News Column

Lincoln museum gets Mary Todd's handkerchiefs

February 1, 2014

By Amy McRary, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

Feb. 01 --Two handkerchiefs once used by Mary Todd Lincoln , possibly during her time as First Lady, have been given the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum . The museum is part of Lincoln Memorial University . The two handkerchiefs will be on exhibit at the Harrogate museum this fall, said Museum Curator Steven M. Wilson . Both handkerchiefs are monogrammed with the initials "ML." A delicate white silk handkerchief is bordered in blue. The second cotton cloth, with simpler block initials, was a tea napkin or tea handkerchief, Wilson said. Mary Lincoln would have used the items before her husband was assassinated, Wilson said, because they are not bordered in black. "Loosely speaking, I'd guess they (date) between 1858 to 1864," he said. The handkerchiefs came from the family of the late Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith . Beckwith was a great-grandson of Abraham and Mary Lincoln ; his grandfather Robert Todd Lincoln was their only surviving son. "Every artifact is in essence a clue about the character of Mary Todd Lincoln or Abraham Lincoln , "said Wilson. "And even small things like this bring us closer to a personal individual rather than an icon lost in history." LMU alumnus Randy Bumgardner gave the museum the articles. He bought the handkerchiefs in a lot of about a dozen at a 2010 auction. The 1983 graduate is assistant chief of protocol and general manager of the Blair House, the president's Washington, D.C. , guest house. As a student, Bumgardner worked at the Harrogate museum. The handkerchiefs will be added to the museum's Lincoln exhibits this fall, Wilson said. They'll be shown with a coffee and hot chocolate china set used by the Lincolns. Also planned for the exhibit will be a handkerchief owned by Abraham Lincoln . More worn that those of his wife, the president's handkerchief was given the museum years ago. Locks of hair of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln and their son Tad who died at age 18, will be shown as well. The museum doesn't own other clothing that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln , Wilson said. Its collection does include written by Mrs. Lincoln on mourning stationery, a walking stick used by Abraham Lincoln and a bell the president used in the White House to call secretaries. Bumgardner also brought the museum a signed document by President Barak Obama to complete the museum's collection of presidential signatures. Obama signed a bound copy of his 2013 State of the Union Address after a request from Bumgardner. The presidential signatures aren't on exhibit, Wilson said, and some are very fragile. Located on the LMU campus, the museum is open daily. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children. ___ (c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

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