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Collection John G. Nicolay Papers


Chronologies of key events in the lives of Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and biographer John G. Nicolay (1832-1901) and his daughter, author Helen Nicolay (1866-1954).

John G. Nicolay

John G. Nicolay (1832-1901)

  1. 1832, Feb. 26

    Born John George Nicolay (or Johann Georg Nicolai), Essingen, near Landau, Bavaria, the youngest of five children born to John Jacob Nicolay (1788-1846) and Helena Müller Nicolay (d. ca. 1839). According to John G. Nicolay's daughter Helen, the family changed the spelling of its surname from "Nicolai" to "Nicolay" after moving to the United States.

  2. 1837

    Immigrated to the United States

  3. 1846-1848

    Employed in dry goods store, White Hall, Ill.

  4. 1848

    Printer, Free Press, a Whig newspaper published in Pittsfield, Ill.

  5. 1851

    Met John Hay (1838-1905), with whom he would form a lifelong personal friendship and professional relationship

  6. 1852, Oct. 5

    Received Patent No. 9305 for a rotary printing press

  7. 1854-1856

    Owner and editor, Free Press, Pittsfield, Ill.

  8. 1856, May 29

    Delegate from Pike County, Ill., to anti-Kansas-Nebraska Act Bloomington Convention, where he heard address by Abraham Lincoln that has become known as Lincoln's "Lost Speech"

  9. 1857-1860

    Clerk for secretary of state of Illinois, Springfield, Ill.

  10. 1859, Jan. 17

    Admitted as a lawyer to the Illinois state bar

  11. 1860-1865, Apr.

    Private secretary to Abraham Lincoln

  12. 1862, July-Sept.

    Secretary to Indian treaty commission in Minnesota headed by Commissioner of Indian Affairs William P. Dole. The 1862 Dakota War occurred while Nicolay was in Minnesota.

  13. 1863, Jan. 20

    Admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, sponsored by Attorney General Edward Bates.

  14. 1863

    Onset of asthenopia (eye strain) that continued throughout the rest of his life.

  15. 1863, July 16

    Departed Washington, D.C., to travel to Colorado as secretary to Indian treaty commission. Nicolay did not return to Washington until November 6.

  16. 1863, Nov. 8

    Photographed in group portrait with Abraham Lincoln and John Hay at Alexander Gardner's studio, Washington, D.C.

  17. 1863, Nov. 18-19

    Accompanied President Lincoln to Gettysburg, Pa., for dedication of national cemetery at which Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address

  18. 1865, Mar. 28-Apr. 17

    On trip to Havana, Cuba; on return voyage when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated

  19. 1865, June 15

    Married Therena Bates (May 31, 1836-Nov. 25, 1885) of Pittsfield, Ill., the daughter of Dorus Bates (1805-1882) and Emma Lucy Norton Bates (1808-1873) of Pittsfield, Ill.

  20. 1865, July-1869, May

    United States consul, Paris, France. The U.S. Senate confirmed Nicolay's appointment on March 11, 1865, but he did not arrive in Paris until early July.

  21. 1866, Mar. 9

    Daughter Helen Nicolay (d. Sept. 12, 1954) born in Paris, France

  22. 1870, Oct. 11

    Awarded Patent No. 108,171 for improvement to window sash fasteners

  23. 1870, Oct. 12

  24. 1872, Dec.-1887, Dec.

    Marshal, Supreme Court of the United States

  25. 1874, Oct. 13

    Awarded Patent No. 155,809 for improvement in springboard buggies

  26. 1874

    With John Hay, began work on biography of Abraham Lincoln, using the papers of Abraham Lincoln in Nicolay's custody, on loan from Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln

  27. 1874

  28. 1877, Aug. 25

    Son George Bates Nicolay born (d. Oct. 22, 1877)

  29. 1878, Oct. 1

    Awarded Patent No. 208,485 for exercise machine

  30. 1881

    Published The Outbreak of Rebellion External. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons

  31. 1885, Nov.

    Nicolay and John Hay signed contact with the Century Co. to publish Abraham Lincoln: A History

  32. 1885, Nov. 25

    Death of wife Therena Bates Nicolay

  33. 1886, Nov.-1890, Feb.

    Excerpts of Abraham Lincoln biography published in serial form in the Century Magazine (See Related Resources page for links to articles published by Hay and Nicolay in the Century)

  34. 1890

    With John Hay, published Abraham Lincoln: A History External. 10 vols. New York: Century Co.

  35. 1890, Nov.-1891, Nov.

  36. 1891, Jan. 27

    Received Patent No. 445,190 for folding camp chair

  37. 1894

    With John Hay, published Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works External. New York: Century Co.

  38. 1895

    Built summer home Tannenruh in Holderness, N.H.

  39. 1899-1900

    Traveled to Europe and Egypt with daughter Helen Nicolay

  40. 1901, Sept. 26

    Died, Washington, D.C. Interred with his wife Therena and son George at Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

  41. 1902

    Published (posthumously) A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln External. New York: Century Co. Helen Nicolay completed the book for publication.

Helen Nicolay

Helen Nicolay (1866-1954)

  1. 1866, Mar. 9

    Born, Paris, France. Daughter of John G. Nicolay and Therena Bates Nicolay.

  2. 1869

    Moved with her parents to Washington, D.C.

  3. 1902

    Completed her father's book A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln External (New York: Century Co.), published posthumously under her father's name

  4. 1906

    Published The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln External. New York: Century Co.

  5. 1909

    Published The Boys' Life of Ulysses S. Grant External. New York: Century Co.

  6. 1912

    Published Personal Traits of Abraham Lincoln External. New York: Century Co.

  7. 1916

    Published Our Nation in the Building External. New York: Century Co.

  8. 1918

    Published The Book of American Wars External. New York: Century Co.

  9. 1920

    Published The Boys' Life of Lafayette External. New York: Harper & Brothers

  10. 1924

    Published Our Capital on the Potomac. New York: Century Co.

  11. 1927

    Published The Boys' Life of Alexander Hamilton. New York: Century Co.

  12. 1929

    Published Andrew Jackson, the Fighting President. New York: Century Co.

  13. 1931

    Published The Boys' Life of Washington. New York: Century Co.

  14. 1933

    Published The Boys' Life of Thomas Jefferson. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  15. 1934

    Published Sixty Years of the Literary Society External, Washington, D.C.: n.p.

  16. 1937

    Published Our Perennial Bible. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  17. 1938

    Published Wizard of the Wires: A Boys' Life of Samuel F. B. Morse. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  18. 1940

    Published The Bridge of Water: The Story of Panama and the Canal. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  19. 1942

    Published Decatur of the Old Navy. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

    Published MacArthur of Bataan. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  20. 1944

    Published China's First Lady. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  21. 1945

    Published Born to Command: The Story of General Eisenhower. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.

  22. 1947, July

    Donated John G. Nicolay Papers to the Library of Congress

  23. 1949

    Published Lincoln's Secretary: A Biography of John G. Nicolay. New York: Longmans, Green

  24. 1954, Sept. 12

    Died, Washington, D.C. Her ashes were scattered at Tannenruh, the Nicolays' summer home in Holderness, N.H.