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Highlights Archives

Rare Lincoln Pamphlet Discovered

A photograph of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th President of the United States from March 4, 1861, until his assassination on April 15, 1865
WHI 70759

Martha Florey of Madison recently gave the Society an extremely rare pamphlet concerning Abraham Lincoln. One of her ancestors was Thomas Lewis (1808-1900), an Illinois attorney whom Abraham Lincoln sponsored at the bar. When Lewis was in his 80s, he put together a short business manual called "Everybody's Calendar, Receipt and Expense Book for Four Years," published in Kansas City in 1896. In front of its reference data he inserted a 20-page memoir, including two very brief anecdotes about his meetings with Lincoln in the 1840s. These add nothing new to scholars' understanding of the president, but his iconic status makes almost anything with a Lincoln connection interesting.

Most Pamphlets Discarded as Ephemera

Lewis printed his pamphlet on poor-quality paper with a high acid content, similar to newsprint, had it crudely bound between cardboard covers, and sold it to businesses in Kansas City. Because most of its contents were relevant for a very short time, the majority of these copies were presumably discarded soon afterward. Only one complete copy is known to survive, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.

But Lewis also ran off copies of the opening pages containing his life story to give to friends and family. Most of these perished long ago because their material and workmanship were so crude. The copy just donated to the Society was inscribed by Lewis to his great-great grand-niece, Ethel Egan. Florey received the booklet decades ago, but it lay unnoticed among odds and ends inherited from her grandmother. No other copy is known to exist in any library.

Precious Documents and Artifacts All Around Us

This is a classic story of buried treasure, and proof that precious documents and artifacts are all around us. Their survival requires someone with a sense of history to recognize them, and the public spirit to deposit them in cultural institutions committed to preserving them.

:: Posted August 5, 2010

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