LINCOLN, ABRAHAM, President. Autograph letter signed ("A.Lincoln") to J.S. Copes of New Orleans, Springfield, Illinois, 16 April 1858. 1 full page, 4to, professionally removed from an old mount, lightly browned, with scattered light foxing. Recipient has noted "A. Lincoln" and date of receipt on top right of first page.
LINCOLN AND HIS TOP-HAT FILE? "I SHALL KEEP YOUR LETTER ABOUT MY PERSON"
A letter to a New Orleans merchant who had written Lincoln on 8 April to inquire about the title to a 1000-acre tract of Illinois land, on behalf of the destitute child of one of the owners (a copy of Cope's letter to Lincoln accompanies the lot): "Yours...making inquiry about lands supposed to have been owned by Abram A. Halsey, & E. Sam, is received. As you were unable to give the number of the lands, I had no clue to work by but the names; and I have run over all the indexes both in the Land Office & Recorders' Office, and do not find the name of Mr. Halsey. I know a gentleman in the county who I think can give a clue to this matter, and I shall keep your letter about my person until I meet him, and then I will write you again..." Not in Basler, and apparently unpublished.
The phrase "about my person" strongly suggests that Lincoln may have filed Copes' letter in his hat. He was notorious for keeping a "walking file" of important papers hidden in the lining of his familiar stove-pipe hats. William Herndon, Lincoln's last law partner, described this habit: "This hat of Lincoln's -- a silk plug -- was an extraordinary receptacle. It was his desk and his memorandum-book. In it he carried his bank-book and the bulk of his letters. Whenever in his reading or researches he wished to preserve an idea, he jotted it down on an envelope or stray piece of paper and placed it inside the lining. Afterwards when the memorandum was needed there was only one place to look for it..." (Herndon and Weik, Abraham Lincoln, The True Story of a Great Life, pp. 314-315).