V. Family Expenses
There was not a particle of avarice in our subject's mental make-up. Greediness of wealth was absolutely foreign to his nature. He wanted money sufficient to pay ordinary living expenses of his household, but he cared not for gold, just to possess and handle.
WILLIAM JAYNE, Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln.
SIX months after his marriage Lincoln facetiously inquired of his good friend Joshua F. Speed: "Are you possessing houses and lands, and oxen and asses, and men-servants and maid-servants, and begetting sons and daughters?" Then he described how economically he and his wife were living. "We are not keeping house," he wrote, "but boarding at the Globe Tavern, which is very well kept now by a widow lady of the name of Beck. Our room (the same that Dr. Wallace occupied there) and boarding only costs us four dollars a week."1 In the same letter he stated that "poverty," "the necessity of attending to business," and the approaching birth of a child made a visit to Kentucky out of the question.
It has generally been assumed, on the basis of a literal interpreta|tion of Lincoln's letter, that four dollars a week was the cost of room and board for both him and Mrs. Lincoln. However, that may have been the charge for each person. A case which came before the Supreme Court a few years later involved a contract, made on April 15, 1848, by which the plaintiff agreed to board the defendant for one year at the rate of two dollars a week, the latter to furnish his own room.2 But whether the four dollars applied to one or both members of the family, Page 84 the Lincolns' scale of living was a modest one. That fact is made clear by the recollections of Sophie Bledsoe, who lived at the Globe Tavern with her parents while the Lincolns resided there.3 She wrote:
When Robert was born, Mrs. Lincoln had no nurse for herself or the baby. Whether this was due to poverty or more probably to the great difficulty of securing domestic help, I do not know. But my mother, who never cared per|sonally for Mrs. Lincoln, went everyday to her room in the hotel, washed and dressed the baby, and made the mother comfortable and the room tidy, for several weeks, till Mrs. Lincoln was able to do these things for herself.
I was very fond of babies, and took on myself the post of amateur nurse. I remember well how I used to lug this rather large baby about to my great delight, often dragging him through a hole in the fence between the tavern grounds and an adjacent empty lot, and laying him down in the high grass, where he con|tentedly lay awake or asleep, as the case might be. I have often since that time wondered how Mrs. Lincoln could have trusted a particularly small six year old with this charge. . . .4
"These were lean years financially," wrote a careful student of Lin|coln's life, Dr. W. A. Evans, of the first years of Lincoln's marriage, "— the leanest that Mrs. Lincoln ever knew and that Lincoln knew after the first Springfield days."
When one considers that between 1840 and 1850, Lincoln's annual income from the law was probably between $1,500 and $2,000, this statement appears to imply a greater degree of stringency than actually existed. For an income of $1,500 enabled one to live very well in Spring|field a hundred years ago. That is apparent from a debate which took place in the Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1847. The subject of discussion was the salary to be paid to the Governor. One of the members, supporting his contention that $1,200 a year was sufficient, stated that "he had made inquiries, and was informed that his friend from Sangamon [Ninian W. Edwards] who, as everyone was aware, lived well, gave the most elegant and sumptuous entertainments, and whose Page 85 house was always open to the members of the Legislature and strangers, had said that his expenses did not exceed $1,200 a year." Edwards ad|mitted, with some qualifications, that his living expenses were within the amount specified.
But during this same decade, Lincoln's expenses were heavy. He bought his home, paid off—or finished paying off—his New Salem debt, contributed to the support of his parents, and saw his own family en|larged by the birth of three sons. In politics he made a long speaking tour in the presidential campaign of 1844, and his own campaign for Congress in 1846 meant both expense and loss of income. Small wonder that he cared for his own horse, milked his own cow, and cut his own firewood; small wonder too that Mrs. Lincoln did much of the family serving and most of the cooking and housework. (There were times, during the late '40's, when she had a servant. Prevailing pay for girls doing housework was $1.50 per week.)
Nevertheless, as Dr. Evans also recognizes, "it is not probable that the Lincolns were ever hard pressed for money, at least after 1844." Plain living is far different from poverty. Had Lincoln been as poor as some writers have portrayed him, it is unlikely that he would have taken his family with him to Washington in 1847, when he took his seat in Congress, and it would have been impossible for him to have begun the practice of making loans, as he did upon the conclusion of his term.
When Lincoln decided to take his family to Washington he rented his house for one year to Cornelius Ludlum of Jacksonville, a brick contractor. Ludlum agreed to pay Lincoln ninety dollars, in quarterly installments, and to reserve the "North-up-stairs room" for the storage of Lincoln's furniture. The lease was to be in force for one year after November 1, 1847.
Mrs. Lincoln and the boys, Robert and Edward, remained in Wash|ington until the early spring of 1848, when they returned to Lexington, Kentucky, to continue a visit with Mrs. Lincoln's family made the previ|ous Page 86 fall. A few of Lincoln's letters to his wife at this time have been pre|served. In one, dated April 16, 1848, he confessed that when his wife was with him he thought she interfered with business, but now that she was gone, he found business a very tasteless affair. "I hate to sit down and direct documents," he wrote, "and I hate to stay in this old room by myself." As a respite from business and the room he had gone shopping for plaid stockings but found that "McKnight has quit busi|ness and Allen had not a single pair of the description you give and only one plaid pair of any sort that I thought would fit 'Eddy's dear little feet.' I have a notion to make another trial tomorrow morning." But he reported more success shopping for himself, getting a "very pretty set of shirt-bosom studs—modest little ones, jet set in gold, only costing 50 cents apiece or $1.50 for the whole."5
He sent her drafts for expenses, and in one letter asked about two bills for purchases which she had made. "P. H. Hood & Co.," he wrote, "dunned me for a little bill of $5.38 and Walter Harper & Co. another for $8.50 cents, for goods which they say you bought. I hesitated to pay them, because my recollection is that you told me when you went away, there was nothing left unpaid." He urged his wife to get a girl to help "take charge of the dear codgers," then aged two and five years.6
Mrs. Lincoln received from the estate of her father, Robert S. Todd of Lexington, Kentucky, approximately $1,000. Todd died intestate in 1849, leaving many creditors, and they and the host of counsel which the various heirs employed in the litigation which ensued, played havoc with the estate. Court files are incomplete and the above figure has been arrived at by William H. Townsend of Lexington, after a thorough examination of available records. Mr. Todd's estate consisted of a 38¾ acre farm in Franklin County, a house and lot on Main Street in Lex|ington, one-third interest in the manufacturing firm of Oldham, Todd & Co., and personal property, including several slaves. Proceeds of the Page [unnumbered]
Like all householders, Lincoln found that the upkeep of real estate entailed considerable expense. He had his house painted prior to his term in Congress, and upon his return there was considerable remodel|ing done. Ceilings were whitewashed and hearths repaired by John E. Roll, a local contractor who, in the spring of 1831, as a boy of eighteen, had helped Lincoln build the flatboat at Sangamo Town. Lincoln paid part of Roll's bill of $26.60, by giving him six walnut doors. Roll white-washed two more rooms on March 30, 1850, and turned in a bill for two dollars which Lincoln paid five months later.8 In the same year the front yard was greatly improved by the erection of a brick retaining wall along the front of the fifty-foot lot. Five years later the wall was extended along one-fourth of the Jackson Street side of the lot. A high board fence running from the end of the brick wall to the rear of the lot was then constructed.
In 1856, Lincoln undertook a major improvement. Springfield was not only growing; it was also becoming a city. Railroads now connected it with Chicago and St. Louis, and the Great Western was rapidly ex|tending its tracks across the state. Streets in the business district were covered with planking and gas lights illuminated the intersections. The Governor's Mansion was nearing completion, and Governor Matteson, in anticipation of the end of his term, was building a home that was to be the envy and admiration of the city. In keeping with the trend, and to provide room for a family of growing boys, the Lincoln home was enlarged from a story and a half to two full stories. Mrs. John T. Stuart in a letter to her daughter Elizabeth, on April 3, 1856, wrote: "Mr. Lincoln has commenced raising his back building two stories high. Page 88 I think they will have room enough before they are done, particularly as Mary seldom uses what she has." The work was done by Hannan & Ragsdale, local contractors, and the cost, according to a summary of Springfield improvements published by the Illinois State Journal,9 was $1,300. Mrs. Lincoln had some further changes made the follow|ing year at the cost of an additional $200.10
It is possible that Mrs. Lincoln paid for these improvements her|self. On September 18, 1854 she sold the eighty acre tract which her father had given her ten years earlier.11 Although no mortgage in her favor is recorded, she may not have received payment at the time. The sale price—$1200—would have paid nearly all the cost of the improve|ments made in 1856 and 1857.
From these improvements and the purchases of wall paper from John Williams & Co.,12 it is certain that the house of the Lincolns was in good condition when it was rented to Lucian A. Tilton, President of the Great Western R.R., in February, 1861, for $350 a year. It is in|teresting to note that the rental was nearly four times that which Lin|coln received from Cornelius Ludlum in 1847—an increase that would be accounted for in part by rising property values and in part by the intrinsically greater worth of the house. In 1861, when Lincoln insured the property with the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, he put a valuation of $3,000 upon the house. The carriage house was valued at $75 and the wood house and privy at $125. The rate on all these build|ings was seventy-five cents a hundred, making the total premium twenty|four dollars a year.
The best description of the Lincoln home as it appeared at the time of its owner's election to the Presidency is that which appeared in con|nection with a woodcut published in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on March 9, 1861.
The simple home of this American Statesman, and President Elect of the United States, is situated on the corner of Eighth and Edwards Streets, and here he has resided for twenty years out of the three and twenty he has been a dweller in Springfield. It stands on a sort of platform of brickwork, and is two stories high, having two windows on each side of the door and five on the upper story. The side view shows it has an extension and side entrance with a receding stoop running the whole length of the extension. In the rear are the stables and barn. The edifice is painted of a pale chocolate color, and the window blinds are of deep green. The roof extends a little over the edges, like that of a Swiss cottage. The rooms are elegantly and comfortably furnished with strong well-made furniture, made for use and not for show. On the front is a black door plate, on which, in silvered Roman characters, is inscribed the magical name "A. Lincoln."
During the 1850's Lincoln had charge accounts in several Spring|field stores, including John Williams & Co.; Bressmer, McQuinton & Matheny; Corneau & Diller; John Irwin & Co., and the stores operated by two brothers-in-law, N. W. Edwards and C. M. Smith. John Williams & Company's account books, which have been preserved for the years 1851-1861, show frequent purchases of yard goods, buttons, and thread —as one would expect in a day when sewing was done in the home—and also purchases of gloves, combs, boots, slippers and other articles of ap|parel. During this period the Lincolns bought most of their groceries elsewhere, although occasional food purchases were made of Williams. Most interesting of these charges are four entries for five pounds of "Java Coffee" on August 21, September 11, September 25, and October 16, 1858—a total of twenty pounds in less than two months, and that while Lincoln was absent almost continuously in his campaign against Douglas.
Alexander Black, a clerk at Williams', recalled that Lincoln would come in and address the proprietor: "Colonel, my wife tells me we are out of tea. Put up a pound of the best." While young Black went about filling the order, Lincoln would launch at once into a talk with Williams about politics or town matters. It was the clerk's duty to take around the bills for periodical settlement. Lincoln never studied them or ques|tioned Page 90 them. He handed over the amount called for and apparently gave the account no further thought.13
Shopping at Williams' was done generally by Mrs. Lincoln and the boys. One can imagine the pride with which the bookkeeper made the following somewhat premature entry on June 21, 1860: "President Abraham Lincoln to R. Coon & Bro. 1 pair small heeled boots for Tad
JOHN WILLIAMS & CO. WHOLESALE AND RETAIL DEALERS IN DRY GOODS, GROCERIES, NAILS, SALT etc., etc., etc., Nos. 2 and 4, North side of the Square, SPRINGFIELD, ILL.
AGAIN TAKE PLEASURE IN AN|nouncing to the public that they have just received from the Eastern Cities, their FOURTH LARGE STOCK OF GOODS For the year, which were bought at such prices that we can easily afford to sell our city merchants their stocks, and are prepared to offer them to our customers at prices fully 25 per cent. lower than last spring, owing to our unusual facilities for buying — paying cash, and buying on very short time.
We have a beautiful variety of DRESS GOODS to which we want to call particular attention, as such styles as we have cannot be found in any other house in the city, and are offering them at prices that defy competition.
Two of the account books, a ledger for 1858, and a day book for 1859, of C. M. & S. Smith, "Dealers in Staple and Fancy Dry Goods, Groceries, Boots, and Shoes," have also been preserved. In this store Clark M. Smith, the husband of Mrs. Lincoln's youngest sister, Anna Maria Todd, was a partner. As at Williams', the majority of the family purchases were for dry goods and apparel—"1 Gents Stock $1.25" and "1 Silk Hat $5.00" for Lincoln; "2 Bonnet Ruches @ .75", "16 yds. Grena|dine @ $2.00," and "1 Tidie $1.25" for Mrs. Lincoln. There were pur|chases of pocket knives, hats, shoes and socks for the boys. Sugar was the food most commonly purchased at Smith's, either plain sugar at ten Page 91 pounds for one dollar, or crushed and pulverized sugar at sixteen and two-thirds cents a pound. A total of 307 pounds of the three kinds was purchased in 1859. Java coffee at twenty cents a pound, and Star Candles at twenty-five cents a pound in four pound lots were regular purchases.
C. M. & S. SMITH'S MAMMOTH STOCK OF FALL & WINTER GOODS, Is now [ gap: 1 letter ] he largest and most complete assortment of all the new and desirable styles of fall and winter goods, that could be found in the eastern markets, now receiving and opening, at the lowest possible price, they will be sold so as to defy competition.
CALL AND SEE, LADIES, If you cannot suit yourselves better in quality, styles an [ gap: 1 letter ] prices, than any other Houses in the city. We will show you through our stock with pleasure.
SHAWLS. We would respectfully inform the ladies of this City and County and all surrounding counties, that we are now opening the LARGEST AND MOST ELEGANT Stock of mantilla silk shawls, with sheneel and velvet border. Mantilla stella shawls, French stella shawls, very handsome. Wool long shawls, Misses wool long and square shawls, and in fact nothing else but the most beautiful and complete stock of shawls of all kinds (gents included) that has ever been exhibited in this city. They are now ready for your inspection. Give us a call.
Purchases in 1858 totalled $556.18 and $499.81 in 1859. At long intervals Lincoln would make payments on his account, but on March 15, 1859 he gave his check for $407.72 in full settlement.14 Lincoln made but three purchases in 1859, the trading being about equally divided Page 92 between the sons, Robert and William, and Mrs. Lincoln. A descrip|tion of Lincoln, on his way to market, was given by Wm. H. Herndon in his lecture entitled, "Analysis of the Character of Abraham Lincoln." He said: "Of a winter's morning he might be seen stalking and stilting it toward the market house basket on his arm, his old gray shawl, rope like wrapped around his neck."
At Corneau & Diller's the Lincolns bought drugs and medicines, soap, toilet articles, and such commodities as cream of tartar, vanilla, and brandy for cooking and preserving. The available account books, which cover the period February 15, 1855 to December 31, 1860, show total purchases of $40.95. During this period Lincoln made three cash payments—one of $12.50 on June 29, 1856, another of $3.20 on Feb|ruary 13, 1858, and a third of $24.70 on February 1, 1860.
Not all purchases were made in Springfield. On one occasion Lin|coln ordered thirty-five yards of carpet of J. C. Louderman & Co., of St. Louis, sending a sample of his old carpet by a local banker who was going to St. Louis. The cost of the carpet Lincoln agreed to pay promptly.15 A small but interesting purchase made for the boys was a "cottage bedstead," bought in September, 1857, from John Hutchinson, who operated a furniture factory in addition to his undertaking estab|lishment. Lincoln paid the bill with a check for $11 and turned in a trundlebed, for which he received a credit of $2.
Charged to Lincoln's account at the Springfield Marine and Fire Insurance Co., are several checks—for example, $38 on July 11, 1859, and $25 on February 6, 1860—which correspond with deposits made at the same times by Mrs. Albina M. Labarthe, the town's leading milliner and dressmaker. Undoubtedly these checks were given in payment of purchases made by Mrs. Lincoln. Two other checks on the account prob|ably account for social activities at the Lincoln home. A check for $41.72 to W. W. Watson & Son, confectioners, suggests a large party in early December, 1855. Van Ness & Co., dealers in china, glass, queens-ware, Page 93 lamps and cutlery, cashed Lincoln's check for $35.72 on Feb|ruary 26, 1859.16
Lincoln's contributions to the church are a subject which it would be pleasing to describe in detail, but the facts are not available. Records of the treasurers of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, which Mrs. Lincoln attended prior to 1852, and of the First Presbyterian Church, of which she was a member after that date, cannot be found. It is known, how|ever, that Lincoln rented a pew in the First Presbyterian Church. Most members of his financial standing paid annual pew rents of either $25.00 or $30.00. On the other hand, a check to "First Church" for $10.00, dated February 1, 1860, may have represented a quarterly payment. And to add to the confusion, there is the statement of Thomas Lewis—elder, trustee, treasurer, and collector of the church—that Lincoln paid $50.00 a year.
Traveling was not a common luxury, at least for Middle Westerners, before the Civil War. Yet the Lincolns took several vacation trips. Those made in connection with Lincoln's service in Congress have al|ready been mentioned. From a letter which Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed in the summer of 1855, we know that Mrs. Lincoln was contem|plating a visit to her relatives in Lexington in October of that year, but for some reason, the proposed trip was not made. In 1857, however, she accompanied her husband to New York City when he went there to consult officials of the Illinois Central about the payment of his fee in the McLean County case. "We visited Niagara, Canada, New York and other points of interest," she wrote to her sister Emilie in September.17 From the entry in the register of the Cataract House at Niagara Falls, which reads: "A. Lincoln & Family, Springfield, Illinois," it is apparent that at least one of the Lincoln boys accompanied the parents. The Lin|colns were members of a party that spent a week in July, 1859, travel|ing over the lines of the Illinois Central Railroad for the purpose of Page 94 assessing the road's property. That same year, Mrs. Lincoln and one of the boys accompanied Lincoln when he spoke in Columbus and Cin|cinnati in September.18
Entertainment accounted for no large part of the family budget. It is probable, however, that Herndon, David Davis, and others allowed their prejudices to color their memories when, after Lincoln's death, they commented on the paucity of Lincoln's invitations, and attributed it to Mrs. Lincoln's parsimony. The diary of Orville H. Browning shows that he was often a guest in the Lincoln home. Browning's contem|porary record, moreover, is supported by the recollections of Isaac N. Arnold, who was a frequent visitor in Springfield between 1840 and 1860. Addressing the Illinois State Bar Association in 1881, Arnold said:
I must not omit to mention the old-fashioned, generous hospitality of Spring|field—hospitality proverbial to this day throughout the State. Among others, I recall, with sad pleasure, the dinners and evening parties given by Mrs. Lincoln. In her modest and simple home, everything orderly and refined, there was always, on the part of both host and hostess, a cordial and hearty Western welcome, which put every guest perfectly at ease. Mrs. Lincoln's table was famed for the excellence of many rare Kentucky dishes, and in season, it was loaded with venison, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, quail and other game, which was then abundant. Yet it was her genial manners and ever-kind welcome, and Mr. Lin|coln's wit and humor, anecdote and unrivalled conversation, which formed the chief attraction.19
"Springfield has been very gay this winter more so than I ever knew it," wrote John T. Stuart, Lincoln's first law partner and a resident since 1828, in a letter to his daughter, Elizabeth, on February 4, 1855.20 His statement is borne out by detailed descriptions in the weekly letters of Stuart and his wife to their daughter. The letters are full of the de|tails of parties, entertainments, church suppers, weddings, and dances. Only the social affairs attended by the Lincolns can be mentioned here. Page [unnumbered]
"I spent the evening out last evening," wrote Mrs. Stuart on January 21, 1855. "We were invited to a little family gathering at Dr. Wallaces. When arrived we found the family extended, including some fifty or sixty. Quite a pleasant party it was. There I met for the first time, Emily Todd, she is sprightly and pretty. There seems no bounds to the spirit of gayety and dissipation just now, there has been one party and sometimes two or more every evening for two weeks and a disposition still to keep it up. I have heard seven spoken of for next week."21
The Lincolns are not mentioned in Mrs. Stuart's letter, but they were probably present. Emily Todd had four sisters in Springfield, Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. William Wallace, Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards, and Mrs. C. M. Smith.
A week later Mrs. Stuart wrote to her daughter of the lively society of Springfield.
"The good people of Springfield seem to have given themselves up to the spirit of gayety for the last few weeks, parties and entertainments are the order of the day, and our ladies intend next week shall be devoted to the same cause. The week is to be opened by a party Monday evening at Mr. N. Edwards, and also one the same evening at Mr. William Grimsleys. Tuesday evening, a dance for the young people at the Gov. Wednesday, Mrs. [William B.] Fondey is to give a large party, and others to make out the week which I do not remem|ber. . . .
"Last Friday we dined at Mr. Smiths, in company with Dr. and Fanny Wallace, Mr. Lincoln and Mary, Mr. Edwards and Elizabeth. . . ."22
Gas was being installed in the business district and in some resi|dences in 1855, and the ladies of the First Presbyterian Church, to which Mrs. Lincoln belonged, set out to raise the money necessary to install gas in the church. Mrs. Lincoln probably had a part in the preparation of the dinner which brought more than $200 into the church treasury. Mr. Stuart made brief mention of the dinner in a letter on February 11. "They have had another gay week in town. Tuesday night came off Page 96 at Masonic Hall the ladies supper. It was largely attended. The supper was very good and everything went off pleasantly. . . . The next evening Mrs. [George L.] Huntington had a party not large but very pleasant. . . . The next evening, Thursday, there was a very large party at Mr. [Nicholas] Ridgleys. A perfect squeeze. The house was brilliantly lighted with gas. The company very gaily dressed, the supper very good and upon the whole everything very pleasant."23
A social season similar to that described in the letters above marked the winter of 1855-1856. In a twelve-page letter written on December 19, 1855, to his daughter, Mr. Stuart described the wedding of Caroline Lamb and William J. Black, a young Springfield lawyer. The Stuarts arrived at the Lamb home just at the conclusion of the ceremony. "We press through the crowd," he wrote. "We push and they push. We tread on their toes and they tread on ours. See there is Judge Logan with Miss Mary on his arm, he is making towards the Bridegroom and Bride—look at his forehead—how the sweat rolls down. Would rather argue a case in the Supreme Court than to struggle thus. All the world is here. All the sewing societies broke loose. . . . I reach the passage. I back into a corner and look upon the crowd . . . how many old acquaintances seem to be thrown together tonight. . . . But look they are crowding in to the supper. Mother takes my arm and we go in with the crowd. . . .
"Close by are Cousins Mary Lincoln, Lizzie Edwards and Mrs. B. S. Edwards. First oyster sallad &c, then ice cream and cake."24
The Executive Mansion, which had just been completed and oc|cupied by Governor Joel A. Matteson and his family, was the scene of several parties in January, 1856. The Lincolns attended one eve|ning affair and their son Robert was a guest at the party for the young people on the following night. A few excerpts from Mr. Stuart's letter of January 13, describing the two parties read as follows: "The parties Page 97 at the Governors were splendid affairs topping anything before in Springfield especially when the house is taken into consideration. It was said that one thousand invitations were sent out for Thursday eve|ning including one for yourself which I enclosed you in my last letter. 400 of these however were away from Springfield. . . . The Ladies some of them I may say most of them were elegantly dressed and all seemed to enjoy themselves. . . . One half the house was occupied by us old folks the other by the youngsters 'tripping the light fantastic.' . . . It was very unfortunate that about night the gas became frozen or rather the water in the gas fixtures, so that the house had to be lighted with candles hastily arranged.
"The next evening all the small 'folks' were invited. . . . The house was full of boys and girls. The gas was in full operation—the band was in attendance—all the rooms were thrown open, and all the children danced or at least hopped around. John [Stuart, Jr.] danced all eve|ning in his way. Next day he and Bob Lincoln were hunting up the dancing master."25
Mrs. William Wallace entertained in May, 1856, in honor of two brothers and a sister of Dr. Wallace who were visiting in Springfield. The Lincolns were probably present. A week later, on June 2, they attended a dinner at the Wallace's, which Mr. Stuart noted briefly in his letter to his daughter. He wrote: "I was invited to come to Cousin Anns today after Church to eat strawberries & ice cream. We had a fine dinner and plenty of cream & berries. Lincoln & Cousin Mary, Mother & myself and Dr. Wallace were there."26
One of Mrs. Lincoln's letters to her sister Emilie, who married Ben Hardin Helm, an Elizabethtown, Kentucky, lawyer and son of Governor Helm of Kentucky, contains mention of a huge party which she and her husband gave in February, 1857, but the manner of her reference indi|cates that the occasion was a rare one. Mrs. Lincoln wrote:
I may surprise you when I mention that I am recovering from the slight fatigue of a very large and I really believe a very handsome entertainment, at least our friends flatter us by saying so. About five hundred were invited, yet owing to an unlucky rain three hundred only favored us by their presence and the same evening in Jacksonville, Colonel Warren gave a bridal party to his son who married Miss Birchall of this place which occasion robbed us of some of our friends. You will think we have enlarged our borders since you were here.27
The last social function in Springfield at which the Lincolns were hosts was one which must have entailed considerable expense. Held on February 6, 1861, it was described in fulsome terms by a Springfield correspondent of the St. Louis Missouri Democrat:
It was a great outpouring of citizens and strangers, together with the mem|bers of the legislature. Your humble servant was invited to attend. Mr. Lincoln threw open his house for a general reception of all the people who felt disposed to give him and his lady a parting call. The levee lasted from seven to twelve o'clock in the evening, and the house thronged by thousands up to a late hour. Mr. Lincoln received the guests as they entered and were made known. They then passed on, and were introduced to Mrs. Lincoln, who stood near the center of the parlors, and who, I must say, acquitted herself most gracefully and admirably. She was dressed plainly, but richly. She wore a beautiful, full trail, white moire antique silk, with a small French lace collar. Her neck was orna|mented with a string of pearls. Her head dress was a simple and delicate vine, arranged with much taste.
She displayed but little jewelry, and this was well and appropriately adjusted. She is a lady of fine figure and accomplished address, and is well calculated to grace and do honors at the White House.28