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White House life was a mixed blessing for the Lincoln family. Lincoln called his White House office the “shop,” a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that the president’s home was a public building, open to all citizens. Lincoln received many visitors seeking to advance their careers, influence government policy, or acquire pardons. However, the line only grew, and the exhausted president restricted his “public hours.” Critics attacked Mary for unpatriotic extravagance for her redecorating and frequent entertaining. For the Lincolns’ younger sons, Willie and Tad, the grounds were a playground, but Willie’s death in 1862 cast a shadow over his grieving family.

Mary Todd Lincoln's Jewelry

Media accounts of the new first lady represented her as plain and plump. Critics attacked Mary Todd Lincoln for spending far more on gowns and jewelry than her resources allowed. This seed pearl necklace and matching bracelet set was purchased from Tiffany & Co. in New York City. She is reported to have spent $2,000 on a single gown, which, during a time of war and sacrifice, only added to the public ridicule. Mary wore this jewelry to Lincoln's first Inaugural Ball. This photograph, taken at the Washington studio of Mathew Brady, shows Mrs. Lincoln wearing the seed pearl necklace and matching bracelet set displayed here, which she purchased from Tiffany & Co., in New York City.

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Willie Lincoln

William (Willie) Wallace Lincoln was the most precocious of the Lincoln children—good natured and, unlike his younger brother Tad, studious. He seemed to have an affinity for poetry and mathematics and was unusually religious for his age. Lincoln took great pride in his third son, the more so after observing that Willie on numerous occasions solved interpersonal problems in much the same manner he did himself. Willie's death at the age of eleven from typhoid fever affected both parents profoundly.

Mathew B. Brady. Willie Lincoln, Third Son of President Lincoln . . . , ca. 1862. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (139) Digital ID # ppmsca-19390

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Abraham Lincoln and Thomas (Tad) Lincoln, 1865

This is one of five photographs of President Lincoln taken at the studio of Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865. It was Lincoln's last studio sitting, and the effects of four long years of war are all too apparent in his haggard and care-worn face. His son Tad, on the other hand, appears to be his usual mischievous self, proudly wearing his tailored uniform and chain.

Alexander Gardner. Abraham Lincoln with his son Tad (Thomas), February 5, 1865. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (140) Digital ID # cph-3a05994

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The Lincoln Family

This mezzotint print of the Lincoln family produced by New York engraver John Chester Buttre in 1873 was based on a composite portrait by New York artist, Francis B. Carpenter. Carpenter relied on a photograph taken at Mathew Bradys Washington studio on February 9, 1864, for his representation of President Lincoln and Tad. The images of Mary Todd, Willie, and Robert Lincoln are his own creation.

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