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Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
02-04-2017, 05:23 AM
Post: #1
Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
"In 1864, President Lincoln agreed to model for her in the morning for five months, and she created a bust of his figure."

The above is from the Wikipedia article on Vinnie Ream.

She wrote about the experience in her diary - some of her words are here.

My question is: did she really do her bust of Lincoln in the White House as she claims? Is there any evidence, other than her own word, that the work was done in the White House?

Adam Badeau reported that Mary Lincoln once said, "Do you know that I never allow the President to see any woman alone?" And we are to believe she allowed a 17-year-old girl to be alone with him daily for 5 months?

I checked several books including Lincoln Day By Day. No mention of Vinnie Ream ever at the White House.

In an 1866 letter to Alphonso Dunn, Mary Lincoln called Vinnie Ream "an unknown person." If Vinnie were really at the White House daily for 5 months how could she be unknown to Mary?

I am curious if anyone has ever come across an independent sighting of Vinnie being in the White House. There are many diaries, letters, books, etc. written by folks who knew Lincoln and were at the White House during his administration - did any of them ever corroborate Vinnie's story?
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02-04-2017, 09:45 AM
Post: #2
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
If not in the White House, then where? Nonetheless, it is amazing that there seems to be no evidence of her presence there other than her own testimony.

Bill Nash
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02-04-2017, 09:53 AM
Post: #3
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
(02-04-2017 05:23 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  In an 1866 letter to Alphonso Dunn, Mary Lincoln called Vinnie Ream "an unknown person." If Vinnie were really at the White House daily for 5 months how could she be unknown to Mary?

I am curious if anyone has ever come across an independent sighting of Vinnie being in the White House. There are many diaries, letters, books, etc. written by folks who knew Lincoln and were at the White House during his administration - did any of them ever corroborate Vinnie's story?

Maybe she was the 19th century's Monica Lewinski.
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02-04-2017, 11:59 AM
Post: #4
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
I couldn't find any, but I don't see how Vinnie could have created the bust without at least some in-person visits with Lincoln. Perhaps he was simply prudent enough not to mention her visits to Mary, or perhaps Mary wasn't as effective in keeping him from female visitors as she supposedly told Badeau. There must have been more than a few attractive women who turned up at the White House to beg favors of the President.
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02-04-2017, 12:49 PM
Post: #5
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
I have to agree with Susan's assessment. Has anyone checked Carpenter's writings?
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02-04-2017, 01:09 PM
Post: #6
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
There's a brief discussion here of the veracity of Vinnie's claims to have visited the White House (see note 6).

http://vinnieream.com/lemp.pdf

One possibility is that Vinnie went to the White House during Mary's month-long absence in August-September 1864, and/or that she was there when Lincoln was residing at the Soldiers' Home and commuting back and forth to the White House.
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02-04-2017, 01:12 PM
Post: #7
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
Roger,

I have a subscription to NewspaperArchive.com and GenealogyBank, and in both of those databases, the first mention I find of Vinnie Ream is August of 1866. In the Daily Milwaukee News, the paper printed the debate in the Senate over whether to authorize spending $10,000 on the statue. Although some of the page is illegible, from what I could read, none of her supporters mentioned that she had several sittings with Lincoln, which would have gone toward showing that she was capable of sculpting the statue. That necessarily doesn't mean she didn't, but I would have thought that a defender might have brought that up. On GenealogyBank, the first reference to her and the statue doesn't come until 1868, and it deals with how Ream had been roundly chastised by other women and how she dealt with that. The only mention of Lincoln sitting for her came a couple of years later, although the source for that is never mentioned. Undoubtedly, it would likely have been her.

I also looked in Ida Tarbell's papers, and the only thing I came across was a bulletin published in the 1920s from the University of Iowa Extension Service that follows the standard story.

Just based on this short, admittedly haphazard research, I have to say that, at most, it isn't proven, but as Susan said, I find it doubtful that she could have produced a likeness without some sittings with Lincoln.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell
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02-04-2017, 01:46 PM
Post: #8
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
Thanks, everyone.

(02-04-2017 12:49 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Has anyone checked Carpenter's writings?

I checked his book - no mention of Vinnie Ream at the White House.

In the book Vinnie Ream - The Story of the Girl Who Sculptured Lincoln, the author (Gordon Langley Hall) also claims that Vinnie was at the White House on April 14, 1865, for her normal half hour session. I have read many accounts of Lincoln's last day - I have never seen Vinnie Ream mentioned.

No mention of her, even once, in Lincoln biographies such as Sandburg or Donald or Thomas.

I remain somewhat skeptical she met Abraham Lincoln and came to see him in the White House.

In her diary Vinnie writes, "His favorite son, Willie, had just died and this had been the greatest personal loss in his life. I made him think of Willie and he often said so and as often wept." She goes on to write that Lincoln "was at the window watching for Willie, for he had always watched the boy playing every afternoon at that window. Sometimes great tears rolled down his cheeks."

This is just my opinion, but this just doesn't sound right to my brain. Willie had not just died - it was 2 1/2 years previous.
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02-04-2017, 05:24 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2017 05:33 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #9
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
Maybe she wasn't "noticed" as not considered a woman but a girl, like Julia Taft? Do Julia Taft's visits have entries on the Lincoln log or any contemporary sources except for her book?

I realize Julia was at the WH for the boys, and that working on a presidential bust is something very different, but maybe even that (by a "girl") wasn't taken much for serious?

Why should she have lied to her diary? It wasn't intended a someday "show" diary (written for public to read), was it? Does it still exist?
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02-04-2017, 06:23 PM
Post: #10
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
If the visits did take place then I think Mary Lincoln never knew about them. This link includes a letter Mary wrote to Vinnie.

H. Donald Winkler writes, "Ward Hill Lamon, the U.S. Marshall for Washington, arranged a new passage for Lincoln to enter his office unseen. It helped to ensure his safety. It was also used by Ream, and it kept the sittings secret from Mary."
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02-04-2017, 07:26 PM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2017 07:27 PM by L Verge.)
Post: #11
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
(02-04-2017 06:23 PM)RJNorton Wrote:  If the visits did take place then I think Mary Lincoln never knew about them. This link includes a letter Mary wrote to Vinnie.

H. Donald Winkler writes, "Ward Hill Lamon, the U.S. Marshall for Washington, arranged a new passage for Lincoln to enter his office unseen. It helped to ensure his safety. It was also used by Ream, and it kept the sittings secret from Mary."

Maybe I am misreading the lines in the book about Vinnie, but it appears that Vinnie was still trying to get a commission from Congress to do the sculpture in 1866, when writing to Mary Lincoln. IF (and I'm thinking it is a big "if") she ever visited with President Lincoln, maybe it was just to discuss the project with him and do preliminary drawings?

Does Winkler give a citation for his source? Also, has anyone read James Conroy's new book on Lincoln's White House? Does it have a clue for us to follow?
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02-04-2017, 07:55 PM
Post: #12
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
I'm just started reading James Conroy's new book, but Vinnie Ream is not listed in the index.

A few years ago I read a book about Vinnie Ream
http://rogerjnorton.com/LincolnDiscussio...ght=Vinnie

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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02-04-2017, 07:59 PM
Post: #13
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
Vinnie didn't write her remarks about meeting Lincoln in a diary, as far as I know--they come from a 1912 newspaper interview. So it's understandable that she might have a faulty memory as to how long before her visits Willie Lincoln had died.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/s...nge&page=1

In the same interview, she doesn't mention being at the White House on the day of the assassination.

I think she isn't mentioned as coming and going from the White House because, as Eva said, she was considered too insignificant at the time to be of interest to the men who recorded such things. There were probably others who didn't rate a mention either, such as the photographers who occasionally came by to take Lincoln's picture.
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02-05-2017, 04:47 AM
Post: #14
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
(02-04-2017 05:24 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  Do Julia Taft's visits have entries on the Lincoln log or any contemporary sources except for her book?

Yes, there are a few references to the Taft family. One reference is July 4, 1861, when "Lincoln endorses Horatio N. Taft, Jr., to be a page boy "as he is a play-mate of my little boys."


(02-04-2017 07:26 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Does Winkler give a citation for his source?

Yes. He cites The Midland Monthly, November, 1897. Also, he lists the Topeka State Journal, July 4, 1903, page 13.

(02-04-2017 07:26 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Maybe I am misreading the lines in the book about Vinnie, but it appears that Vinnie was still trying to get a commission from Congress to do the sculpture in 1866, when writing to Mary Lincoln. IF (and I'm thinking it is a big "if") she ever visited with President Lincoln, maybe it was just to discuss the project with him and do preliminary drawings?

In 1864-1865 she did a bust of Lincoln. At that time she did not know of the $10,000 commission that would be awarded by Congress in 1866 for a statue of Lincoln. Her Lincoln statue was unveiled on January 25, 1871.
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02-05-2017, 06:57 AM
Post: #15
RE: Did Vinnie Ream visit the White House daily for 5 months?
Eva, I used a book I have entitled Vinnie Ream - The Story of the Girl Who Sculptured Lincoln by Gordon Langley Hall.

Hall references a diary when he writes, "She graphically described in her diary the half-hourly visits she paid to the White House during the next five months."

So I just assumed she had a diary.

I tried to find a current photo of her Lincoln bust. There is a page here, but I am confused if that is the 1864-1865 bust, as the photo does not display on my monitor.
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