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    Mary Todd Lincoln asks that freedwoman Elizabeth Keckley be forgiven a debt on the day both left the White House for good

    Mary Todd Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed with Carte de Visite and Elizabeth Keckley Book. The black-bordered letter (one page, 5" x 8", May 22. 1865, n.p.) was written only thirty-eight days after President Lincoln was assassinated and the very day Mrs. Lincoln left the White House for Chicago, making this one of the last letters she wrote from the White House. It is written to Elizabeth Keckley, a freedwoman who was also one of Mrs. Lincoln's closest friends. A successful seamstress, Mrs. Keckley first met Mrs. Lincoln in 1861. She was soon hired as the first lady's modiste. After the death of Willie Lincoln, Mrs. Keckley likely influenced Mrs. Lincoln to become a spiritualist seeking to speak to the dead. By the time the president was assassinated, the two ladies were very close and Mrs. Keckley was one of the few Mrs. Lincoln allowed to comfort her. Through this letter, Mrs. Lincoln asks [Lewis] Clephane to excuse Mrs. Keckley from "any liability"; in full: "Mrs. Keckley has been with me for two months past & has really nothing is poor. Please excuse her from any liability as she is really with nothing. Very respectfully/ Mary Lincoln" (the closing, signature, and date are written on the verso). Interestingly, in the first line of the letter, Mrs. Lincoln initially wrote "Liz", but then wrote "Mrs. Keckley" over it. At the top of the letter in another hand, likely Mr. Clephane's, is written in pencil "Mrs. President Lincoln/ May 22/65." The letter is slightly wrinkled with minor stains. One tear along top right edge. Fine condition.

    President Lincoln had appointed Lewis Clephane, one of the Republican Party's founders, Deputy Postmaster of Washington in 1861 and, later in 1864, Collector of Internal Revenue for the District of Columbia. On the day Mrs. Lincoln wrote this letter, she, accompanied by her sons Robert and Tad and Mrs. Keckley, left the White House for Chicago. The sad event is recorded in Mrs. Keckley's book 1868 book, Behind the Scenes: Formerly a Slave, but more recently modiste, and friend to Mrs. Lincoln or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. A recent printing (Lakeside Classics, Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1998, 312pp), is included in this lot. Also included is a CDV of the first lady wearing a flowing mourning dress while sitting in a chair, hands clasped. Both book and CDV are in fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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