Lot 296    

Mary Todd Lincoln Archive of Commitment Papers to Bellevue Place, Batavia, IL
2010, American History, Including the Civil War, June 11
1874-1875, 1933; 9 items.

Somewhere in the annals of ungrateful children, an entire chapter is devoted to Robert Todd Lincoln. The son of America’s most beloved president, an accomplished attorney and diplomat, Lincoln (his detractors say) earned his infamy in the mid-1870s when he committed his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, to an insane asylum. The incident quickly became a mainstay of the lore surrounding the Lincoln family, and ever since, Robert’s motives -- and Mary’s mental state -- have been doubted, debated, and derided.

Even prior to the Civil War, Mary was short on temper and long on eccentricity, displaying a strong tendency toward depression. To be sure, she had abundant reasons to be depressed: her husband’s death at an assassin's hand in 1865 and the early deaths of three of her four sons -- Robert being the exception -- would depress even the strongest. With the death of her youngest son, Thomas, in 1871, however, Robert complained that his mother’s grief had reached alarming levels. During a trip to Florida in March 1875, she was said to have become delusional, allegedly complaining to Robert that someone was trying to poison her and that she had been robbed. Equally alarming was the allegation that Mary was spending lavishly on clothing and household goods, none of which she needed, squandering the stipend that Congress had granted her and frittering away her savings. After Robert claimed that his mother suffered some kind of a fit, he said he grew concerned that she might take her own life and approached the court to have her institutionalized against her will. This remarkable collection of documents relates to this most salacious episode in the family history of our great martyr for liberty.

After obtaining a court order in May 1875, Robert had his mother taken to Bellevue Place, a private asylum in Batavia, Illinois, run by Richard J. Patterson. There, distraught, Mary allegedly made an attempt to commit suicide. Robert, meanwhile, was left in control of his mother’s finances. However disturbed she may have been, Mary maintained a correspondence with friends and supporters on the outside by sending letters through her attorney, James Bradwell, and his wife Myra, a feminist and (like Mary) Spiritualist. The public attention she soon attracted caused a great deal of embarrassment for Robert, and by September, Patterson declared that she was well enough to return home to live with her sister and Mary was released. The following June, she was found competent to resume control over her financial affairs and Robert was removed as her “conservator.” For four years after her release, Mary traveled in Europe, returning to the States after injuring herself in a fall. She died in 1882 without ever healing the rift with her son.

The heart of this small collection consists of the warrant for Mary Todd Lincoln’s arrest, the commitment decree, and the ledger book signing her in to Bellevue, along with a few supporting documents. A notarized letter accompanying the collection provides crucial details on the history of the nine items concerning Mary’s confinement and release. The writer states that she is the great-granddaughter of Frederick H. Daniels (1860-1928), who purchased Bellevue from Patterson and operated it until his death. The operation was then taken over by the writer’s grandfather, and during his stewardship of the institution, the writer’s mother located these documents in the asylum basement and “these items have been in my families possession and passed down since their discovery in the 1930s.” Together, these provide a brief, but relatively complete summary of the sordid affair from beginning to end, answering nothing about the mysteries of Robert’s motivation or Mary’s mind, but framing the falling out with a clear paper trail.

The first document is the warrant for Richard J. Patterson (founder of the Bellevue Place Sanitarium at Batavia and a family friend of the Lincolns) to arrest Mary and convey her to Bellevue, May 19, 1875, which is followed by an official document by the County Court¸ Cook County, Ill., certifying that Mary Todd Lincoln had been declared insane and found so by a jury of her peers and examination by several physicians, May 19, 1875, bearing the embossed seal of the County Court. The document orders Mary committed to the state hospital. To document this sad event, the collection includes the actual register in which Mary Lincoln was recorded upon her arrival, with a notation added upon her release, classifying her as “I” (presumably “Insane”).

As news of the confinement leaked out, one can only imagine the intense public interest and the pressures that must have been felt by all parties. With the clamor for her release rising, Dr. Andrew McFarland writes from the Sanitarium to recommend against allowing Mary to travel except under close supervision, adding: “I am pained to add that there are features of her case that give me grave apprehensions as to the result unless the utmost quietude is observed for the few ensuing months, beyond which all hope of her real restoration must be abandoned, unless success within that period is achieved.”

A letter Mary received at the asylum on July 15 gives a flavor of what McFarland and Patterson (not to mention Robert Lincoln) had to contend with. From Springdale (Cedar County), Iowa, Elasha Tod [sic] wrote: “Dear Sister, We hav hurd of your arest and incarceration flee strate to us if you feele as tho you hav bun justly delt with was ar Spiritaless and fear thare hav bin some foul play. Speak out planely. Let us hear from you soon.” The term sister here appears to have been applied loosely, and it is unclear whether the Todds were related or whether he was addressing Mary as a brother Spiritualist: Todd was born in Ohio in 1806 and may have been a distant relative at best.

The collection also includes a photograph of Dr. Frederick Daniels and his daughters; a copy of letter from board of commissioners appointed by the Governor of Illinois to review the best site for the location of the new mental asylum, 1869; and an eight page minority report complaining that the site selected by the majority of commissioners (in Elgin) did not meet the essential criteria. Illinois politics: joy eternal. Finally, the collection includes a newspaper clipping from the Aurora Beacon-News, 1933, mentioning the discovery of the documents and citing some at length.

The infamy of Mary Todd Lincoln’s confinement in 1875 remained with her son throughout the rest of his life, and suspicions about his motives have never died. This collection, with exceptional provenance and in good condition, presents a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of one of the last tragedies to befall a tragic First Family.
Sold: $37,600.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

Abraham Lincoln Bronze by Leonard Wells Volk
Lot # 300 - Abraham Lincoln Bronze by Leonard Wells Volk
A bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation, produced by Leonard Volk (1828-1895), with artist's name and copyright date of 1891 inscribed on base of sculpture; approx. 11 in. at widest point, 33 in. tall, resting on black marble plinth most likely added later, 2 x 13... > Item Details
<i>U.S.S. Enterprise</i>, Letters Written Aboard, 1821
Lot # 347 - U.S.S. Enterprise, Letters Written Aboard, 1821
Lot of 4 letters, postmarked Charleston, SC, writer unknown, all addressed to Miss Ellen Sullivan, Brooklyn, Long Island, New York; all 3pp, 8 x 9.5 in. addressed on integral leaf. These letters were written by a crew member on the USS Enterprise while in Charleston awaiting orders and refitting the... > Item Details
U.S. Grant ALS Plus
Lot # 44 - U.S. Grant ALS Plus
Lot of 4, including ALS, letter from Mrs. Grant written on her card, and 2 envelopes. ALS U.S. Grant, 1pp, 5 x. 8 in. on Headquarters Army of the United States letterhead; "Washington, D.C." crossed out, Galena, Ill. written above, 18 Aug. [18]68. To Gen. Cyrus B. Comstock, personal. Grant relates t... > Item Details
CDV of Sgt. Jacob Johns, 19th USCT
Lot # 18 - CDV of Sgt. Jacob Johns, 19th USCT
Pristine view of an armed African American NCO ink signed beneath portrait, “Yours Obt. Servt,/Jacob Johns.” Sergeant Johns wears an oversized sack coat with outside slash pocket, his sleeves displaying usual hash marks above the elbow in lieu of chevrons. An unidentified (corps?) badge is pinned ... > Item Details
Rare 1863 Type II Contract Rifled-Musket by Union Arms Co. New York
Lot # 150 - Rare 1863 Type II Contract Rifled-Musket by Union Arms Co. New York
.58 caliber, 40" barrel. Left side of barrel marked with V P and eagle. Top of barrel and the rear of lockplate dated 1863. Also marked on the lockplate with an eagle and U.A. Co, New York. Three barrel bands with walnut stock. Left flat of stock with a cartouche R.P.B. in a rectangular box. > Item Details
128th Pennsylvania Machine-Sewn Flag
Lot # 198 - 128th Pennsylvania Machine-Sewn Flag
Worsted wool, 94 x 142 in., with 50 machine-stitched, double applique cotton stars surrounding a large, machine-stitched, double applique cotton star that features the number 128 at center. With canvas hoists on top and bottom, the top hoist stamped Horstmann, Philadelphia and 8 x 12 Ft. - F. The 12... > Item Details
CDV of Musician James T. Roberts, Maine Coast Guards
Lot # 22 - CDV of Musician James T. Roberts, Maine Coast Guards
A late war view in album sleeve identified in period ink, “James T. Roberts/CO. F. Coast Guards/Belfast, Maine” with orange two-cent revenue stamp on verso. Posing with a flute in one hand, Roberts wears a nine-button frock coat and rectangular belt plate. Roberts enlisted in the local Company F,... > Item Details
Foot Officer's Sword Inscribed to <i>Lieut J. O. Voute, Nov. 18, 1861</i>
Lot # 165 - Foot Officer's Sword Inscribed to Lieut J. O. Voute, Nov. 18, 1861
30.5" blade with etched military motifs. Brass knucklebow and pommel, shagreen and brass wire wrapped handle. Leather scabbard with brass bands and carrying rings. Engraved on the brass throat Lt. J.O. Voute and dated 1861. J.O. Voute is listed as a private (HDS) and also 2nd lieutenant in Company ... > Item Details
General Robert E. Lee Portrait Bust by Frederick Volck
Lot # 138 - General Robert E. Lee Portrait Bust by Frederick Volck
A bronze portrait bust of Robert E. Lee, after German-American sculptor Frederick Volck (1833-1891), inscribed Robert E. Lee at base and signed inscription on reverse that reads Frederick Volck / 1863 / Richmond, Virginia; 12 in. at widest point, 17 in. tall, resting on black marble plinth most like... > Item Details
Richmond Bayonet
Lot # 188 - Richmond Bayonet
18" angular bayonet. The opening is .832. > Item Details
Important Civil War Correspondence Archive of George R. Gear, 39th OVI
Lot # 76 - Important Civil War Correspondence Archive of George R. Gear, 39th OVI
George R. Gear, 1862-1865. 39th Ohio Infantry. Co. B; 145 soldiers’ letters, 2 diaries. Born and raised in Marietta, Ohio, George Rufus Gear (1840-1931) was a junior at Marietta College when he left for duty in the Union Army. Enlisting as a private in "Koenig's German Rifles" (Co. B) of the 39th ... > Item Details
Richmond Armory Musketoon
Lot # 143 - Richmond Armory Musketoon
.58 caliber, rare 33" barrel not fitted for bayonet. Low humpback. Lockplate marked C.S. and dated 1863 on the rear of lockplate. Original trumpet head ramrod. Walnut stock with brass buttplate and nose cap. Iron triggerguard and two flat bands. 33" barrels are very rare and seldom come up for sal... > Item Details
Scottsburgh, NY 13th New York Volunteers Civil War Recruiting Broadside
Lot # 126 - Scottsburgh, NY 13th New York Volunteers Civil War Recruiting Broadside
A Civil War-era broadside with bold heading WILL YOU FIGHT / Grand Mass Meeting FOR THE UNION!, inviting the citizens of Scottsburgh and the surrounding country to a rally in Scottsburgh, NY. Job C. Hedges and other unmentioned speakers were expected to present the claims of the Army of the Potomac ... > Item Details
D.F. Barry Photograph of Sitting Bull's Home
Lot # 514 - D.F. Barry Photograph of Sitting Bull's Home
A photograph captioned along lower margin of image Sitting Bull's House and Family, with Barry's copyright below title and West Superior, WI imprint on mount, 6.25 x 8.75 in., mounted on card stock, 6.75 x 9.75 in. The photograph features two of Sitting Bull's wives, possibly Four Robes and Seen By ... > Item Details
Robert Lincoln Beckwith's Copy of Lincoln's Funeral Order of the Procession
Lot # 279 - Robert Lincoln Beckwith's Copy of Lincoln's Funeral Order of the Procession
12mo green Morocco folder, gilt edge front and back with gilt Robert Lincoln Beckwith on front. Inside on back cover is a band holding two leaves, 3 sides printed, with the official arrangements for Lincoln's funeral. Property of the Heir of Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith (1904-1985) and Margaret Fris... > Item Details
Fine Photograph of President Elect McKinley and his Washington Escort
Lot # 316 - Fine Photograph of President Elect McKinley and his Washington Escort
Gelatin silver print with the caption printed below the image President-Elect Wm. McKinley and Officers of the Eighth Infantry, Ohio National Guard, his Escort to Washington, At his Home in Canton, Ohio, December 4th, 1896, each individual identified below the photograph, signed in the negative Cour... > Item Details
Confederate Officer & Politician James Simons Archive of Documents
Lot # 116 - Confederate Officer & Politician James Simons Archive of Documents
Lot of 14 legal documents secretarially signed Simons & Simons, the law firm of James Simons and James Simons, Jr. Most appear to refer to debt judgments; a couple are receipts for payment. Dates from 1868 to 1875. James Simons (1813-1879) of Charleston, SC, was a lawyer, legislator and militia offi... > Item Details
Confederate Col. George Porterfield ALS and General Order, After Philippi Debacle
Lot # 108 - Confederate Col. George Porterfield ALS and General Order, After Philippi Debacle
George A. Porterfield to Dr. George P. Terrill, August 30, 1861; ALS with printed General Orders No. 39, July 4, 1861 The Battle of Philippi, May 14, 1861, was arguably the first significant land battle of the Civil War, with the forces on both sides displaying all the raggedness and inexperience ... > Item Details
General Nathan B. Forrest Silver Wine Goblet
Lot # 217 - General Nathan B. Forrest Silver Wine Goblet
Plated silver wine goblet from the original set of eight that were used in the home of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, TN, prior to the Civil War, ca 1850, marked Meriden Silver Plate Co. - Quadruple Plate, on underside base, with number 915; 3 in. at widest point, 7 in. tall. Th... > Item Details
Alfred Pleasonton Signed Orders to Gen. Judson Kilpatrick Regarding Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid
Lot # 47 - Alfred Pleasonton Signed Orders to Gen. Judson Kilpatrick Regarding Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid
2pp, 8 x 10 in. on Headquarters Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac letterhead, 26 Feb. 1864. One of the largest, and certainly the most controversial, cavalry raids of the American Civil War was the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren expedition against Confederate Richmond in February and March, 1864. The raid ai... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: