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
Civil War Document Endorsed by Maj. Gen. Sheridan and Brig. Gen. Torbert
Lot # 63 - Civil War Document Endorsed by Maj. Gen. Sheridan and Brig. Gen. Torbert
1p, 8 x 10 in., Camp of 9th New York Cav., Jordan's Pt., VA 23 July 1864. To Horatio Seymour, Governor of New York from Lt. Col. George S. Nichols (1820-1916) requesting promotion to Colonel to fill the position left vacant by the death of William Sackett (DOW 14 July 1864). Verso docketed by Col. T... > Item Details
Scarce Hayes-Wheeler Tobacco Tin
Lot # 307 - Scarce Hayes-Wheeler Tobacco Tin
An oval shaped tobacco tin with handle, honoring the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes and Vice President William A. Wheeler. Top of tin displays a printed jugate image of the two and reads Our President and Vice President March 4th, 1877. Front of tin shows painted image of a girl climbing ... > Item Details
Stotz Photograph of Three Southern Cheyenne Chiefs
Lot # 528 - Stotz Photograph of Three Southern Cheyenne Chiefs
Wearing fur-wrapped braids and peace medals, standing outside a brick building. A young boy stands with them. 8 x 6 in. (sight), on 9.5 x 7.5 in. mat. C. C. Stotz established a studio in El Reno, Oklahoma Territory in 1889 at the same time the town was founded. The location placed him close to th... > Item Details
Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, and Wild West Troop Members Photograph
Lot # 547 - Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, and Wild West Troop Members Photograph
5.5 x 4.25 in. mounted gelatin silver print, negative taken ca 1884-1885, printed ca 1890s. A fine image showing Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, Cody's nephew Ed Goodman, an interpreter, and an unidentified chief. > Item Details
Western Reserve Ohio Archive Related to the Kerr Family
Lot # 345 - Western Reserve Ohio Archive Related to the Kerr Family
Daniel Kerr letters, 1831-1865; ca 200 items, 7 bundles of canceled checks. In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the state of Connecticut claimed a huge swath of land in the northeastern part of the Old Northwest Territory, stretching along Lake Erie from the Pennsylvania border nearly to... > Item Details
Zeno Shindler Photograph of Big-Rib a Sioux Chief
Lot # 477 - Zeno Shindler Photograph of Big-Rib a Sioux Chief
3.75" x 6.25" (sight), on 8" x 10" mat. This portrait, sometimes erroneously identified as War Eagle, was made by C. S. Stobie of Chicago, Illinois in 1867. Shindler copied it in 1868 for the Smithsonian and subsequently copyrighted it in 1869. Shindler notes that Big Rib was second in command to ... > Item Details
Sixth Plate Hexagonal Ambrotype of Confederate Lieutenant
Lot # 10 - Sixth Plate Hexagonal Ambrotype of Confederate Lieutenant
A fine portrait of an unidentified young officer wearing the regulation double-breasted frock coat of a 2nd lieutenant with two rows of 7 buttons and one gold bar on the collar. > Item Details
Buffalo Bill ALS
Lot # 545 - Buffalo Bill ALS
1p, 8.5 x 11 in., on green "Myrkle-Harder Amusement Co." letterhead. N.d., n.p. To "Friend O.S." regarding health issue. Well was in Tuesday and they would not let me see you so soon after the operation. but I learned you was in fine shape. good constitution and nothing to worry over at all. You did... > Item Details
<i>Kentucky Constitutional Convention, 1890-91</i> Autograph Book
Lot # 351 - Kentucky Constitutional Convention, 1890-91 Autograph Book
Small 8vo, leather with gilt front Autographs Kentucky Constitutional Convention. 1890-1891. and Todd Hall lower right. Containing nearly 100 autographs, many Kentucky notables. Only half a dozen blank pages. Mr. Hall, from Clark Co., is listed as "Theo. Hall" on the list of convention personnel as ... > Item Details
Pair of William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley Clocks
Lot # 321 - Pair of William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley Clocks
A pair of potmetal campaign mantel clocks featuring the busts of William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley, from the 1896 campaign. The McKinley dial features the likeness of a $20 gold piece marked Sound Money 1896, while the dial on the Bryan declares Free Silver 1896. A plaque at the bottom fro... > Item Details
Ninth Plate Ambrotype of Young Man Plus Love Poem
Lot # 230 - Ninth Plate Ambrotype of Young Man Plus Love Poem
Ruby ambrotype of a young man who may be part African American. He is stylishly dressed with a large bow tie favored in the 1850s. Brown paper that was likely on the back of the ambro with Jesemie (or Jennie?) Waide, Sandy Hill, N.C.? Dec 7th 1859. Another slip of paper has the first two stanzas fro... > Item Details
Western Police Matron Assoc. Archive of Mrs. George Washington Hill
Lot # 354 - Western Police Matron Assoc. Archive of Mrs. George Washington Hill
Police matron of Davenport, Iowa, 1893-1920. Includes about 10 photographs, dozens of newspaper clippings, a few letters, three ribbons from National Police Matrons' Association meetings, a revolver and her "widow's weeds" - black hat, lace veil and scarf, plus a small hand mirror. June 23, 1864 Sar... > Item Details
Civil War Archive and Non-Regulation Officer's Sword Attributed to  Sgt. John B. Stewart, Co. A, 11 OVI
Lot # 70 - Civil War Archive and Non-Regulation Officer's Sword Attributed to Sgt. John B. Stewart, Co. A, 11 OVI
34" blade etched with military motifs, ricasso stamped with H. Sauerbier, Newark New Jersey. Brass knuckle bow with E. Pluribus Unum and eagle over U.S. Leather and brass wire wrapped handle. Browned metal scabbard with brass carrying rings, throat and drag. Sword not not inscribed but attributed to... > Item Details
Scarce Miniature Full Dinner Pail Lunch Bucket
Lot # 319 - Scarce Miniature Full Dinner Pail Lunch Bucket
A William McKinley "Full Dinner Pail" campaign advertisement. The Full Dinner Pail was the Republican campaign slogan in the 1900 presidential election campaign, used to emphasize the prosperity of William McKinley's first term. Although its utilitarian purposes have never been proven, one thing is ... > Item Details
<i>Folies-Bergere</i>: Josephine Baker Advertisement
Lot # 386 - Folies-Bergere: Josephine Baker Advertisement
A chromolithograph advertising Josephine Baker performing at the Folies-Bergere, the Parisian Music Hall, featuring an up-side-down depiction of Baker scantily clad in one of her unique costumes, produced by Ranson, with Un Vent De Folie (A Wind of Madness) / Hyper-Revue printed along lower edge, wi... > Item Details
Col. William Richardson, 25th OVI, M1850 Field Officer's Sword, Plus
Lot # 75 - Col. William Richardson, 25th OVI, M1850 Field Officer's Sword, Plus
Lot includes sword, 2 parts of metal scabbard, and blue binder with assorted paperwork. 33" etched blade with military motifs. Shagreen and brass wire wrapped handle. Brass knuckle bow with US and brass pommel. Metal scabbard with brass bands and drag. A Mexican War veteran and successful lawyer an... > Item Details
Fort Keogh, M.T., Fine Group of Letters Related to Photographs
Lot # 442 - Fort Keogh, M.T., Fine Group of Letters Related to Photographs
3 letters, dated Oct. 26, 27, and Dec. 26, 1891. From E.P. Ewers to Captain James Pope. All regard a list of photographs Pope presumably asked Ewers to locate for him, most of well known Indians. I have written to Mr. W. R. Cross Photographer of Fort Mead (or Hot Springs) south Dakota asking for a l... > Item Details
Grover Cleveland Kerosene Lamp
Lot # 311 - Grover Cleveland Kerosene Lamp
With painted metal base and polychrome transfer print decal of Grover Cleveland portrait in suit and bowtie. Features a molded glass kerosene receptacle. Regulator knob reads PAT. AUG. 30, 1892. Includes a green and white glass lampshade. Approx. 14" tall, 22" with shade. > Item Details
Rosewood Civil War Fife Stamped
Lot # 208 - Rosewood Civil War Fife Stamped "6 CT INF"
The 6th Connecticut was organized in September 1861 and saw service with the 10th Corps at Charleston including the assault on Morris Island and Fort Wagner. In the spring of 1864 the regiment transferred to the Bermuda Hundred Line and engaged in siege operations against Petersburg through January... > Item Details
Outdoor Albumen of  Capt. S. W. Richardson & Lieutenants
Lot # 86 - Outdoor Albumen of Capt. S. W. Richardson & Lieutenants
9 x 7 in. on larger mount, location unknown. A vibrant, sun drenched view of Captain Spencer W. Richardson seated at center flanked on left by Company E. 2nd Lieutenant James S. Cumston and 1st Lieutenant James S. Newell, all casually seated on camp chairs. Richardson Family Archive Spencer Welles... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20