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    Description

    [Thomas "Tad" Lincoln] Manuscript Letter Written and Signed for Him as "Thomas Lincoln / Your Friend / Tad", one page, 5" x 8" [sight], on "Executive Mansion" letterhead, 6 October 1864, to "Dear Gumpert" (Gustav Gumpert, a Philadelphia candy maker who was a good friend of the Lincoln sons). Framed. Tad informs his correspondent "I send Thomas Cross to see you about the carriage bill. It was sent to me and I a[i]nt got any money to pay the man with." For many years it was assumed this letter was actually written by Tad (it is so described in the Barrett sale catalog), but it is now known that it is entirely in the handwriting of Thomas Pendel, a White House functionary particularly dear to the youngest Lincoln (in part, perhaps, because Pendel fairly resembled Abraham Lincoln). Pendel acted as Tad's secretary at least one other time (also a letter to Gumpert, 4 October 1863, inquiring after "that box you was to send me"; owned by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, Springfield, Illinois). The unusual presence of "ain't" in the letter begs the question of whether Tad literally dictated it using "ain't" as his father often did. A charming, guileless communication, and stratospherically rare even though not a holograph. No unquestioned example of Tad's handwriting is known in private hands, and we are not aware of even a "secretarial" one, save this famous letter. It is thought that Tad could not even write his name until after he had left Washington. Reproduced in Sandburg, Lincoln Collector (page 189). Not examined out of frame, but fine in overall appearance.

    Provenance
    : Barrett, lot 528; Dr. Charles W. Olsen, Chicago, Illinois

    Thomas, the youngest of Abe and Mary Lincoln's four sons, was born in 1853. His father nicknamed him "Tad" because of his babyhood resemblance to a tadpole, with a large head and small body. He grew into a puckish, mischievous boy with "a very bad opinion of books, and no opinion of discipline" (John Hay). Onlookers were astonished, if not appalled, at the indulgence displayed toward Tad and his slightly older brother Willie, even when they invaded his law office, scattered papers, smashed pens, and turned over inkwells. Their rambunctious days together sadly ended when Willie died from "bilious fever" after less than a year of living in the White House. And, as the only son left at home (Robert was at Harvard and then in the military), he became even more coddled by his bereaved parents. His studies all but ceased, the president opining that he had plenty of time to learn his letters when he got older. He interrupted Cabinet meetings at will, asked for and got a lieutenant's "commission" with uniform to match, and enjoyed a succession of pets including goats, rabbits, and a pony. His toy doll, Jack - who of course was a soldier - was occasionally sentenced to death for sleeping on duty but routinely forgiven by the president, who once even gave Jack a pardon written on one of his famous note-cards. Tad's sunny disposition seems to have evoked the affection of his father's friends in spite of themselves, for although they remembered his sometimes irritating antics, they just as often recalled his tender-hearted goodness. Devastated by his father's death, no less than his mother was, it appears that Tad became a serious-minded adolescent, tending to his studies and even managing to testify at the 1867 trial of John H. Surratt, one of his father's accused killers. He accompanied his increasingly unstable mother to Europe as constant companion and helpmeet, during their travels began to show signs of an illness now generally thought to have been tuberculosis. Returning to Chicago he died there on 15 July 1871, just a few months after his 18th birthday. He was interred in the same tomb as his father and brother. Together with Alexander Williamson Scarce Autograph Letter Signed, 5.5" x 8.25", 1902, to A. E. Fostell, mentioning that he is 88 years old, and offering to sell and autograph (for $5) and photo of himself taken "in 1863 while . . . teacher to Lincoln's sons Wm. Wallace & Tad." Williamson was a tutor to the Lincoln boys, as well as friend and factotum to Mary Lincoln during her early widowhood. Age-toned; fine.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,496

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