17 January 2009

Mrs Lincoln regrets...

I admit it- I've always had a crush on Mr. Lincoln- and for that matter his wife Mary Todd Lincoln.

I submit ~ Reader- two of the most complex people to live in the White House and certainly THE most complex couple that ever resided. Fortunately for US Barack and Michelle Obama are SOLID. High intellect- No Drama. It is an exciting time for our nation. Mrs. Lincoln will get in on the inaugural act when the Obamas borrow and dine on Mary's White House china .

Mary Todd Lincoln-latest fashion and showing bare shoulders and cleavage

Mary Lincoln puts her best face forward

The official Lincoln China will be used on January 20 2009

In hearing about All Things Lincoln and his front and center role in the inauguration- I could only think of the many fascinating and tragic tales of his wife Mary Todd- known as "Mother" by President Lincoln.

Family Portrait- The surviving sons- Tad(at AL's side, Robert, standing center)

Throughout the Civil War- Mary herself was a house divided. Her Kentucky roots plagued her in the press and in her personal relationships with relatives. Mary's half brothers were standing with the Confederacy and many of her detractors considered her to be a turncoat- or worse- a Confederate spy.

Portrait of a First Lady

Lincoln and Mary's relationship was complicated by her clinging needs- his stoicism and remoteness. Mr. President's insomnia and the overwhelming weight of the war made him an absentee spouse for Mary's constant desire to be at the center of her husband's universe. Books and more books have been and will be written by the historians about all this stuff- SO for you , my reader just a few more personal insights that make Mary flesh and blood.

The troubled President and husband- photograph by Matthew Brady

A Lincoln White House Ball- printed in Harper's Weekly

Mary was a shopaholic. During the worst crisis of the nation, Mary set about redecorating a truly atrocious and decaying White House. Much of what she sought to do was needed- but no one anticipated her over spending and its repercussions. Mary got caught- though many of her staff and others within the House tried to conceal the whopping bills and juggle credit- it all came to light in the newspapers and Mr. President was left to explain, apologize, scold and withdraw further from the First Lady.

The rosewood bed in the Lincoln bedroom

The infamous Lincoln bedroom- some of Mary's decorating talents exhibited- high Victorian

Mary, also known as the "HELL CAT" by Lincoln's staff, was always getting tied up in debt. She absorbed herself in it all, hoping it would relieve the emptiness she felt from the lack of attention of her husband and the devastating loss of her most beloved child Willie. The night Willie died, the Lincolns were entertaining in the White House and as guests dined and danced the Lincolns kept vigil by Willie's death bed. The death of Willie seemed the final blow and slowly detached Mary a little more from the realities she could not cope with.

Of course- more was to come for Mary- a blessing the spiritualists she consulted could not see that in her future.

Tad and Willie (left) Lincoln-

Mary strikes a pose~

Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Mary was a clotheshorse. During one four month period it was noted that "Mother" purchased 400 pairs of gloves. Mary adored the French fashions of Empress Eugenie and loved to show some cleavage, shocking Washington society and the President as well. She couldn't imagine not having the best- feeling all the while that she was being judged and scrutinized by her detractors.

One of Mary's dresses~

A fascinating article in NEST magazine years ago that revealed Mrs. Lincoln's estate included 64 TRUNKS filled with European silks basted together to look like dresses- avoiding customs duties.

Mary's purchases scattered about-reconciling the First Lady's expenses was constant for the staff.

A French Silk (late 17th)- one much like Mary's contraband- bastings in tact. (textile in my collection)

Mary's White House life and life after the assassination were troubled- to say the least. After the Civil War, Mary had renewed hopes of reconnecting with her much loved Lincoln- She could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Years of financial problems and her older son Robert's attempts to have her committed- a sad story that- and her last years spent in severely reduced circumstances waiting to join her lost loved ones on the other side seem a fitting end to Mary's obsession with her husband and her undying love as a mother.

Mary Lincoln-RIP.


  1. You probably won't see this comment. I'm coming to your post so late. This is so intriguing. I'm thrilled by your blog! I had heard negative things about Mary, but you make her human. Full of faults, but human. I know everyone is wild about her man, but I have my doubts.

  2. Your post is great! One caveat: The photo of "Tad and Willie" together is actually Bud and Holly, brothers who were playmates to the younger Lincoln boys in the White House.



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