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Letters to the Editor

An Item in Search of a Story

December 2, 2020

We were contacted recently by someone in Iowa who has a marble inkwell desk accessory he believes was a gift to Abraham Lincoln. It was discovered “tucked away” in a circa 1912 home whose original occupants came to Iowa from New York. The home is not far from Pt. Pleasant, the homestead of Senator James Harlan, frequented by Mary Harlan Lincoln and her children. The owner has done quite a bit of research which, quite frankly, is pretty much speculation. It does appear to be an original artifact from 1864. The inscription is very perplexing. The syntax is wrong and the term “Confederacy of the United States of America” nonsensical. There has to be a story, just waiting to be uncovered, that will explain the origins of this item. The owner says that the Articles of Confederation of 1787 refer to America as the Confederacy of the United States. He also says that New York Mayor Fernando Wood (the giver of the gift, in his mind) used the same term in a Civil War-era speech in which he advocated the secession of New York City. He speculates that Wood presented the item to Lincoln on February 12th, the President’s birthday. Not very likely. We’ll join the speculation game and say that the item was a gift to Wood by his admirers in New York City. The inference being, that if New York City did secede from the Union, Wood would be the natural choice to be “the Mr. President” of the island republic. The date, February 12th, is a mere coincidence, a “red herring” as it were, not related to Lincoln. If any of our readers have some solid information on this intriguing piece, please share it with us and solve the mystery of the “item in search of a story”.