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July 21, 2000

First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan Encourages Donation of More Lincoln Materials for Presidential Library and Museum

SPRINGFIELD -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today unveiled previously unknown, original Mary Todd Lincoln items that were recently donated to the State of Illinois for inclusion in the planned Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Ryan is encouraging more people to make similar donations to the new facility.

"These materials help us to better understand Mrs. Lincoln and add to our knowledge of the 16th President's family," said Mrs. Ryan. "I urge anyone who has original Lincoln documents or personal effects to contact us so we may continue to build our knowledge of America's Greatest President while we build a facility in his honor."

A family was watching the NBC Today Show on September 10, 1999 that featured several original Mary Todd Lincoln letters acquired by the State of Illinois. Two of the letters mentioned Professor David Swing, a friend and confidante of Mrs. Lincoln. Swing was this family's great-great-grandfather.

The family members contacted the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which keeps the state's world-famous Lincoln collection, and asked if they would be interested in looking at some original Mary Todd Lincoln materials that had been given to Mrs. David Swing in the 1870s and had been in the family ever since.

Agency experts determined the materials were authentic, and included one previously unknown letter written by Mrs. Lincoln. The other items included volumes of poetry by Tennyson and Longfellow that were inscribed by Mrs. Lincoln and were given to Swing's daughters as gifts; and a napkin ring and goblet from the Lincoln White House.

When the family heard of the planned Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to be built in Springfield, and the opportunities it will offer to publicly display original Lincoln materials, they decided to donate the items to the state. The family wishes to remain anonymous.

The original Mary Todd Lincoln letter was written to Elizabeth Swing, wife of the popular and controversial preacher, Professor David Swing, who had become a close friend of Mrs. Lincoln. The letter, written on Mrs. Lincoln's distinctive personal stationery, accompanied some gifts sent to the Swings' daughters, Mary Ann and Ellen:

March 12 1874

My Dear Mrs. Swing:

Will you, in your great kindness of heart, allow me to gratify my feelings by asking your acceptance for your daughters of these simple ornaments. I feel assured that you will understand and appreciate the spirit of love, dictating the presentation, and that it may please the young ladies, for my sake, sometimes to wear the chains and lockets doubly enhanced as they may be, if a photograph of their father and mother should be enclosed, in the latter.

The sudden and unexpected news of the death of the good and illustrious Mr. Sumner, will cause much sorrow, over the whole world. With our country and its rulers in such a demoralized condition, it does appear that one so true, "should have died hereafter." He, was the well beloved friend of my idolized husband, and personally, I have lost my dearest and best friend. Our good friend Mr. Arnold, how shocked he will be - for they were both greatly attached to each other.

Since my ties to this world are so rapidly being severed, and my mind naturally following them to the blessed Home of rest, to which they have gone, I sometimes feel, as if I had no right to remain upon earth. In God's own time, all that is so very dark now will be made clear to us. The death of dear Mr. Sumner saddens me greatly. With best regards, I remain very truly yours.

Mary Lincoln

Charles Sumner was the United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1851 until his death in 1874. His strong support of the anti-slavery cause led to his assault on the floor of the Senate by South Carolina's Preston Brooks. Brooks repeatedly hit Sumner with his cane, causing injuries that plagued Sumner the rest of his life. Sumner was often at odds with the Lincoln administration, believing that Lincoln was too slow in supporting emancipation and black suffrage. He befriended Mrs. Lincoln and was frequently her escort to many public functions. Both Sumner and Mary Lincoln spoke fluent French and shared other cultural interests. His death removed Mary Lincoln's closest friend as well as an influential voice in Congress to advance her interests.

"Mr. Arnold" mentioned in the letter is Isaac Newton Arnold, Chicago lawyer, Congressional supporter of Lincoln and author of the best-selling biography of the Sixteenth President, History of Abraham Lincoln and the Overthrow of Slavery (1866).

The letter and gifts are important in showing the affection that Mrs. Lincoln felt toward the Swing family. The silver napkin ring and goblet came from the White House.

This letter to Mrs. Swing, and the five others previously acquired last year from a Wisconsin family, are significant because until their acquisition there were only four known original Mary Todd Lincoln letters from 1874 in existence; now, there are ten.

"Any original documents written by or about Abraham Lincoln and his family would be invaluable additions to the state's world-renowned collection," said Mrs. Ryan. "Personal effects from the President and his family would greatly enhance the visitor experience at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum."

Mrs. Ryan is a member of the planning team for the new facility. Construction on the library portion of the two-building complex is scheduled to begin in early 2001.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will include both static and interactive exhibits; a complete research library and archives; classroom space; and public meeting space.

It will also be the new home of the Illinois State Historical Library, the state's chief historical and genealogical research facility. The State of Illinois and City of Springfield have already made major financial commitments to the project. Federal and private funds are also being sought for its construction.

The State of Illinois' Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, currently housed in the Illinois State Historical Library beneath the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in downtown Springfield, will be the cornerstone of the new Presidential Library. The world's largest collection of pre-Presidential Lincoln material, it features 1,500 manuscripts written or signed by Abraham Lincoln. It also includes 10,000 books and pamphlets, 1,000 broadsides (posters), and 1,000 prints and photographs.


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