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Rail Splinters

Lincoln at the Abolition Ball

December 28, 2019

We picture three portions of the Philadelphia “Daily Age” of March 6, 1865 which included a somewhat partisan report of the Inauguration Ball. (Please excuse the quality of the images, as they were coped from an eBay listing.) In the beginning, the reporter mentions that tickets to the event were available to the general public at a cost of $10 in greenbacks. For that amount, the would-be celebrant received two standard invitations with portraits of Lincoln & Johnson, plus a smaller size engraved card giving that person admittance to the event along with two ladies. The invitation shows up in the market on a regular basis, but we have never seen the admittance card before. The reporter lists the members of the presidential party, including Robert Todd Lincoln in full military uniform and the daughter of Senator Harlan whom Lincoln would marry shortly thereafter. Mary Todd Lincoln is described as “every inch a Presidentess”. Mention is also made that there were no Negro guests (i.e., African-Americans who paid the $10 admission fee), even though the servers were all black. The exception to this appears to have been the Minister from Hayti [sic] who, upon the arrival of a colored delegation, abjured that he was of a different race than American blacks and not at all in the same category. “Plebians” did not join in the dancing, but anxiously stood outside the doors of the supper hall, planning on satiating their appetite and recouping their $10 investment at the buffet table. The old Washington aristocracy stayed away from the festivities. It was, according to the reporter, a “thoroughly abolition ball.”