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

don't miss

an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.

sign up to bid

what's it worth?

ask the experts

sell your item

start selling
Anne Brigman Vintage Photographs
Lot # 262 - Anne Brigman Vintage Photographs
Lot of 25, including the following: 10 silver gelatin photographs by Anne Brigman, 8 of which are signed on mount by the photographer and dated 1925 or 1926, each untitled, but featuring intimate portraits of a mother and child, including 4 artful portraits of a mother breastfeeding her baby, most m... > Item Details
CS. 3
Lot # 223 - CS. 3" Archer Bolt
Excavated. Lead sabot is original. Rarity 6 > Item Details
Norman Rockwell <i>Freedom</i> Posters
Lot # 368 - Norman Rockwell Freedom Posters
Lot of 4 posters, each 40 x 56 in. and linen backed. A complete set originally published by the Saturday Evening Post and eventually printed by the U.S. Government (examples here) to encourage Bond purchases. > Item Details
Cleveland - Hendricks Jugate Political Campaign Lithograph
Lot # 310 - Cleveland - Hendricks Jugate Political Campaign Lithograph
1884 presidential election lithograph featuring Jugate portrait of Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks. Lithograph also features portraits of other prominent Democratic heroes including General George B. McClellan, Samuel J. Tilden, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Caption at bottom reads ... > Item Details
U.S.S. Constitution Silver Inlaid Drinking Horn
Lot # 246 - U.S.S. Constitution Silver Inlaid Drinking Horn
An impressive 9" cow's horn, with one end open and lined with coin silver to form a receptacle holding approximately 2 ounces of fluid, with a decorative coin silver plaque affixed to the side of the horn engraved F. Varnum U.S. Navy To S.C. Tilley. An 8" suspension chain of white metal is affixed t... > Item Details
Autographed D.F. Barry Photograph
Lot # 552 - Autographed D.F. Barry Photograph
A silver gelatin portrait of D.F. Barry in his later years, inscribed in ink To Chas. D. Skillings / From D.F. Barry, 6.875 x 9.25 in., housed in a paper folder, 8.375 x 11.125 in., photograph and mount include Barry's blindstamp, plus folder's verso features printed paper stamp advertising Barry's ... > Item Details
Lot of Three Cased Tintypes of Armed Cavalrymen
Lot # 6 - Lot of Three Cased Tintypes of Armed Cavalrymen
Including two quarter plates and one sixth plate of enlisted troopers armed with saber and pistol, all unidentified. One animated tintype captured a private pointing his Colt pistol with saber dangling from his wrist by the leather knot. Another has a youthful trooper posed casually with saber and ... > Item Details
Robert Flaherty Signed Photogravures of Inuit People
Lot # 537 - Robert Flaherty Signed Photogravures of Inuit People
Lot of 2, in cyan ink, ca. 1920-1921, impression size mostly 10.5 x 8 and 8.5 in., on larger 13 x 20 in. twilled paper boards with deckled edges, each bearing the copyright of the French fur company Revillon Freres and signed in pencil lower right. Images depict two views of Inuit hunters. > Item Details
Scarce Jesse James Northfield Robbery Pamphlet
Lot # 544 - Scarce Jesse James Northfield Robbery Pamphlet
[Hanson, Joseph Have] The Northfield Tragedy, or the Raid of the Younger and James Bros., Band of Desperadoes. St. Paul (MN): Copyrighted and Published by John Jay Lemon, 1877. 12mo, printed and illustrated paper wraps, 95pp plus 4pp ads in front. The subtitle tells it all (as many did in the 19th c... > Item Details
George A. Custer and the Grand Duke Alexis Cabinet Card
Lot # 451 - George A. Custer and the Grand Duke Alexis Cabinet Card
(Katz-115) with imprint of D.F. Barry, Bismarck and Standing Rock, D.T. logo on verso; identified with applied strip paper label on recto. Copied from the James Scholten image taken about January 24, 1873. > Item Details
Cleveland <i>Greys</i> Bearskin Busby and Tin Container
Lot # 205 - Cleveland Greys Bearskin Busby and Tin Container
A fine example of a bearskin busby, 1850s-70s, with bullion tassel, brass scaled chin strap bearing a single button with the Ohio State seal, with tin storage container. The Grays were organized in 1837 as a local militia and social group, and still exist today. During their early history, members f... > Item Details
Arctic Exploration Themed Mustache Cup
Lot # 391 - Arctic Exploration Themed Mustache Cup
Porcelain, with polychrome painted scene of a two men with a horse drawn sled on ice. There appears to be an ice-bound ship in the background. With a light green monochrome wrap. Marked G.D. on the underside of the base. > Item Details
Crow Scouts for Custer, at the Little Bighorn Battlefield
Lot # 455 - Crow Scouts for Custer, at the Little Bighorn Battlefield
Standing around grave markers, two are holding rifles. 8 x 6 in. silver print. The men appear to be (left to right): White Man Runs Him, Hairy Moccasin, Curley, and Goes Ahead. > Item Details
Mary Todd Lincoln's Mourning Carriage Parasol, Veil, & Fan
Lot # 278 - Mary Todd Lincoln's Mourning Carriage Parasol, Veil, & Fan
Includes a black silk veil, or shawl, 53.5 x 36", a black silk folding parasol with a rope-and-ball turned elephant ivory handle (23 in. extended, ca. 18 in. dia.), and a black silk folding fan (11.5 in. long, ca 20 in. wide). Accompanied by a xerox copy of an 1976 affadavit signed by Robert... > Item Details
Warner's Tippecanoe Sarsaparilla Poster with Benjamin and William Henry Harrison
Lot # 315 - Warner's Tippecanoe Sarsaparilla Poster with Benjamin and William Henry Harrison
A chromolithograph advertising Warner's Tippecanoe Cures and Log Cabin Sarsparilla, which Cures Scrofula, Impure Blood, Biliousness, Dizziness, Headache, Constipation, Salt Rheum, Malaria, Erysipelas Etc. The Greatest Blood Purifier., featuring vignetted portraits of William Henry Harrison (1840) an... > Item Details
Lot # 49 - "Chancellorsville and Gettysburg" with Inlaid Abner Doubleday Clipped Signature
Campaigns of the Civil War. VI. Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1882. 12mo, blue cloth with embossed and gilt front and gilt spine lettering, 243pp plus 4pp ads. A 3 x 8 in. slip of paper has been tipped in to edge of tp with: A. Doubleday, Capt 1st Arty, Commandi... > Item Details
Brady Albumen of the <i>22nd NYSNG at Harper's Ferry </i>
Lot # 34 - Brady Albumen of the 22nd NYSNG at Harper's Ferry
Approximately 9 x 7 in. on tattered 10.5 x 12 in. cardstock mount. Brady’s familiar camp scene depicting a squad of nine soldiers and a young servant black boy posed casually in front of a Sibley tent. Several knapsacks bearing a white painted “22” and Company “E” are prominent. Oddly, there are ... > Item Details
Civil War Date <i>Corps d'Afrique</i> Commission
Lot # 93 - Civil War Date Corps d'Afrique Commission
2p, 8 x 11 in., 28 Dec. 1863, Headquarters, Dept. of the Gulf. Provisional Commission for Sergt. Edwin R. Wingate, 18th ME Vols. as Captain of the 13th Regiment of Corps d'Afrique, Company C. The appointment was provisional ...until the pleasure of the President of the United States be made known in... > Item Details
Ohio River Steamboat Broadside for <i>Thomas Sherlock</i>
Lot # 399 - Ohio River Steamboat Broadside for Thomas Sherlock
A remarkable broadside advertising the following: Cincinnati & New Orleans Packet. / For Cairo, Evansville, Louisville and Cincinnati! / The Large and Elegant Passenger Steamer / Thos. Sherlock, with H.U. Hart, Master and M.L. Virden, Clerk, featuring a detailed illustration of the Thomas Sherlock, ... > Item Details
Henry Buehman Albumen Photograph of <i>Apache Indian Police</i>
Lot # 532 - Henry Buehman Albumen Photograph of Apache Indian Police
An albumen portrait identified in pencil on verso as Apache Police / 1870s-1880s, with Buehman & Co.'s Tucson, A.T. imprint on verso. Negative date: ca 1870s-1880s. 5 x 8.25 in., mounted, 5.25 x 8.5 in. This rare group portrait may represent the Apache Police formed by San Carlos Indian Agent Joh... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: