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
Pamphlet for Public Auction Sale of Indian Lands, Oklahoma
Lot # 472 - Pamphlet for Public Auction Sale of Indian Lands, Oklahoma
Under Supervision of the United States Government. March 1919. 7.5 x 9.75 in. in self-wraps. Lots identified by names and tribal roll number. Sold by Five Civilized Tribes, Muskogee, OK. Most sellers Cherokee, but a few Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole. > Item Details
Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Chief Justice and Secretary of Treasury, Letterpress Copy Book
Lot # 38 - Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Chief Justice and Secretary of Treasury, Letterpress Copy Book
Secretary of the Treasury Letter telegram press copybook, June-Dec. 1863. 1 vol., ca 350pp. Beloved by bureaucrats and loathed by readers everywhere, the invention of the press copybook in 1780 was a boon to record keeping, enabling the efficient copying of outgoing correspondence without the need ... > 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
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
CDV of Bvt. Lt. Col. Joseph P. Ash, 5th US Cav.--KIA Todd's Tavern, VA
Lot # 19 - CDV of Bvt. Lt. Col. Joseph P. Ash, 5th US Cav.--KIA Todd's Tavern, VA
a vignette as 1st lieutenant with imprint of “J.E. McClees, Philadelphia.” Carte is magnificently identified beneath portrait, “Joseph Penrose Ash/United States Army./Taken after he had received/six wounds in battle.” Written in the same hand on verso is a lofty salutation that reads, “To General... > Item Details
UCV Printed Parade Flag
Lot # 200 - UCV Printed Parade Flag
Polished cotton, in Army of Northern Virginia pattern, 11.5 x 17.5 in. > Item Details
CDV of  Unidentified Confederate Lieutenant
Lot # 23 - CDV of Unidentified Confederate Lieutenant
An immediate post-war portrait impressed "The Lee Gallery, Richmond" on cream colored mount of thick stock. Sporting a long goatee the unidentified lieutenant (one bar on collar) still wears his grey frock coat with high-dome Virginia? state seal buttons. > Item Details
Civil War Company Books of Co. E, 44th Mass.
Lot # 83 - Civil War Company Books of Co. E, 44th Mass.
Lot of 3 suede bound folio volumes: Company Descriptive Book; Company Clothing; Company Orders. Second with stamp at top Capt. S.W. Richardson, Co. E. 44th Reb. Mass. V. Third volume with stamp Co. E. 44th Reg. Mass. V. Each with partially printed pages. The first (Descriptive book) with pages for L... > Item Details
Autograph Letter from Union Gen. W.R. Terrill, KIA At Perryville, KY
Lot # 98 - Autograph Letter from Union Gen. W.R. Terrill, KIA At Perryville, KY
William R. Terrill to brother, Charleston, S.C., Nov. 30, 1860. ALS, 4p. Written as the Secession crisis in South Carolina was beginning to heat to full boil, William H. Terrill writes to his brother about the perilous course of events he witnessed firsthand: "South Carolina is bent upon secessi... > Item Details
Trager, <i>Chief Big Foot Killed in Battle at Wounded Knee</i>
Lot # 520 - Trager, Chief Big Foot Killed in Battle at Wounded Knee
Albumen photograph titled in negative Chief Big Foot Killed in the Battle at Wounded Knee with his Full Band By the 7th Cav. Dec. 28th 1890, produced by George Trager and the Northwestern Photographic Co. Negative date: 1891; print date: ca 1891. 5.375 x 7.75 in., mounted, 6.5 x 8.5 in. True name... > 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
Egg Cup From First Lincoln White House Service
Lot # 274 - Egg Cup From First Lincoln White House Service
French, ca 1861. A Haviland, Limoges porcelain egg cup from the state service made for President Abraham Lincoln. The center printed and painted with a brown eagle clasping a laurel branch and a cluster of arrows in his talons. Top portion of egg cup features royal purple rim edged with a border of ... > Item Details
Model 1850 Militia Sword by <i>Ames</i>
Lot # 182 - Model 1850 Militia Sword by Ames
25.5" blade with nice polished acid etched blade. Panoply of arms etched on the blade with eagle with banner in it's beak. Beautiful fluted ivory handles. Leather scabbard with brass furniture is in very good condition. > Item Details
D.F. Barry Signed Photograph of Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill
Lot # 548 - D.F. Barry Signed Photograph of Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill
A vignetted portrait of Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill, side-by-side, with Cody in foreground, both in western garb and broad-brimmed hats, with following inscription penciled on verso: Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill / To My Friend / Charlie Skillings / From D.F. Barry, 7.25 x 9.25 in., matted with heav... > 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
Pair of Staffordshire Uncle Tom Figurines
Lot # 242 - Pair of Staffordshire Uncle Tom Figurines
lot of 2; Uncle Tom with Eva on base that says Uncle Tom; 8.5 in. tall; Woman holding child; 5.5 in. tall AND includes a signed copy of John Hall's book on Staffordshire Figures which has an image of the Uncle Tom figurine in the book. > Item Details
Alexandri ab Alexandro, Genialium Dierum Libri VI
Lot # 357 - Alexandri ab Alexandro, Genialium Dierum Libri VI
Alexandri ab Alexandro, I[J]urisperiti Neapolitani. Genialium Dierum Libri VI. Paris: Vascosan, 1549. 16mo, polished calf, 1021pp. In Latin. (Later editions added: "varia ac recondite eruditione referti" to the title, though not on this tp.) VERY roughly the title page translates: Genial/happy days/... > Item Details
6 Teddy & The Bear Plates
Lot # 327 - 6 Teddy & The Bear Plates
Lot of six includes a plate depicting a bear resembling Roosevelt atop an elephant among other bears, one atop a donkey. Plate reads The grand ole partys safe with Roosevelt's guiding hand and peace and plenty will prevail throughout our native land. Bottom part of plate reads Teddy and Rosa in the ... > Item Details
Civil War Archive of Lieut. William H. Forbis, OH 19th and 105th Infantry
Lot # 73 - Civil War Archive of Lieut. William H. Forbis, OH 19th and 105th Infantry
Includes 5 letters from Georgia during Sherman’s campaign. The first to Mary from Burnt Hickory, Ga., 3 May 1864; second to Addie from Dalton, Ga., 11 May 1864; third is to Mother from Marietta, Ga., 10 July 1864; fourth also to Mother from "Chattahoochee River," 15 July 1864; and fifth to Mother & ... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: