By: Nancy DuPree, Curator of the Williams Collection
On the website of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln database, a news release dated August 11, 2014 proudly headlined “New Lincoln Papers Found in the Heart of Dixie.” The article that follows announces the addition of digitized images of two hitherto unknown Lincoln letters to the Papers project, which is sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. The originals of those letters are held by the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection on the third floor of Gorgas Library at the University of Alabama.
News of these letters reached the Lincoln Library through the good offices of several alumni of the University of Alabama Department of History and the book, From a Love of History, by Stephen Rowe (University of Alabama Press, 2013). Rowe’s book contains a photograph and a description of one of the letters, and Robert Ritzer, alumnus of the University of Alabama history department and professor of history at the University of West Alabama, immediately recognized its importance. He contacted another alum, Christian McWhirter, an editor at the Lincoln Library, who after conversations with Nancy DuPree, curator, and Mary Bess Paluzzi, Dean of Special Collections, came to Tuscaloosa to examine the letters and to have them digitized.
The story attracted some interest, including a print news release; an article in Tuscaloosa News; and several television news segments, including WVUA, FOX6WBRC, NBC Chicago, CBS Atlanta, and ABC 33/40. The actual letters were on exhibit for a week and were viewed by a number of visitors. The Collection continues to exhibit copies of the letters, though the originals are kept in a vault for security and protection from strong lights. Copies of the letters, alongside journalists’ accounts of the find, can also be seen in a small exhibition called “We Went Viral!” on the second floor of Capstone Village.
On Wednesday, come back to read more about the letters themselves!