January 30, 1998 Library of Congress Gets $1 Million For On-line Lincoln Collection

Gift from Jones Family Foundation to Create "Mr. Lincoln's Virtual Library"

Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

WHAT: Reception and display of selected items from the Library's Lincoln collection, which will go on-line as part of the American Memory collections of the National Digital Library Program

WHO: James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress Donald G. Jones, President, Spirit Enterprise

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 6 to 8 p.m.

WHERE: Library of Congress, Jefferson Building, Members Room, 10 First Street. S.E. (Enter on First Street)


This major gift to the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress will make possible the digitization of two of the Library's most important collections relating to Abraham Lincoln. It will also help the Library forge partnerships with other major Lincoln repositories, creating a "virtual library" of Lincoln materials, linked via the Internet.

The Library's richest manuscript collection of Lincoln materials is housed in the Robert Todd Lincoln Collection, deposited in the Library in 1919 by President Lincoln's only surviving son. This unparalleled collection, first made available to the public in 1947, contains more than 15,000 items, including such treasures as Lincoln's drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation, his first inaugural address and letters about political and domestic troubles.

Additional treasures of Lincolniana came to the Library in 1950 through the generosity of Alfred Whital Stern of Chicago. Highlights of the more than 11,000 items in this collection include copies of three speeches delivered by Lincoln during his term as a U.S. representative from Illinois, Lincoln's scrapbook documenting his debates with Stephen A. Douglas during the Illinois senatorial campaign of 1858, and materials relating to the 1860 presidential election, his assassination and funeral.

Lincoln's first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on view. The president read his initial draft to his secretaries William Seward and Gideon Welles on July 13, 1862. Its text left the men nearly speechless, and Lincoln let the matter drop. He raised the subject again, during a Cabinet meeting on July 22, where the reaction was mixed. His mind was already made up, however, as the advice he sought concerned the style of the Proclamation, not its substance.

Another famous manuscript in the collection is the Jan. 26, 1863, letter to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker placing him in command of the Army of the Potomac. This letter will be on display along with these other unique items:

  • July 1863 letter from Lincoln to Gen. George Meade, never sent, in which the president vented his distress over the escape of the Confederate Army following the battle of Gettysburg.
  • Aug. 23, 1864, note from Lincoln to his Cabinet, in which he predicts his defeat in the 1864 election and the division of the country; he orders his Cabinet to assist the incoming administration.
  • Aug. 18, 1837, letter to Mary Owens in which he details his frustration over a hasty and ill- advised commitment to marry a woman he hardly knew and had not seen for several years. Lincoln reveals his verbal dexterity as he extracts a voluntary rejection of his marriage proposal.
  • Campaign banner supporting the candidacy of Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860.
  • Lincoln on His Deathbed, a sketch by renowned artist Alfred Waud, drawn at Lincoln's death, April 14-15, 1865.
  • 1860 ambrotype portrait of Lincoln by Preston Butler.

The National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress is making freely available on the Internet the most important of the Library's collections relating to American history. This electronic archives, called American Memory, already offers more than two dozen collections, including Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady, items relating to slavery and the civil rights movement, daguerreotypes, early motion pictures, sound recording and panoramic maps.


PR 98-015
ISSN 0731-3527