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21Country: The Top Five interesting items inside the ACPL’s Lincoln Collection

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - "A top five list for a collection like this is extremely difficult to pick."

Sr. Lincoln Librarian Emily Rapoza manages the massive Abraham Lincoln archive beneath the Allen County Public Library downtown.

On normal days, she would be giving tours of the collection to families and students, but the pandemic put a temporary stop to that.

Instead, we asked her to list the top five items that are either rare, have an interesting story, or popular to those who visit the library's vaults.

#1. Mary Todd Lincoln's Spirit Photo

"Definitely the most popular item in our collection, the most well known item in our collection, is the Mary Todd Lincoln spirit photo," Rapoza shared.

Spirit photography became popular during and after the Civil War.

Family members of soldiers who died in the war, became interested in the afterlife, and sought out psychics in hopes of connecting with ghosts and spirits.

Special photographers would actually capture customers' portraits, with a spirit posing behind them.

And that was the case with the late first lady.

"This one's unusual because, its definitely Abraham Lincoln," Rapoza explained, "and he's definitely standing behind Mary, and he even has his hand on her shoulder."

But is it real?

Rapoza says, yes mostly, "It's a real photo! Mary really did sit for William Mumbler, the spirit photographer while he was in Boston."

"Whether the ghost is real or not? That's up to you!" she continued.

#2 The Daily Citizen "Wallpaper Edition"

July 2nd 1863 - The confederate town Vicksburg, Mississippi printed an article in "The Daily Citizen", an act of defiance against General Ulysses S. Grant's union army from taking the city.

Two days later, Vicksburg fell.

Grant's soldiers found the article in the print shop, and added their own snarky addendum.

"Two days bring about great change," it started.

What also adds to its interest?

It was printed on wallpaper!

"This will be the last edition, and a curiosity, of the "wallpaper edition" of The Daily Citizen," it read.

"Wallpaper edition?" Rapoza said, "Well, Vicksburg was out of everything including newsprint, which meant they were printing on actual rolls of wallpaper!"

#3 Lincoln's Personal Copy of "The Life and Speeches of Henry Clay"

Lincoln admired Henry Clay, even viewing him as a political role model.

Inside his personal copy of the book, you'll find doodles and highlights in certain passages about slavery.

"He actually held these pages, touched them, and wrote on them," Rapoza explained, "It's the only place we find writing in the entire two volume set. Which meant that Lincoln was thinking about slavery well before he became president."

The book would later survive a fire, which damaged the outer cover.

#4 Lincoln's Personal Family Photo Album

Abraham Lincoln only had one set of family photos for personal use.

That set, now lives in display cases at the ACPL.

Besides photos of Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd, you'll also see their young boys: Robert, Willie, and Tadd.

The latter, marked up his own portrait.

"He is decided that he doesn't quite look soldierly enough," Rapoza told us, "so Tadd himself has drawn on a mustache, goatee, sideburns, and a sword and swordbelt. This is one of the earliest examples of photoshop that you'll find in this album."

Rapoza also told us, Lincoln and the first lady never had their photo taken together.

Instead, their portraits were taken separately, and composited together in another image.

They owned one of the whole family similarly done as well.

#5 Ambrotype Photographs

Lincoln's boys are also depicted using an early photo medium called ambrotype.

The fragile and glasslike surface was touched up with pink paint, to give the children a little more life.

You can view the ACPL's Lincoln Collection online here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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