LINCOLN, Abraham and Mary Todd LINCOLN. Two locks of hair, reportedly from the heads of Mary Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln, obtained by Caroline R. Wright, wife of Joseph A. Wright (1810-1867), Civil War Governor of Indiana, later Minister to Prussia. [Washington, D.C., February or March 1865].
One lock measuring 2 in. in length, comprising an estimated 120 strands, the other (Mary's?), measuring about 4 in. in length, looped, comprising an estimated 30 strands. Both locks carefully folded in a sheet of old lined paper to form a small packet, 26 x 110mm. (1 x 4 1/4 in.), labelled on the outside in ink (probably by Caroline Wright): "President & Mrs. Lincoln's Hair."
[With:] Four additional clipped locks of hair, each neatly wrapped in a sheet of lined paper, labelled in ink 1) Secretary of State William H. Seward (labelled on the packet, "W.H. Seward"), 2) Schuyler Colfax (labelled "Colfax"), 3) Charles Sumner (so labelled), 4) Simon Cameron (labelled "Sim Cameron Penns."); together 6 packets.
It was a common Victorian pastime to work clipped lengths of hair from family members and friends into delicately woven jewelry, sometimes incorporating, beads, shells, and colored ribbons (for an example, see lot 129). Often these had a memorial or funerary purpose, but sometimes simply served as mementos of a living friend or loved one. It is well documented that Caroline Wright, wife of Joseph A. Wright (1810-1867), Republican Governor of Indiana, was friendly with the Lincolns, and was in Washington at the time of Lincoln's 1865 inauguration (Lincoln even took the trouble to write the concluding passage of his Second Inaugural Address on the first page of Mrs. Wright's autograph album). In a letter to Mrs. Wright of 15 February 1865, Mary thanked Mrs. Wright for "the beautiful wreath of hair" that "has been very much admired & will always be retained in our family, almost as a sacred relic..." (sold with other letters and manuscripts belonging to Mrs Caroline Wight at Christie's, 20 November 1992, lot 281). It appears likely that Mrs. Wright collected the hair of the President, First Lady and other political notables and perhaps planned to use them in an elaborate piece of hair jewelry. The locks were probably obtained in February or March 1865.
Provenance: Caroline R. Wright, née Davis (d.1896) -- Grace Francis Peck (d.1959), grand-daughter of the above -- Eleanor S. Wendell (d.1992), daughter of the above (sale, Christie's, 20 November 1992, lot 285.