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Lincoln Collector to the Rescue!

It’s not always easy to research century-and-a-half old documents, but thanks to a savvy collector from Wisconsin, Reisterstown Patch can report that Abraham Lincoln likely signed a document that is at our own library.

As a history buff, I nearly jumped out of my seat when I heard that the possessed a document bearing what looked like a signature by Abraham Lincoln. Turns out, according to a Patch reader and expert, it's likely real.

A columnist at The Community Times, a weekly paper that also covers Reisterstown, wrote about this document, and how it was recently found after being misplaced.

Excited to see it, I called library branch manager Abigail Cooley, who was gracious enough to show it to me on a day the library’s historical archive, the Reisterstown Room, was closed.

The document appoints Charles Leas, who would found Glyndon six years later, consul to Portugal. It is dated March 15, 1865, and bears what appears to be a signature, "Abraham Lincoln."

Without an archival expert on hand, Cooley did some of her own informal research, which revealed documents in which the historic president usually signed, “A. Lincoln.”  Cooley surmised that the signature on this appointment may have been inked with a template, like a traced engraving.

Enter Dan Pearson, a Beaver Dam, WI, resident who has collected Lincoln books and pamphlets for 32 years. He has authored journal articles and works with a dealer of historic artifacts in Illinois who also has a love for Lincoln.

The with photos of the document popped up on Pearson’s Google Alerts. Believing the signature was, in fact, authentic, he sent me an email and later told me why.

“The document that you found is a diplomatic appointment, and appointments, whether they were diplomatic or military, were generally always signed by the president,” he said.

Furthermore, Pearson went on, Lincoln never signed official documents “A. Lincoln.” Letters, whether formal or informal, yes, but nothing official.

The ink also gives it away. Although Pearson has only seen photos of the document on Patch, he can tell that the main writing in the document was printed and then filled in, with handwriting, in heavy black ink. The signature, however, is written in iron gall ink, which would turn reddish overtime as it oxidized, and Lincoln’s signature appears to have done just that.

“This is an Abraham Lincoln, genuine, 100 percent, signed document,” Pearson said.

He believes it to be worth between $6,000 and $7,000. With only a few wrinkles in the paper, it could easily be conserved, he said.

“It’s a great find,” Pearson said. “This is probably a better-than-average example.”

Buck Harmon January 25, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Very cool... now that it's official, hope it's very secure... $$
Marc Shapiro (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 03:01 PM
It is. And if/when the library gets a temporary archival consultant, they plan to figure out the best way to store and display the document.
Peter Tilstra January 07, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Original Lincoln photographs found in uncle’s closet! About 20 years ago, my uncle and I were cleaning out his closet, and came across a rare find. It was a picture frame with nine individual pictures of Abraham Lincoln and the members of his cabinet. When we looked behind the pictures, there were newspaper clippings from 1883 in there. Not knowing any better, we took the photos out, and placed them individually in protective plastic cases, and put them into a photo album. Recently, I came across these pictures, and realized that they were taken by Matthew Brady and EA & HT Anthony. I did bring the Lincoln photo to Christy’s Auction House in New York City when we first discovered the photos about 20 years ago, and they authenticated that Lincoln had to sit for the photo, and that it was authentic. I am not aware of any other collection like this anywhere, and would like to share it with America, as this is the 150 year anniversary of Lincoln’s assination. I know they are quite rare and valuable, and as part of our history, should probably be in a more public place, than just sitting in a photo album in my closet. If interested in my story, I can be reached anytime on my cell phone at 914-466-7200, or at home at 845-336-6750. Thank you, Peter Tilstra

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