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Donors give rare painting and one-of-a-kind Lincoln letter to Lincoln Presidential library

SPRINGFIELD — The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum launched its celebration of Lincoln’s birthday by announcing two major acquisitions: an angry letter the future president wrote to a colleague and a painting that shows the young Lincoln reading while he takes a break from chopping wood.

“Both these items are wonderful additions to our collection,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “One shows the Lincoln that we sometimes forget – the politician trying to lead a team. The other shows Lincoln as we’d like to remember him – hardworking and never wasting an opportunity to improve himself.”

The letter was written to Andrew McCormack, one of the “Long Nine,” a group of nine tall Illinois legislators who banded together and, among other things, helped make Springfield the state capital.

In the letter, the normally diplomatic Lincoln chastises McCormack for planning to vote against the group. The issue was whether a government job would go to a fellow Whig or a rival Democrat.

“All our friends are ready to cut our throats about it,” Lincoln writes. “For Heaven’s sake, for your friends sake, for the sake of the recollection of all the hard battles we have heretofore fought shoulder, to shoulder, do not forsake us this time.”

The letter has been passed down by McCormack’s descendants (who later used the spelling “McCormick”) for generations. It was owned most recently by Fred Schneeberger of Atlanta, Ga. His son, Craig, convinced Mr. Schneeberger that it belonged somewhere that scholars and the public could benefit from it.

Craig Schneeberger had visited the Lincoln Presidential Library and was “amazed” by it. “When the time came to donate the letter, we knew where it needed to go,” he said.

Unique portrait

Conservation philanthropist Louis Moore Bacon concluded the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was also the proper home for the painting “The Young Abe Lincoln.”

The painting by William Morton Jackson Rice dates to the late 1800s. It is 7 feet wide by nearly 5 feet tall and shows Lincoln, clad in buckskins, sitting against a tree he has just chopped down. Lincoln is reading a book while he eats a meal that had been wrapped in a red bandana.

“The Young Abe Lincoln” will hang in the presidential library for the rest of the year.

Dr. Samuel Wheeler, the Illinois state historian, thanked Schneeberger and Bacon for their donations. “We are grateful any time the owners of precious documents or art decide to share their possessions with the world. They are ensuring these wonderful items will be preserved for the good of all,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also thanked Ian Hunt, the presidential library’s head of acquisitions, and James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection, for their diligence in arranging these donations.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will celebrate his birthday Feb. 12 by offering free admission, showcasing some of its rarest artifacts and presenting musicians and historic interpreters.

The presidential library and museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. Visitors can see ghosts come to life on stage, watch TV coverage of the 1860 Presidential election, roam through the Lincoln White House, experience booming cannons in a Civil War battle and come face to face with priceless original Lincoln artifacts.

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.

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–Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

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