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    Follow the Stories | Spokane, Washington (2008)

    Abraham Lincoln Letters & Signed Photograph

    Comment
    • Portrait signed by the 16th president
      At the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW event in Spokane, Washington, on August 4, 2007, a guest named Julie brought in an impressive collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, including two letters and this portrait signed by the 16th president.

    • Lincoln seated beside a table
      Lincoln is seated beside a table in the portrait, appearing deep in thought, leaning slightly forward and bracing himself on the arms of the chair. The brim of his upturned "stovepipe" hat is barely visible at the left edge of the picture.

    • Closeup of Lincoln seated beside a table
      Lincoln is seated beside a table, appearing deep in thought, leaning slightly forward, bracing himself on the arms of the chair. The Civil War had begun at Fort Sumter in April; martial law had been declared in May. The tide of the war was a long way from turning in the Union's favor.

    • Lincoln's signature
      Appraiser Ken Gloss noted how bold, clear, and unfaded by time Lincoln's signature is at the bottom of the portrait. He said these qualities greatly enhance the value of the photograph.

    • Back-- attestation of John Hay
      On the back of the photographic print, one of Lincoln's private secretaries, John Hay, attested to the authenticity of his signature in an undated notation. It reads, "I certify that the President's signature is genuine. John Hay." Gloss said the retail value of this portrait today would be $35,000 to $50,000.

    • 1862 letters
      Both of Julia's letters date from 1862 and are from President Lincoln to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, who served as general-in-chief of the Union Armies from July 1862 to March 1864. A later notation on the reverse of the first letter reads, "Washington D.C. May-1-1862. Lincoln, A. President. Letter to Halleck relative to giving Genl. Schofield an independent command in Dept. of Mo." Gloss says that while he certainly does not recommend jotting notes on the back of historical documents, it does not affect the value in this case.

    • Letter
      Written out by Lincoln on War Department stationery, the first letter is dated May 1, 1862, and bears the word "Cypher" in parentheses at the top. According to Gloss, that is an indication that this wartime message likely would have been to sent to General Halleck in coded form by telegraph, rather than hand-delivered.

    • Letter.
      Just before his appointment as general-in-chief, General Halleck had been serving as commander of a division of the U.S. Army called the Department of the Missouri. Lincoln was writing in an effort to prompt General Halleck to make a decision regarding promotion of Brig. Gen. John Schofield, a senior officer under Halleck. Lincoln was apparently getting pressure from the Missouri congressional delegation to promote Schofield. (See the next slide for a transcript.)

    • Transcription of the letter.
      In a manner that might seem unusually considerate by today's standards, especially from a frustrated president, Lincoln tells General Halleck that despite being "pressed" he has avoided making the decision about Schofield on his own, "for fear of interferring with, and embarrassing your operations."

    • The second letter.
      The second letter to General Halleck is dated Oct. 18, 1862, and handwritten by Lincoln on Executive Mansion letterhead. In it the president writes of other pending promotions, necessitated he says by losses in recent battles, including the Battle of Perryville (Ky.) just 10 days prior. (See the next slide for a transcript.)

    • Transcription of the second letter.
      The president is courteous but direct: "The names of Gen. Rousseau, and Col. Curran Pope, have long been before me for promotion. ... Please examine into it. Yours truly, A. Lincoln." Gloss estimated the retail value of these two historic letters at $20,000 to $25,000 each.

      Watch the full appraisal in our ROADSHOW Archive »

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