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McLellan-Lincoln Collection

John Hay Library
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island

We are grateful to Mary-Jo Kline, former Curator of Special Collections at the John Hay Library, for providing this special report on the extraordinary Charles Woodberry McLellan Lincoln Collection.

In 1923, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Class of 1897, purchased the Charles Woodberry McLellan Lincoln Collection for Brown University. It was donated in memory of John Hay, Class of 1858, known to history as one of Lincoln's White House secretaries.

This collection, one of the five most important of its kind at the time, contained 3,700 books and pamphlets, about 120 documents and letters in Lincoln's hand, 235 broadsides and political posters, as well as medals, prints, photographs, plaques, busts and other museum objects for a total of more than 6,000 items.

This striking gift was the most important special collection the library had yet received in the 20th century. It remains housed in the two Lincoln Rooms on the third floor of the John Hay Library.

In the seventy-five years since this splendid donation, Brown has not allowed the collection to remain stagnant. In early 1930s, Mr. Rockefeller's generosity enabled the university to purchase two important Lincoln paintings: Alonzo Chappel's "The Last Day of Lincoln" and Peter Baumgras's 1865 portrait of the Sixteenth President.

A bequest from the daughter of Alexander H. Ritchie added his painting, "The Death of President Lincoln," to the display in the Lincoln Rooms during 1937. Further gifts and purchases have augmented the collection to approximately 15,500 books and newspapers, 2,600 manuscripts (of which some 950 were written or signed by Lincoln), 5,250 broadsides, 6,900 prints and photographs, 250 phonograph records, 350 pieces of sheet music, and 1,600 museum objects.

Among the manuscripts in Lincoln's hand are legal papers representing each of his three law partnerships; land surveys; the muster roll of his company in the Black Hawk War; letters concerning Lincoln's role in state and national politics; and commissions. Also included are Lincoln's handwritten copies of telegrams sent during the Civil War to his generals on war matters, to governors, Congressmen and others on political issues, and to personal friends and relatives.

The papers of Lincoln's associates in the collection include a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation written by Salmon P. Chase; an account of the last days of Lincoln's administration and reconstruction under Andrew Johnson written by Gideon Welles, and letters of Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert Todd Lincoln.

Printed material includes a few books owned by Lincoln and a strong collection of contemporary political pamphlets, books and broadsides, as well as later biographical, critical, and historical works about Lincoln, the Civil War, and the condition of Blacks, both slave and free.

A large collection of speeches about Lincoln, dating from 1865 to the present, offers important evidence of his place in American history, and in the formation and assessment of public policies and values.

A substantial number of poems and plays from the Lincoln and Harris Collections also provide a valuable source of information about the Lincoln image in popular history, as do the political cartoons, portrait engravings and other graphics, paintings, and museum objects in the collection.

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