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Collection Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana

About this Collection

The Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana consists of 4,600 items (9,729 images), most of which were digitized from 15 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years circa 1824-1933, the collection contains papers representing Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), William Henry Herndon (1818-1891), and Jesse William Weik (1857-1930), records of The Weik Manuscript Corporation, and miscellaneous material collected chiefly by Herndon and Weik for use in writing Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life (1889).

Shortly after the death of President Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Herndon began gathering material for a biography of his former law partner. In 1885, Jesse William Weik, a lawyer in Greencastle, Indiana, brought new inspiration and assistance to the endeavor, and Herndon's biography, Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life External (1889), was completed through their joint effort. This collection of Lincolniana is the product of their research.

A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

The collection is arranged is arranged in six groups or series:

Group I: Arithmetic Book and Scrapbooks, circa 1824-1860 (Reel 1)
Includes one leaf (two pages) of an arithmetic book into which the young Abraham Lincoln entered tables and exercises in linear measure. During his lifetime, William Henry Herndon distributed leaves of Lincoln's original arithmetic or cypher book, and several of these leaves now can be found in other research institutions. (For more information, see volume 1 of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.) Color scans of the two pages held by the Library of Congress are available online in several downloadable formats. Group I also contains two scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. One scrapbook consists of editorials, news items, letters, and a number of statistical tables dealing with such subjects as demographics, slavery, geography, religion, railroads, agriculture, immigration, and monetary matters. Lincoln is alleged to have gathered the material for his debates with Stephen Arnold Douglas during their race for the United States Senate in 1858. The other scrapbook includes similar clippings and material on the presidential election of 1860.

Group II: Correspondence of Abraham Lincoln, 1833-1865 (Reel 1)
Comprised largely of correspondence, this series is divided into three sections. Section A consists of twelve letters and a certificate of survey in Abraham Lincoln's hand, including six letters from Lincoln to Mark William Delahay. Section B consists chiefly of reproductions of letters and papers written by Abraham Lincoln. Several letters from Lincoln to Joshua Speed document the friendship between the two men and their close communication on personal and public affairs. Other recipients include Joshua R. Giddings, Samuel Haycraft, John D. Johnston, Andrew McCallen, Leonard Swett, Richard S. Thomas, Henry Clay Whitney, and Archibald Williams. Letters to Abraham Lincoln from 1848 through 1861 constitute Section C of Group II. The campaign of 1856 is the subject of much of the correspondence. Among the topics discussed are the candidates, campaign strategy, and the strength of the Democratic, Republican, and Know-Nothing parties. Notable correspondents include John Bell, Joshua R. Giddings, Norman B. Judd, Thaddeus Stevens, John Wentworth, and Richard Yates. This section also contains newspaper clippings and miscellaneous printed material.

Group III: Legal Documents, 1834-1860 (Reels 2-6)
Contains documents related to Abraham Lincoln's legal cases.  It includes certificates, petitions, affidavits, notices, abstracts, writs, briefs, depositions, and other papers dealing with such subjects as divorce, slander, assault and battery, and usury.

Group IV: Papers of William Henry Herndon, 1849-1891 (Reels 7-11)
The largest series in the collection, this group consists of correspondence, interviews, recollections, notes, newspaper clippings, and other material of William Henry Herndon. Included are an interview with Mary Todd Lincoln in 1866, two long interviews with Abraham Lincoln's cousin Dennis Hanks, letters from Hanks to Herndon written in 1865 and 1866 mainly on family history, letters to Herndon from Charles Friend on the Enlow story, and letters and notes from Herndon to Weik between October 1881 and February 1891 containing reminiscences of Lincoln's life. Prominent in this series are Lincoln's family members, schoolmates, neighbors in New Salem and Springfield, Illinois, law partners, colleagues at the bar and in the Illinois legislature, political party allies, and White House associates. Herndon's correspondents include Ninian Wirt Edwards, Kate Roby Gentry, Mentor Graham, John Hay, John B. Helm, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, Stephen T. Logan, Leonard Swett, Frances Wallace, and Robert L. Wilson.

Also in Group IV are manuscripts by Herndon bearing such titles as "Lincoln's Development," "Lincoln's Courtship with Miss Owens," "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates," "Miss Rutledge and Lincoln," and "Lincoln's Ways."

Group V: Papers of Jesse William Weik, 1830-1927 (Reels 12-14)
Consists of correspondence, notes, extracts, interviews, typed and handwritten copies of documents, and other items of Jesse William Weik. Notable correspondents include Albert J. Beveridge, James Cook Conkling, Richard Henry Dana, John Hay, John G. Nicolay, Edward Lillie Pierce, Lyman Trumbull, and Horace White.

Group VI: Miscellany, circa 1824-1933 (Reel 15; unfilmed material scanned from originals)
Encompasses an assortment of unbound material which includes photostatic copies and facsimiles of documents mostly by Abraham Lincoln, a printed sermon and speech by Theodore Parker, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, pamphlets, one chapter of Albert J. Beveridge's Abraham Lincoln (1928), Charles M. Thompson's report on the "Lincoln Way" investigation, records of the Weik Manuscript Corporation, and negative photographs of documents collected by Herndon and Weik. Group VI also contains a microfilm edition of special card file indexes to the collection not physically housed with the collection itself.

An annotated inventory describing most items in the collection, but in an order different from the current arrangement, and a negative photostatic copy of the inventory with fewer annotations, neither of which are part of this online presentation, may be found in the Manuscript Division Reading Room reference collection.