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Tad Lincoln's gift to Union Army officer's wife is acquired by museum

A Mathew Brady photo of Tad Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's youngest son, wearing a military-style uniform.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

By JOHN REYNOLDS | The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. | Published: December 28, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — More than 150 years ago, an 11-year-old Tad Lincoln gave away a small ring that had been braided with hair from his pony.

Tad, the youngest son of President Abraham Lincoln, gave the ring to the wife of a Union Army officer who was stationed near the White House. The woman's family kept the small ring over the years, and earlier this month they decided to donate the keepsake to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

James Cornelius, curator of the museum, said the new acquisition is about three inches long and includes braided horsehair and a small clasp engraved with Tad's full name, Thomas Lincoln. It will be put on display early next year in the Treasures Gallery.

"The habit back then, and still today to some extent, was to keep souvenirs of your favorite pet, namely a horse in this case, and make jewelry out of it," Cornelius said.

Tad Lincoln had a lot of pets at the White House and often rode his pony in a space adjoining the White House and the Treasury Building. A Union officer named Thomas C. Kelly was stationed in that area. Kelly was married to a young woman named Catherine, who became friendly with Tad.

At some point, Tad gave the small woven band to Catherine, possibly as a farewell when he and his mother left Washington.

Thomas Kelly died a few years later. Catherine remarried and moved to Effingham where her descendants — the Broom family — held onto the ring. Carbondale attorney William Broom III donated the ring to the museum earlier this month.

"Mr. Broom and his family deserve tremendous thanks from the people of Illinois and the entire country," said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. "Their generous donation means this one-of-a-kind artifact will be preserved and enjoyed by the public as part of the presidential library's collection."

In addition to the ring, the museum will also display a letter that Tad dictated in which he mentioned his pony.

Thomas "Tad" Lincoln died in 1871 at the age of 18. He is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

john.reynolds@sj-r.com

©2017 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.
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