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I have been proofing a book manuscript for the past few weeks on William Henry Seward as Secretary of State - just the parts that pertain to Lincoln and the assassination.

One of the blanks that I have been trying to fill in for the author is how many pairs of shoes and how many trunks Mary moved out of the White House in May of 1865 to ship to Chicago. Help!!!
I have never read anything regarding how many pairs of shoes Mary owned. According to Jean Baker's book, there were "twenty trunks and fifty boxes" removed from the White House the day Mary left. Her documentation lists sources for an entire paragraph, not a quote. The sources listed for this paragraph include Keckly's book and the papers of Benjamin French.
I do not know her source (as there is no footnote) but Catherine Clinton has the number even higher than Jean Baker - over 80 trunks.

Article is here:

And, Becky Rutberg, in her book Mary Lincoln's Dressmaker: Elizabeth Keckley's Remarkable Rise from Slave to White House Confidante, writes, "Lizzie helped the Lincolns' oldest son, Robert, pack sixty-four trunks and more than a hundred boxes in preparation for their move from the White House to Chicago, where Mrs. Lincoln decided to live." (from p.111)

Good luck with this one, Laurie!
Thank you, all. I shall let Dr. Perry figure out how to skirt an exact figure yet still give a realistic view.
Perhaps the difference in the numbers is based on what was packed -- such as someone counted only boxes of personal items, and someone else included boxes holding Lincoln's papers and other family items. How many of those trunks were packed with things belonging to Tad? to Robert? How many contained only clothing? How many contained silver, china, and other personal items. Did someone combine the trunks and boxes for a total number of 70, and someone else use the phrase 'four score or more' because it is is poetical? Does the Rutberg book have a source listed?

I am still searching for the orginial source which has an accurate number. Anyone have access to the papers of Benjamin French? Those may have the most accurate information.

This, as with so many things related to Mary, remains a mystery.
Laurie, once again, you have asked an interesting question -- and a good one for my book!
Donna, no, Becky Rutberg has no footnote for her numbers.

Another estimate is in the Turners' book - they describe it as "over 60 crates in all."
Some of French's papers are online, Donna -- at least I think they are. The president of the Surratt Society recently did her newsletter message on Lincoln raising a flag through a tent where the opening was small and ripped the flag. It was French's description of the event, and I believe she found it in his papers online. I'll try to remember to ask her.

French's papers are not (as far as I can see) online, but she might have got it from this article which is on a website devoted to a history of the White House. It mentions the incident of Lincoln raising the flag.

As I am filing things today from my last research trip, I ran across a letter from Mary Putnam to her sons. It is full of 'gossip' about Mary Lincoln at the time of her death. Mrs. Putman had spoken to one of the women who sat with Mary's remains the night before the funeral. She states: "She had 68 trunks full of clothes & yet nothing fit to bury her in so they Telegraphed to Chicago & got white silk to lay her out in."

It seems that the number of trunks at the time of Mary's death and the number of those removed from the White House are similar. This seems odd. One would think that 17 years of shopping and collecting would result in a much larger number of trunks.

I will continue to search for information from Benjamin French.
Do you suppose that Mary was laid to rest in a shroud of white silk rather than a dress made out of the silk?

I know the story of her trying to sell her clothes to make money. Does anyone know how much she really sold? If it was a sizeable amount and she still had 68 trunks left, she must have continued to be an extravagant shopper. Of course, I have a very dear friend that would run stiff competition with Mary today!
Laurie, that is a good question about Mary have been laid to rest in a shroud. However, I think she was buried in a dress. I'm not an expert on Victorian funeral customs, but being buried in a silk shroud seems inappropiate. During this era, a 'white funeral' was considered one of the highest forms of mourning. Whe Queen Victoria passed, she was given a white funeral.

The Old Clothing Scandal was in 1867 - prior to Mary's two trips to Europe where she continued to shop and collect. My book has a section explaining what was displayed, what was returned, what was sold. (see page 127 - 135) Few of her things sold.

I've come to the conclusion that we will never know how many trunks of belongings Mary actually owned. Even her family members offered different accounts of Mary's belongings. Mary's sister Ann wrote a letter to their half-sister Emilie Todd Helm stating that Mary "stays in her room mends her dresses and unpacks her trunks 36 in number and wants to be considered an invalid . . . " Mary Brown, the granddaughter of Elizabeth Edwards, recalled there were 64 trunks in an upstairs room. (same book, page 149)

The mystery prevails.
Donna, I checked with the president of the Surratt Society, who wrote the piece on the flag raising incident, as to where she found Benjamin French information. She got that particular story from the White House Historical Society's website, author was a Michael Spangler. However, she also cites the eleven-volume journal of Benjamin French with family letters being in the Library of Congress' Manuscript Division.

French maintained his journal from 1828 until his death in 1870, so it must be chocked full with commentary on mid-19th century life and snippets about some important people that he had access to.

BTW: The current president of the Surratt Society is Louise Oertly. She mentioned Benjamin French because she has been doing genealogical research on the Oertly family. Her great-grandfather was Bartholomew Oertly, Assistant Architect of the Treasury Department during the Civil War. As Commissioner of Public Buildings, French wrote to Oertly in November of 1865, in reference to "work done on the East Room, incident to the funeral of President Lincoln." No clue at the moment what that was.


Nowadays MTL could sell her clothing on eBay and no one would bat an eye!!
You are so right! I just learned that a friend of my daughter bought her wedding gown on eBay. Why wasn't it around 16 years ago when I was getting socked with an expensive gown and a very expensive wedding??? My daughter's, not mine.

However, I do remember my mother asked if it was too late to get her money back when my marriage went south...
We've heard it said that Mary had manic episodes and went on shopping sprees. Might we say she was a "hoarder" as well?
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