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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

That’s Distinctive!: Abraham Lincoln

February 10th, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s upcoming 214th birthday. In 1861, Lincoln became the 16th president of the United States. Born on February 12, 1809, Lincoln knew a life of struggle before making it into the Illinois legislature. After gaining a national reputation, Lincoln became the Republican nominee in the 1860 presidential race. In 1863 he signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all enslaved individuals in the Confederacy. Lincoln won re-election in 1864, but was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington on April 14, 1864.

This week in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 214th birthday on February 12, I am sharing an original document with Lincoln’s signature. The letter is written to George Hoge and is dated October 11, 1860. The contents of the letter were written by Lincoln’s secretary, but the signature is his own. The library houses many books and manuscripts written about Lincoln along with letters addressed to him, all of which can be found in our finding aids and the KU Libraries online catalog.

Handwritten document on light brown paper.
Letter from Abraham Lincoln to George Hoge, October 11, 1860. Call Number: MS P583. Click image to enlarge.

The letter reads as follows:

Springfield, Ill, Oct 11th 1860.

Geo. Hoge Esq

Dear Sir – Your letter of the 5th inviting me to your grand rally at Paris on the 12th is duly received. Accept my thanks for the invitation, and my regrets at my inability to be with you.

Yours truly,
A. Lincoln

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

Ribbon Roundup

August 31st, 2015

Among the many treasures in the Kansas Collection are the Fowler-Rose-Thompson Collection ribbons. These beautiful silk ribbons depict Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and commemorate the Almena, Kansas Congregational Church’s “Old Folks Day.” The over 100-year-old ribbons arrived in the conservation lab stored vertically in an archival folder. Due to their age and fragility, the ribbons were torn, fraying, and wrinkled. After the ribbons were flattened and mended by Whitney Baker, Conservator for KU Libraries, their storage situation needed to be addressed.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Three ribbons from the Fowler-Rose-Thompson Collection, call number RH MS 88. Click image to enlarge.

To better preserve these delicate ribbons, an entirely new housing arrangement was in order. The priorities for the new housing were to 1) ensure that the ribbons were stored horizontally to prevent any sagging or further wrinkling of the fragile silk and 2) to minimize the need for direct handling of the ribbons. A hinged, floating mount achieves both requisites.

The floating mount arrangement that Whitney advised allows for the attachment of the ribbons to a piece of mat board without the use of damaging adhesives. Instead, strips of polyethylene tape run through slits on either side of the ribbons. The polyethylene tape acts like a seat-belt, holding the ribbons in place without obstructing the view of the ribbons.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Detail of polyethylene strapping over bottom of ribbon. Click image to enlarge.

Hinged to this first piece of mat board with gummed tape is a mat board frame. The frame allows the entirety of the ribbons to remain visible, which reduces the need for handling, while acting as a buffer for the floating mount’s cover. The cover, a third piece of mat board, is also hinged with gummed tape to the first piece of mat board to further protect the ribbons.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons   RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Left: Attaching mat frame to back board with gummed tape. Right: The final three-part mat. Click images to enlarge.

This book-like housing arrangement was then placed into a plastazote-lined archival box for added protection and to ensure that the ribbons remain horizontal.

Brecken Liebl
Conservation Intern
KU Museum Studies Graduate Student

Collection Snapsot: A Presidential Pardon

February 21st, 2013

In honor of Presidents’ Day (and the upcoming Academy Awards with a certain Lincoln movie in the lead with twelve nominations), we highlight this Presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln on November 25, 1864.

He pardoned one Gordon Lafitte, alias Gibson, for “making counterfeit coin.” Mr. Lafitte had served 4/5ths of his 5 year sentence and was pardoned for good behavior while behind bars.

Photograph of Lincoln Pardon of Gordon Lafitte (p. 1)  Photograph of Lincoln Pardon of Gordon Lafitte (p. 2)

Pardon for Gordon Lafitte. Signed by Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward. November 25, 1864.
Call number: MS Q2:1. Click images to enlarge.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services