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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Carte de Visite photograph; Lincoln standing; Mathew Brady; National Portrait Galleries; 1863; sold for $1,239. Photo courtesy of Early American History Auctions.
“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has,” Pres. Abraham Lincoln said in a speech to the 166th Ohio Regiment during the Civil War.

Lincoln was talking about the possibility of everyone in our democracy having a shot at reaching the sky just as he had.

“It is for this, the struggle should be maintained…The nation is worth fighting for,” he added.

Lincoln made people believe in possibilities.

He suffered from severe depression all of his life. He had trouble sleeping and sometimes lay in bed all night in his yellow sleep shirt waiting for daylight. The light somehow made a difference.

Despite his black moods, many people who knew Lincoln talked about his sense of humor, his mastery of public speaking, his political savvy, his love of storytelling, his patience and kindness.

He was the “common man” who stumbled into people’s hearts and homes. His bottom line message always seemed to be the same. Everyone deserves a chance.

During his presidency Lincoln’s popularity seesawed. Radicals and conservatives alike criticized him. Denounced in private letters as well as newspapers for being a “wet rag,” “shallow,” a “tyrant,” “weak,” “dazed and utterly foolish,” “imbecile,” and “pitiable,” Lincoln persisted. He was triumphantly reelected to office.

The lines in his face were deeper now but Lincoln was steadfast in his belief in a great and important future for this country, “a new birth of freedom” he called it. His hands had also changed. Gone was the muscle flesh and roughness of a young man. In its place was the iron handshake of a man who had paid his dues.

When Lincoln came to Washington in 1861 he weighed 180 pounds. By 1865, Lincoln was down to 160. The years seemed to cut away at him.

Out of this same brooding man came big belly laughs. He was the first to chuckle at his own jokes. He was famous for comments like the reason his attorney general’s beard was white, while his hair was not, was because Bates used his jaws more than his brains.

Photographer Mathew Brady was right when he said the camera was the eye of history. Through it Brady captured numerous photos of Lincoln that live on as historical accounts. One of Brady’s most famous portraits was the standing figure of Lincoln taken at the time of his Cooper Union speech in 1860. Days later, the photograph appeared on the cover of “Harper’s Bazaar.” In the speech Lincoln talked about his reasons for opposing slavery in the new territories. He reportedly said Brady’s photograph and the speech put him in the White House.

Brady photographed Lincoln several more times before his death in 1865. He also snapped photos of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and Lincoln’s two sons.

The historical importance of Lincoln artifacts can’t be underestimated. On Aug. 29, 2009, Early American History Auctions, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., offered a selection of Lincoln memorabilia in its Autographs, Coins, Currency and Americana mail-bid and internet auction. Here are some current values.

Abraham Lincoln

Mourning Sheet Music; 1st edition; entitled “The Nation Mourns--Funeral March;” 10 ½ inches by 13 ½ inches; $195.

Photo; seated Lincoln; reproduction from negative; sepia-toned; 17 inches by 12 inches; $213.

Memorial Silk Ribbon; “He Set the Millions Free,” 9 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches; $472.

Broadside; original; entitled “Funeral Procession of President Lincoln;” April 22, 1865; 9 ¼ inches by 5 ½ inches; $708.

Carte de Visite photograph; Lincoln standing; by Mathew Brady National Portrait Galleries; 1863; $1,239.

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