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2009 Bicentennial Auction

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-2009

Two hundred years after his birth, why do we still remember Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps it is nostalgia or a yearning for inspired leadership. Or we may remember Lincoln for his words, which not only reverberate across time, but also reveal his mastery as a writer. At a moment when the threat of civil war pushed the American experiment to the brink of extinction, voters selected this man of little legislative and no executive experience to take on a “task greater than that which faced Washington”, in Lincoln’s words.

Except for his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, few saw him as equal to the task. He had less than a year of formal schooling, served briefly as a soldier (but saw no combat), served one undistinguished term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was twice thwarted in bids for the U.S. Senate. He lacked social graces, dressed poorly, was gangly and awkward, and was called “homely.” His law partner called him the most secretive man he ever met. Yet, at a young age, Lincoln determined to escape the hard life of a poor farmer and leave his mark on the world. Essentially self-taught, his lifelong pursuit of know-ledge and personal improvement continually enlarged his views and abilities. His immersion in politics fostered uncanny insight into the workings of democracy. His successful law practice taught him to grasp the crux of any controversy and familiarized him with the concerns of the common man.

Beyond his public service and statesmanship, Lincoln’s immortality rests on the folklore of his whole life: born in a log cabin, wrestling frontier rivals, splitting rails, flatboating down the Mississippi, mourning his lost love Ann Rutledge. The life of Abraham Lincoln is a quintessential American story, all the more compelling because it is fact not fiction, and all the more human because of his foibles as well as his greatness. To tell his story, The Rail Splitter, a national organization of Lincoln collectors and scholars, has labored for fifteen years to share new discoveries, stage exhibits, publish a quarterly journal, and host auctions of touchstones to our greatest president.

We are ever mindful there are many ways to look at Lincoln. One can see him as his contemporaries did, in the context of his times. He can be seen as a consummate politician who vastly expanded the powers of the Presidency. He can be viewed as the defender of the Union and its chief martyr. There is legend, folktale, and reality: and then there are the WORDS. We at The Rail Splitter hope those participating in this auction or subscribing to our journal will better appreciate the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. We think, once kindled, that appreciation will become a lifetime fascination.


Imprints, Books, Reference Material

Photography: Important Items, CDVs (Cartes de Visite)

Photography: Cabinet Cards and Stereoviews

Photography: Hard Images

Photography: Large Format

Autographs & Manuscripts


Civil War Letters & Diaries

Civil War Documents, Broadsides & Ephemera

Civil War Relics and Material Culture

Numismatica, Exonumia & Philately

Black Americana

The Grant Gallery

Assassination & Mourning

On Stage

Works of Art

Post Civil War & Newspapers

Late Additions: Significant Items of Note