LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Partly printed check accomplished and signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President, drawn on the bank of Riggs & Co., Washington, D.C., 4 May 1864.
1 page, oblong (2 x 7 in.), printed in several bold decorative types, with a fine wood-engraved vignette of the bank's Washington headquarters, decorative border on four sides, numbered "87" by President Lincoln in top left-hand corner. Slight damp-stain to lower edges, slightly affecting part of the signature. Professionally conserved by the Library of Congress in a double-sided archival frame.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN PAYS HIS WASHINGTON D.C. OPTICIANS
Might this check -- never cashed by its recipient -- be for the purchase of a pair of reading glasses found in Lincoln's pocket after his assassination? The check has remained for 136 years in the possession of the same family. Lincoln was slightly far-sighted, and began to require reading glasses at age 47. One authority has tallied five pair of glasses that are supposed to have belonged to him. He adds that Lincoln, "while president...purchased glasses at Franklin Optical Company in Washington,"; he adds that the family still owned "the check for $2.50 that Lincoln gave them for a pair of glasses on May 4, 1864...." Franklin & Co., founded in 1855, was located on Pennsylvania Avenue, a short distance from the Lincoln White House. After his assassination, two pairs of glasses were among the artifacts found in Lincoln's pockets. Listed on the autopsy report, these were given to Robert Todd Lincoln and ultimately donated to the Library of Congress. They were examined in 1977 by the chief optometrist of the Veteran's Administration. One set, in a case gilt-lettered "Franklin & Co. Opticians Washington D.C.," measured +1.75 and bore an engraved presentation inscription from Ward Hall Lamon,while the other, in a silver case, measured +2.00.
Lincoln's check was never cashed and was exhibited in the window of Franklin & Co., until its closing in 1966. Its connection, if any, with the glasses found in Lincoln's possession on 14 April 1865 remains intriguing. Ralph S. Riffenburgh, "Mysteries of Lincoln's Eyeglasses," in For the People: Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association, vol.1, no. 3, illustrated on p. 7). See "Lincoln's Bank Checks," in Lincoln Lore, November 1961.