LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865), President. Autograph document signed ("A. Lincoln for D Offutt"), n.p. [New Salem?], Illinois, 26 March 1832. 1 page, a narrow oblong slip (3 x 8 in., irregular), originally folded once vertically and once horizontally, with very minor loss at intersection, browned.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST EXTANT LINCOLN DOCUMENTS REMAINING IN PRIVATE HANDS
AN EXCEPTIONALLY EARLY LINCOLN DOCUMENT drafted and signed on behalf of Denton Offutt, the man who was responsible for bringing Lincoln to New Salem. An energetic frontier entrepreneur, Offutt had hired Lincoln in the Spring of 1831 to take a flatboat of merchandise downriver from Beardstown to New Orleans. Upon his return from that expedition, in late July 1831, Lincoln had been taken on as a junior clerk in a modest general store Offutt had established in the thriving small village of New Salem. It is most probably in this capacity that the 23-year-old Lincoln writes and signs the present receipt for his employer:
"Received of Wm. Barnett in full of all due debts and demands up to this date March 26 1832. A. Lincoln for D. Offutt."
The document furnishes an excellent sample of the rough, embryonic form of what would become Lincoln's familiar handwriting. Formerly in the celebrated Foreman Lebold Collection, it is quite similar in phraseology to an 8 March draft on James Rutledge, also signed "A. Lincoln for D. Offutt" (that document now in the Library of Congress, see Basler 1:4) and to an April 21 receipt to William Sampson (see Basler 1:9). Offutt's store was already shaky at this date, and in April Lincoln left it to join the Illinois militia and fight in the Black Hawk War.
The earliest surviving examples of Lincoln's handwriting are the childish jottings and doggerel verses penned in his famous school copybook, 1824-1826, some ten leaves of which are known, mostly in permanent institutional collections. This document, dated 26 March 1832, is predated (according to Basler, and supplements) by only six other documents written or signed by the young Lincoln. Of those, several are simple signatures on petitions and all but one are held in permanent collections, making this ONE OF THE EARLIEST OBTAINABLE EXAMPLES OF LINCOLN'S EARLY, NEW SALEM PERIOD HANDWRITING. Published in E.S. Meirs, Lincoln Day by Day, p.17; Collected Works, ed. R.P. Basler, 1:9.
Provenance: Foreman Lebold, Chicago, Illinois - Abraham Lincoln Bookshop - A midwest collector - The present owner, by descent.