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[LINCOLN,  Mary Todd (1818-1882), First Lady]. A pair of gilt metal and mother-of-pearl opera-glasses owned by Mary Todd Lincoln, [probably 1860-1870].
[LINCOLN, Mary Todd (1818-1882), First Lady]. A pair of gilt metal and mother-of-pearl opera-glasses owned by Mary Todd Lincoln, [probably 1860-1870].

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[LINCOLN, Mary Todd (1818-1882), First Lady]. A pair of gilt metal and mother-of-pearl opera-glasses owned by Mary Todd Lincoln, [probably 1860-1870].

4¼ x 2¾ x 1 5/8 in. (closed). Woman's opera glasses of Parisian manufacture, small eyepieces with engraved manufacturer's label: "LAFONTAINE OPTN., 18, PALAIS-ROYALE." Gilt brass telescoping ocular tubes, four ground glass lenses, focus gear carved from thick shell or horn, lathe-turned threaded eyepieces lined with mother- of- pearl, exterior of each ocular tube covered with 12 interlocking strips of mother-of-pearl, 6 of the strips lacking on one tube, otherwise in excellent working condition. Enclosed in a brocade cloth protective bag lined with silk, braided rope closure.

A PAIR OF OPERA-GLASSES OWNED BY MARY LINCOLN

An extremely elegant pair of opera-glasses, probably manufactured in the period 1860-1870, and formerly owned by First Lady Mary Lincoln. Regrettably, no documentation survives today to indicate precisely the period at which Mary acquired and used them, but such opera-glasses were widely available at fashionable jewelers and vendors in such cities as New York, where Mary Lincoln is known to have frequently shopped for luxury items during her White House years. Alternatively, the glasses may have been acquired by her during her extended European sojourn (1868-1871) following the assassination of her husband, during which she resided principally in Frankfurt-am-Main but visited Paris, Naples and other cities for brief periods, still in mourning. Her finances during this period were considerably straightened. The style of the glasses, too, we are reliably informed, is more consistent with a date in the early part of the decade. The glasses are designed, of course, to be used for any type of theatrical entertainment, including opera. Mary and the President occasionally attended the opera during their Washington residence, and on 21 March 1865, only weeks before his death, they were present for a performance of Boieldieu's La Dame Blanche at Grover's Theatre, no doubt an appropriate occasion for her to have carried such a fashionable accessory.

Provenance:
1. Mary Todd Lincoln
2. Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, great grandson of the preceding, by descent
3. James T. Hickey, gift of the preceding
4. Abraham Lincoln Bookshop, 1985.
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