March 4, 2002 Final Release of Abraham Lincoln Papers Now Available Online

Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

The Library of Congress National Digital Library Program and the Manuscript Division announce the final release of the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. The papers can be accessed from the American Memory Web site at This final release includes 20,000 documents, comprising 61,000 digital images and annotated transcriptions of approximately 11,000 documents.

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress contain items dating from 1833 through 1916. Most of the approximately 20,000 items in this release are from the 1850s through Lincoln's presidential years, 1860-65. Treasures include Lincoln's draft of the Emancipation Proclamation; his March 4, 1865, draft of his second Inaugural Address; and his Aug. 23, 1864, memorandum expressing his expectation of being defeated in the upcoming presidential election. Other correspondence relating to these treasures provides historical context for understanding how and why they were written.

The Lincoln Papers collection richly documents historical events of the period, such as the crisis surrounding the reinforcement of Fort Sumter in early 1861, the Sioux uprising in Minnesota in the fall of 1862 and the writing of and popular response to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Letters to Lincoln from a wide variety of correspondents - friends and legal and political associates from Lincoln's days in Springfield, Ill.; national and regional political figures and reformers; local people and organizations writing to their president - offer sources on the political, social and economic history of the times as well as insights into Lincoln's personal and professional life. Included in the papers are documents written after Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865, such as letters of condolence to his widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, and correspondence between his oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and others.

The Lincoln Papers came to the Library of Congress from Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), who arranged for their organization and care shortly after his father was assassinated. At that time, Robert Todd Lincoln had the Lincoln Papers removed to Illinois, where they were first organized under the direction of Judge David Davis of Bloomington, Ill., Abraham Lincoln's longtime associate. Later, Lincoln's presidential secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, assisted in the project. In 1874, most of the Lincoln Papers returned to Washington, D.C., and Nicolay and Hay used them in the research and writing of their 10-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A History (New York, 1890). In 1919, Robert Todd Lincoln deposited the Lincoln Papers with the Library of Congress and on Jan. 23, 1923, he deeded them to the Library. The deed stipulated that the Lincoln Papers remain sealed until 21 years after his own death. On July 26, 1947, the Lincoln Papers were officially opened to the public.

Annotated transcriptions that accompany the digital images of items in the papers were provided by the Lincoln Studies Center, under contract to the Library of Congress. The center is located at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., and was established in 1997. It is headed by noted Lincoln scholars and editors Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson. The Lincoln Studies Center created annotated transcriptions for all the documents in Lincoln's own hand and, in addition, annotated transcriptions for nearly 50 percent of the other items, which consist mostly of Lincoln's incoming correspondence. Annotations for Lincoln's autograph documents include a headnote providing historical and documentary context, as well as annotations on the content of the document. Annotations for incoming correspondence typically identify people and organizations writing to Lincoln or referred to in the documents, explain terms and events and provide brief historical context. These fully searchable transcriptions and annotations dramatically extend access to the Abraham Lincoln Papers and enhance their teaching and research value.

This release completes the online presentation of the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. An introductory, or demonstration, release of approximately 2,000 documents was made available in February 2000. This was followed by the first formal release in February 2001 of approximately 17,000 documents (54,000 images) and 3,500 document transcriptions. Both the introductory and the first release contained descriptive document titles and annotated transcriptions that were "works in progress." This final release in March 2002 includes updates of those "works in progress" as well as the remaining 3,000 documents (7,000 images) and 7,500 transcriptions.


PR 02-026
ISSN 0731-3527