African American History collection  1729-1970 (bulk 1800-1865)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The John E. Boos collection contains personal reminiscences of the life and assassination of Abraham Lincoln and of the Civil War, solicited and compiled by Boos in the early 20th century. The material is held in seven bound volumes, complemented by a number of loose manuscripts. Each volume is organized around a theme and consists of interviews, firsthand narrative accounts, and letters that Boos received from people who had met or known Lincoln; these are bound into each volume, alongside typed interview transcriptions, brief biographical sketches, and ephemera.

Of particular interest are several eyewitness accounts of Lincoln's assassination, including those by the following individuals:

  • H. Clay Ford, treasurer at Ford's theater (Then a Nation Stood Still, 7)
  • Jeannie Gourlay (Struthers), who played Mary Meredith in Our American Cousin (Then a Nation Stood Still, 11-14)
  • James Tanner, the stenographer who was present in the Petersen House, where Lincoln was taken after he was shot (Then a Nation Stood Still, 22-35)

The volumes include contributions from persons present in Washington, D.C., during the time of the assassination; recollections of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the Gettysburg Address; accounts by Lincoln's bodyguards; and reminiscences by others whose lives Lincoln affected. Loose manuscripts are comprised of similar memorials and firsthand recollections.

Two volumes focus on other aspects of the Civil War, specifically the Army of the Cumberland, led by General George H. Thomas (The Rock of Chickamauga), and the life of Johnson Brigham (That Man Saw Lincoln). The first is composed in a similar format to the Lincoln volumes, and the second is a smaller volume comprised of items written by Brigham, as well as related ephemera and illustrations. These include various printed portraits of Lincoln by Jay Hambidge and two cigarette ribbons portraying Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson with their dates of presidential service. A third additional volume by the artist Bernhardt Wall, entitled Following Abraham Lincoln, contains Wall's etchings of locations that Lincoln visited during his life. Wall, who inscribed the volume with a note to Boos, lived in Lime Rock, Connecticut, and Sierra Madre, California. Two later postcards laid into this volume, both designed by Wall and sent by him to Boos, portray a scene from California (1942) and Santa Claus on a festively decorated World War II-era tank (1943).

Facsimiles of several accounts from these volumes have been published in the following book, included in the collection: Boos, John E. Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln. William R. Feeheley and Bill Snack, ed. Cadillac, MI: Rail Splitter Publishing, 2005.

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