On this day in 1809 Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. One of the largest collections of Lincolniana resides here in the McLellan Lincoln Collection at Brown University’s John Hay* Library.
In 1923, John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased the Charles W. McLellan Lincoln collection and donated it to the Brown Library. McLellan was one of the first great Lincoln collectors, and the acquisition of such an impressive collection instantly made Brown one of the foremost repositories for Lincolniana in the world. In addition to books and manuscripts, McLellan’s collection included a number of museum objects, mostly medals and badges from Lincoln’s presidential campaigns and from the Civil War.
Notice to alumni and the general public about The Hay collection spurred further donations:
A lock of Lincoln’s hair. A hammer owned by John Wilkes Booth. A ruler used by Lincoln in the White House. A cane made from walnut rail split by Lincoln. A block of wood from the house where Thomas Lincoln married his second wife, Sally Johnston. A piece of wallpaper taken from Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater. These numinous objects are just a few of the many strange yet fascinating pieces which have found their way into Brown’s McLellan Lincoln Collection.
I wanted to see that piece of wallpaper but The Hay is currently closed to the public; scholars and fans can still access the vast collection at Lincoln Online.
Seen here is a mug from the Lincoln Objects collection.
This jovial character jug depicts Lincoln’s head, shoulders, and part of his famous stovepipe hat. The piece was made by Lefton China, probably sometime in the 1950’s. Beginning in the 1940’s, Lefton China produced a wide variety of collectible porcelain, including character jugs featuring numerous politicians and celebrities. These jugs are particularly known for their unique handles, which offer an extra detail about the character being portrayed. In this case, the Lincoln jug handle takes the form of a scroll, which is probably the Emancipation Proclamation.
*Indiana native John Hay attended Brown before working on Lincoln’s campaign, going on to serve as his private secretary. From Wiki:
Hay enrolled at Brown in 1855. Although he enjoyed college life, he did not find it easy: his Western clothing and accent made him stand out; he was not well prepared academically and was often sick. Hay gained a reputation as a star student and became a part of Providence’s literary circle that included Sarah Helen Whitman and Nora Perry. He wrote poetry and experimented with hashish. Hay received his Master of Arts degree in 1858, and was, like his grandfather before him, Class Poet.