Lincoln collection includes rare artifacts of unique local interest

A letter from President Abraham Lincoln to his wife Mary Todd Lincoln dated April 2, 1865, is currently on display as part of the University of Saint Mary’s Bernard H. Hall Abraham Lincoln Collection in the Keleher Learning Commons’ Le Beau Special Collections Room. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATIE PETERSON

by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven

LEAVENWORTH — The University of Saint Mary’s 22nd annual Lincoln Lecture will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 in Xavier Theatre here.

But the take will be an unusual one. The free event will feature guest speaker Dr. Gerald Butters Jr., whose topic will be: “Lincoln on Film.”

“USM’s Lincoln event,” said John Schultz, USM vice president for marketing and admissions, “has welcomed a variety of luminaries as featured speakers. Guests have included historians, U.S. Army generals, political leaders, best-selling authors and actors who’ve portrayed first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and President Lincoln himself.

“Past topics have included Lincoln’s portrayal in media at the time; the challenges faced by women and families on the home front; photography of Lincoln; John Brown and Lincoln; Lincoln and his faith; music and poetic celebrations of Lincoln; and Lincoln and executive power.”

But the USM’s website explains the reason for this year’s Lincoln topic: “Abraham Lincoln may have hundreds of books written about him, but he has not frequently been a subject in motion pictures. While the time period a film was made reflects how Lincoln is depicted, Butters argues that it is the collaborative team behind the camera — director, screenwriter — who are the most prominent force in shaping how Lincoln is portrayed.”

Butters is currently serving as the chair of the history program at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois, and professor of liberal studies in the graduate program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

He is the author of four award-winning books including “Beyond Blaxploitation” in 2016; “From Sweetback to Superfly: Race and Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop” in 2015; “Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966” in 2007; and “Black Manhood on the Silent Screen” in 2002.

The lecture will also include a presentation of gift cards to winners of an art contest in which schoolchildren from the Leavenworth and Lansing area participated, said Dr. Kyle Anthony, USM associate professor of history.

The Lincoln Lecture is not the only opportunity to learn about Lincoln at USM. The event was inspired by the Bernard H. Hall Abraham Lincoln Collection, which was donated to USM in 1970. 

The collection contains more than 10,000 items dated as early as 1857 and as recently as 2010. Further artifacts and memorabilia have been donated from several donors since Hall donated the original collection.

“Mindful of Lincoln’s visit to Leavenworth in 1859, Dr. Hall wished his collection to be in Leavenworth and hoped that it would become ‘a shrine to a great man’ and ‘a memorial to the incomparable Abraham Lincoln,’” according to the website.

Lincoln visited Leavenworth in December 1859 where he delivered his first presidential campaign speech at the encouragement of his friend Mark Delahay, who was a Leavenworth attorney at the time.

“After the speech, Lincoln stayed about a week, and later said, ‘If I were to ever travel west again, I think I would go to Leavenworth,’” the collection site notes.

The collection contains numerous artifacts including one of the original copies of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; an assortment of books and pamphlets on Lincoln, including an 85-volume set of “Following Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865” by Bernhardt Wall; one of two known letters written by Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln and co-signed by Lincoln; one of Lincoln’s last messages to his wife via a telegram from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters in City Point, Virginia, on April 2, 1865 — 12 days before Lincoln’s assassination; a lock of hair believed to have been taken from Lincoln’s head at the time of his death; and more.

“The university shares Dr. Hall’s enthusiasm for the ties between Lincoln and Leavenworth, and is greatly appreciated by Saint Mary. . . . That era is also particularly resonant to USM, as our founders, the Sisters of Charity, arrived in Leavenworth in 1858,” Schultz said.

“Many of our Lincoln artifacts are quite rare — and significant to the region,” added Schultz. “Examples include an 1882 letter written by eldest son Robert Lincoln, while he was Secretary of War, concerning indigent soldiers and sailors in Kansas and evidence of different experiences of Kansans, Missourians and Iowans.

“According to James M. Cornelius, Ph.D., Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Lincoln collection curator, our Lincoln collection is among the best in the nation for a school of its size.”

“We are thrilled to be able to offer such a wonderful resource to our community,” he continued, “and we work to make the collection as accessible as possible to visitors.”

Hall was the former director of psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka and former director of community health services at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He was a lecturer, author and collector of Lincoln memorabilia and artifacts for 40 years. He passed away in 1987.

Key pieces of the collection will be on display the night of the lecture. 

For more information about the Lincoln lecture, visit the website at: www.stmary.edu/lincoln.

To make an appointment to tour the Bernard H. Hall Abraham Lincoln Collection or any of the USM collections, call the Keleher Learning Commons at (913) 758-6306.

‘Lincoln on Film’ the topic of Lincoln Lecture

Dr. Gerald Butters Jr. will speak on “Lincoln on Film” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the University of Saint Mary in Xavier Theatre as part of the University’s annual Lincoln lecture.

For more information, click here.

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