The personal Lincoln

Treasures continue to surface as the Indiana State Museum collections management staff processes the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. One tiny object, a token from President Lincoln to a grieving widow during the height of the Civil War, illustrates the personal side of a president who has become an icon of American history.

This decorative bird picture features a wooden frame with a circular well in the center that is trimmed in copper; a nature motif is crafted within the well. A brown tree with green leaves is hand painted against a white background. Two birds with beaded eyes and painted beaks are constructed from blue, green and red feathers. One bird is perched on a tree branch hovering over a nest, while the other bird forages for food on the ground below the tree. A piece of convex glass covers the motif. A hanging ring is attached to the top. Newspaper backing is found on the reverse, as well as the number 30 carved into one corner.

A postcard dated June 14, 1963, from the donor reads: “Dear Sirs, I just had given to me a small picture, there were two looks hand made of a bird real feathers not in very good condition, but it was given to my friend’s mother by Pres. Lincoln. Her husband’s body was never found and Mr. Pres. entertained my friend and gave her these little gifts as a memo of her visit to him. It’s a shame to throw it away and anyone collecting Lincoln can have it for a collection piece …” [Editor’s note: The spelling and grammar are from the original postcard.]

Wow! It is the little finds like this that help make this collection so special!

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection was given to the State of Indiana in December 2008 by the Lincoln Financial Foundation. The Indiana State Museum is home to the historic objects and art while most of the books, documents and photographs reside at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

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