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Mary Lincoln's Trips To Europe

Mary Todd Lincoln in 1864 (photo by Wenderoth and Taylor)

In the years after her husband's assassination Mary Lincoln made two trips to Europe, the first beginning in 1868. Young Tad Lincoln, 15, accompanied his mother. They departed Baltimore aboard the steamer City of Baltimore on October 1, 1868.


The City of Baltimore took Mary and Tad to Europe in 1868.

On October 15 the City of Baltimore arrived at Southampton, England. Two weeks later Mary and Tad arrived in Bremen, Germany, and from there they traveled to Frankfurt. Mother and son lived in the Hotel d'Angleterre. This hotel was located in the center of the town. The shopping promenade called the Zeil was very close to the hotel.

While in Frankfurt Tad attended school at Dr. Johann Heinrich Hohagen's Institute. Tad boarded at the school. Among the topics he studied were German, French, English, and drawing. Tad also took dancing lessons while in Germany.

For a time Mary moved to Nice, but she returned to Frankfurt. This time she avoided the expensive Hotel d'Angleterre and stayed in the more modest Hotel de Holland. Here she lived in a much more frugal environment than when she was in the Hotel d'Angleterre.

In the summer of 1869 Mary and Tad spent seven weeks touring Scotland during his vacation from Dr. Hohagen's school. They traveled from one end of Scotland to the other. They explored Edinburgh and Glasgow. They went down to Fingal's Cave and up into the Highlands near Balmoral.

Mary felt Edinburgh was a particularly beautiful city and that Scotland sort of spoiled her for seeing other European countries. Mary and Tad visited Abbotsford, traveled throughout the Rob Roy Country, and visited many locks such as Lock Lomond and Lock Catherine. She also visited some castles and the birthplace of Robert Burns. She saw Highland Mary's Grave. Additionally, she visited Oban and the ruined castle where the earlier kings of Scotland lived.

Mary and Tad returned to the United States in May of 1871. The return trip, from Liverpool to New York, was made aboard the Russia. The Russia was the Cunard liner that held the transatlantic record of 8 days and 25 minutes for the Liverpool to New York run, but Mary's trip took an extra couple of days due to poor weather. General Philip H. Sheridan also happened to be aboard the Russia.


Mary and Tad returned to the United States aboard the Russia.

On May 11 Mary and Tad arrived in port, and on May 15 they left for Chicago. It seems Tad had caught a cold during the ocean voyage and was not well when he arrived in Chicago. By late May Tad developed difficulty in breathing when lying down and had to sleep sitting up in a chair. By early June he was dangerously ill. He then rallied for a short time. As July approached he weakened again. Tad's pain and agony worsened as his face grew thinner. On Saturday morning, July 15, 1871, Tad passed away at the age of 18. The cause of death was most likely tuberculosis. Tad's death occurred in the Clifton House in Chicago. This was yet another tragedy in Mary's life.

Mary made a second voyage to Europe in 1876. This time she embarked from New York on October 1 aboard the steamship Labrador. The ship departed from the Transatlantic Company's pier at the bottom of Barrow Street. In all there were 48 passengers aboard the Labrador. Mary arrived in Le Havre, France, and from there traveled to Bordeaux and then to Pau. Much of her time was spent living in Pau during this trip. She settled in the Grand Hotel but later moved to the Henri Quatre.

During her second trip to Europe Mary visited such places as Marseilles, Avignon, Naples, Rome, and Sorrento. However, while in Pau, Mary took a fall from a stepladder. She injured her spinal cord. In December 1879 Ulysses and Julia Grant visited Pau but did not call on Mary.

On October 16, 1880, Mary boarded a ship Amerique bound for New York City. She departed from Le Havre.


Mary returned to the U.S. aboard the Amerique.

This was a difficult trip as the ship went through several storms during the voyage. On board the ship she was about to take another fall down a steep stairway, but she was saved by actress Sarah Bernhardt, another passenger on the ship. When Sarah told her she might have been killed, Mary replied, "Yes, but it was not God's will."

On October 27, 1880, Mary arrived back in New York. Mary stayed there a short time, and then she returned to Springfield to live with her sister's family. Although she was reported to be in good health upon her arrival in Springfield, this was probably not true. In truth, she was slowly going blind. Her son, Robert, visited her in 1881. Mary stayed all by herself in her shaded room in the Edwards' house. Her health continued to deteriorate. On July 16, 1882, Mary passed away at the age of 63.


Sources consulted include Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography by Dr. Jean H. Baker, Lincoln's Sons by Ruth Painter Randall, and Mary Todd Lincoln's Travels by Dr. Wayne C. Temple.

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