Abraham Lincoln, Civil War and Slavery

The collections listed below contain materials related to President Abraham Lincoln, the United States Civil War, and slavery in the U.S. Many collections were acquired by GVSU through a generous gift from Harvey Lemmen. Materials may be accessed by request in the Reading Room in Seidman House. Contact Leigh Rupinski at (616) 331-8726 or [email protected] to schedule a research appointment.

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Civil War and Slavery Collection (RHC-45)

Personal and official documents and correspondence related to the American Civil War and to the institution of slavery. Documents from 10 states related to the ownership of slaves and abolition,1805-1864; and correspondence and documents of the soldiers who fought in the war. 

View the Civil War and Slavery Collection Finding Aid


John Bennitt Papers (RHC-43)

John Bennitt was a physician from Centreville, Michigan and a surgeon in the 19th Michigan Infantry Regiment. In the three diaries and over 200 letters from John Bennitt to his wife and daughters, Bennitt shares his detailed observations of army life as a surgeon on the Michigan campaign through the south.

View the John Bennitt Papers Finding Aid 


Nathan Sargent Correspondence (RHC-44)

Nathan Sargent was active in politics at the time of the Know Nothings (1854-1857). He was a Whig political appointee, 1832-1874 and served as sergeant at arms of the House of Representatives during Lincoln's term in Congress. Among the correspondents are Henry Clay, John M. Clayton, Caleb Cushing, Edward Everett, Henry Hitchcock.

View the Nathan Sargent Letters Finding Aid  



Civil War Patriotic Envelopes (RHC-49)

The patriotic envelope was a war-time propaganda phenomenon produced by both the North and the South during the Civil War. This collection of primarily Union patriotic envelopes depicts battles, flags, eagles, political satire, and caricatures of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Gen. McClellan, Col. Elmore Ellsworth, and other political heroes. 

View the Civil War Patriotic Envelopes Collection Finding Aid

Abraham Lincoln Scrapbooks and Ephemera (RHC-67)

Scrapbooks compiled as part of the extensive book, manuscript, and ephemera collection on the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. Scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and articles from local and national press are titled, v. 1 Lincolniana: his assassination and funeral; v.2 Lincoln in pictures; v. 3 Lincoln in advertising. Ephemera includes auction/sales cards, reproductions, portraits, stamp and postcard materials, travel guides, calendars, and brochures.

View the Abraham Lincoln Scrapbooks and Ephemera Collection Finding Aid


Grace Bedell Billings Correspondence (RHC-74)

Eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Springfield, Illinois, wrote to Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln in 1860 after seeing an election portrait of him with a shaven face. Grace asked him to grow a beard as she thought he "would look a great deal better" if he would let his whiskers grow. Later publicity about the incident led to her being known as "Lincoln's Little Girl." Correspondence to Grace Bedell Billings from friends, family, and from individuals requesting autographs and information about the letter she sent to Lincoln.

View the Grace Bedell Billings Finding Aid 



Cass County Underground Railroad (RHC-34)

Sondra Mose-Ursery, community historian, founder of the Vandalia Underground Railroad Foundation, and former mayor of Vandalia, Michigan compiled this collection while researching the Underground Railroad in Cass County, Michigan. The collection consists of photocopies of original documents and articles, and newspaper clippings ca. 1841-2008, related to the Underground Railroad, and genealogies of Underground Railroad operatives, free African Americans, and fugitives seeking freedom and their descendants.

View the Cass County Underground Railroad Collection Finding Aid


Theodore Peticolas Diary (RHC-51)

Theodore Victor Peticolas, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1800, was a fruit farmer in Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio at the time he maintained this diary. In it Peticolas details his farm work, crops, family, neighbors, and social life during the year of 1863.

View the Theodore Peticolas Diary Finding Aid  


Whitley Read Diary (RHC-52)

Diary kept by Civil War soldier Whitley Read detailing his last year of service in the 10th New York Heavy Artillery, Company H. It also focuses on his postwar service on a Great Lakes Schooner.

View the Whitley Read Diary Finding Aid  


Civil War Era Carte-de-visite Album (RHC-84)

Leather-bound carte-de-visite album with brass clasp of unknown origin. The Civil War era album contains mostly unidentified albumen prints, tintypes and commercial carte-de-visite prints. Identified images only of Stonewall Jackson, and Gen. G. T. Beauregard and commercial prints of Com. Hollis and carte-de-visite of plant. 

View the Civil War Era Carte-de-visite Album Finding Aid


Abraham Lincoln Glass Plate Copy Negative (RHC-78)

An 8"x10" glass plate copy negative of the photographic portrait, taken by an unknown photographer, from the portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Matthew Brady in 1862. Acquired by GVSU from the daughters of Dr. John Pool who purchased the glass plate at an antique shop in New Hampshire in 1965. He initially believed the negative was the original, but discovered that the original is housed in the National Archives.

View the Abraham Lincoln Glass Plate Copy Negative Finding Aid

Abraham Lincoln Postage Stamp Collection (RHC-130)

The collection consists of materials, compiled by collector Harvey E. Lemmen, as part of his extensive book, manuscript, ephemera and art collection on the life and death of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The collection contains postage stamps, both used and unused, as well as decorative envelopes and assorted ephemera featuring Abraham Lincoln or commemorating the events of Lincoln's life, death, and the United States Civil War. Dates range from the 1920s to the 1990s.

View the Abraham Lincoln Postage Stamp Collection Finding Aid

Page last modified July 18, 2019