- Historic Sites
Another Assassination, Another Widow, Another Embattled Book
August 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 5
“The feeling of the majority of visitors is adverse to the course Mrs. Lincoln has thought proper to pursue, and the criticisms are as severe as the cavillings are persistent at the quality of some of the dresses. These latter are labelled at Mrs. Lincoln’s own estimate, and prices range from $25 to $75—about 50 percent less than cost. Some of them, if not worn long, have been worn much; they are jagged under the arms and at the bottom of the skirt, stains are on the lining, and other objections present themselves to those who oscillate between the dresses and dollars, ‘notwithstanding they have been worn by Madam Lincoln,’ as a lady who looked from behind a pair of gold spectacles remarked. Other dresses, however, have scarcely been worn—one, perhaps, while Mrs. Lincoln sat for her picture, and from one the basting threads had not yet been removed. The general testimony is that the wearing apparel is high-priced, and some of the examiners say that the cost-figures must have been put on by the dressmakers; or, if such was not the case, that gold was 250 when they were purchased, and is now but 140- so that a dress for which $150 was paid at the rate of high figures cannot be called cheap at half that sum, after it has been worn considerable, and perhaps passed out of fashion. The peculiarity of the dresses is that the most of them are cut low-necked—a taste which some ladies attribute to Mrs. Lincoln’s appreciation of her own bust.
“On Saturday last an offer was made for all the dresses. The figure named was less than the aggregate estimate placed on them. Mr. Brady, however, having no discretionary power, declined to close the bargain, but notified Mrs. Lincoln by mail. Of course, as yet, no reply has been received. Mrs. L. desires that the auction should be deferred till the thirty-first of the present month, and efforts made to dispose of the articles at private sale up to that time.”
Many persons called at 609 Broadway to examine Mrs. Lincoln’s wardrobe, but as curiosity prompted each visit, but few articles were sold. Messrs. Brady & Keyes were not very energetic, and … that lady ultimately lost all confidence in them. It was proposed to send circulars, stating Mrs. Lincoln’s wants, and appealing to the generosity of the people for aid, broadcast over the country; but the scheme failed. Messrs. Brady & Keyes were unable to obtain the names of prominent men, whom the people had confidence in, for the circular, to give character and responsibility to the movement—so the whole thing was abandoned. …
A portion of the wardrobe was then taken to Providence, to be exhibited, but without her consent. Mr. Brady remarked that the exhibition would bring in money, and as money must be raised, this was the last resort. He was of the impression that Mrs. Lincoln would approve of any movement, so it ended in success. This, at least, is a charitable view to take of the subject.
Had the exhibition succeeded in Providence, it is my opinion that the agents of Brady & Keyes would now be travelling over the country, expos- ing Mrs. Lincoln’s wardrobe to the view of the curious, at so much per head. As is well known, the city authorities refused to allow the exhibition to take place in Providence; therefore Mr. Brady returned to New York with the goods, and the travelling show scheme, like the circular scheme, was abandoned. Weeks lengthened into months, and at Mrs. Lincoln’s urgent request I remained in New York, to look after her interests. When she left the city I engaged quiet lodgings in a private family, where I remained about two months, when I moved to 14 Carroll Place, and became one of the regular boarders of the house. Mrs. Lincoln’s venture proved so disastrous that she was unable to reward me for my services, and I was compelled to take in sewing to pay for my daily bread. My New York expedition has made me richer in experience, but poorer in purse.
During the entire winter I have worked early and late, and practised the closest economy. Mrs. Lincoln’s business demanded much of my time, and it was a constant source of trouble to me. When Mrs. L. left for the West, I expected to be able to return to Washington in one week from the day; but unforeseen difficulties arose, and I have been detained in the city for several months. As I am writing the concluding pages of this book, I have succeeded in closing up Mrs. Lincoln’s imprudent business arrangement at 609 Broadway. The firm of Brady & Keyes is dissolved, and Mr. Keyes has adjusted the account. The story is told in a few words. On the fourth of March I received the following invoice from Mr. Keyes: “March 4, ’68.
“Invoice of articles sent to Mrs. A. Lincoln:
1 Lace dress.
1 d[itt]o. do. flounced.
5 Lace shawls.
3 Camel hair shawls.
1 Lace parasol cover.
1 do. handkerchief.
1 Sable boa.
1 White do.
1 Set furs.
2 Paisley shawls.
2 Gold bracelets.
2 Opera cloaks.
1 Purple shawl.
1 Feather cape.
38 yds. silk.
1 Diamond ring.
3 Small do.
1 Set furs.
1 Camel hair shawl.
1 Red do.
1 Child’s shawl.
1 Lace Chantilly shawl.”
The charges of the firm amounted to eight hundred dollars. Mrs. Lincoln sent me a check for this amount. I handed this check to Mr. Keyes, and he gave me the following receipt:
“Received, New York, March 4, 1868, of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, eight hundred and twenty dollars by draft on American National Bank, New York.
“S.C. KEYES .”
I packed the articles invoiced, and expressed the trunks to Mrs. Lincoln at Chicago. I then demanded and received a receipt worded as follows:
“Received, New York, March 4, 1868, of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, eight hundred and twenty dollars in full of all demands of every kind up to date.