Interiors: The Lincoln children’s bedroom, Springfield, Illinois, circa 1861.

lincoln childrens bedroom pd

This is an upstairs bedroom in the house of the Lincoln family, located at 8th and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois. This is now a national historic site and the bedroom has been restored to at least an approximation of its appearance in 1861, when the family left Springfield for Washington after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Abraham and Mary Lincoln purchased this house in 1844 when Abraham was one of the most well-regarded and prosperous lawyers in Springfield. They lived here while Lincoln served briefly in the U.S. Congress, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1858 and eventually his successful run for President in 1860.

This is a very well-appointed bedroom for children by mid-19th century standards. Though I haven’t researched the furnishings, I’m somewhat skeptical that the carpet is authentic to the room–wall-to-wall carpet was a rarity in the 1860s and usually an extravagance of the super-rich. The Lincolns, though well-to-do by Illinois standards, weren’t rich. Still, the furniture is well-made and sturdy and there are amenities like the pitcher, bowl and chamber pot you see on and under the table. The toys and games are interesting. There appear to be marbles, blocks, a toy horse and some sort of board game set up by the window. In real life this room was probably very rarely this tidy. The Lincoln boys were notoriously rambunctious, misbehaving and making frequent mischief. Lincoln rarely bothered to discipline them.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln had four sons, and I’m not sure which of them slept in this room. Robert, the oldest and only one to live to adulthood–also the only one alive at the time they moved in–was somewhat aloof from his younger siblings. Eddie, born in 1846, may have died in this room in February 1850. Willie was born later that year; he would eventually die in the White House. Thomas, or Tad, the youngest, was born in 1853. The décor of this room suggests young children, so in the latter years of the Lincolns’ residence this may have been Willie and Tad’s room.

The Lincoln family never returned to this house. After President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 Mary and Tad went to live in Chicago (Robert was already an adult an out on his own). Tad died in 1871, possibly of the same genetic cancer that was slowly killing his father. Mary went insane and died in 1882. The times the family spent in this house were undoubtedly the happiest of their lives, and leave a pall of sadness to consider the tragedy of their later days.

This photo is in the public domain.
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7 Comments

  1. I just visited Hildene, Robert Lincoln’s summer “cottage” in Vermont. The safe in his bedroom had papers showing that Robert was very upset about having to institutionalize his mother.

    1. He was very upset about it, as I recall reading. She was unstable for years and he hated to do it. She had a very sad life. All the tragedies–deaths of her children, plus Lincoln’s murder–she interpreted as personal betrayals.

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