According to Mrs. Evans, she acquired the whatnot from W. English, who had bought it from Isaac Strohm of Springfield, who had purchased it from the Lincoln sale in 1861. Although Strohm does not appear in the 1860-1861 Springfield City Directory, he is listed in the 1850 census for Sangamon County, City of Springfield, as a 10-year-old boy.

The whatnot (Accession No. 1921.7) at the Chicago Historical Society also has inconclusive evidence in support of the claim that it came from the Lincoln home; however, it is the only known corner whatnot with a Lincoln history. The Historical Society acquired the whatnot in 1921 from a Miss Camille Henry of Chicago whose father, according to the Henry family tradition, purchased the whatnot from the Lincolns when they left for Washington. [71]

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Last Updated: 08-Feb-2004