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Empire Desk Used by Abraham Lincoln While Practicing Law in Springfield and Legal Document Written and Signed by Lincoln
American, ca 1820-1840 Empire desk purportedly used by Abraham Lincoln either at his Springfield firm or while partnered with John Todd Stuart as well as an 1848 legal document written entirely in Lincoln's hand for Stuart and Edwards law firm. Descended directly in the family of Benjamin S. Edwards.
Lincoln practiced law in Illinois for nearly 25 years. From 1837 until 1841 he worked as a junior partner with John Todd Stuart. Lincoln and Stuart dissolved their practice following Stuart's second term in Congress. After completing his term in 1843, Stuart began his 40-year law partnership with Benjamin S. Edwards. Lincoln was frequently in contact with their practice, particularly after he married Mary Todd, who was a favorite cousin of John Stuart’s. As was common, lawyers might represent a client for another law firm. Among other notable politicians and lawyers who worked for Stuart were Stephen A. Douglas, Edward Dickinson Baker, and Jesse B. Thomas, also important contacts for Lincoln.
Offered in the lot is an 1848 legal document Lincoln wrote for the firm of Stuart and Edwards. On legal sheet (7.5 x 12.5 in.), is a copy of notes that relate to a case of an immigrant (Kirchberg, County Seat Marbark in the Kingdom of Witemberg) “Hino Jacob Binder born May 15th 1833.” It details the value of Binder’s inheritances from his mother and father. On verso is symbolic “Seal” of the Orphan’s Office. The entire copy is Written by Abraham Lincoln, President (presumably of the Orphan’s Office). The desk and legal document have remained in the family of Benjamin S. Edwards since this time.
The family history relative to the desk is unclear. It is possible that either Benjamin Edwards or his brother, Ninian, may have purchased the desk from Lincoln before he departed for Washington, Benjamin kept the desk used by Lincoln at Stuart's law firm, or Lincoln used the desk while writing a document for the Stuart and Edwards law firm . The Lincoln Home currently owns a desk reportedly purchased by Lincoln from Ninian, but there is also discrepancy in the records about where the desk originated. An affidavit sworn to by Mary Edwards Brown, a granddaughter of Ninian Edwards, on May 2, 1925, states that "the desk to which this certificate is attached ... used by him [Mr. Lincoln] in his law office in said City of Springfield."  Mrs. Brown does not clearly identify the desk with any description, and she could have been referring to another piece. Considering the date of the piece, however, Lincoln or Stuart most likely used or purchased the desk while Lincoln worked as a junior partner in Stuart's firm. The desk offered today was given to Benjamin Edward's daughter Mollie, who passed the desk to her son Miner Edwards Raymond. Miner passed the desk to his son Miner, who passed it to his son. The family always referred to the desk as "the Lincoln desk."
The desk is in mixed woods, primarily figured cherry and tiger maple, with pine secondary, having a central, baluster-turned gallery flanked by a pair of open cabinets, each with a single dovetailed drawer above four vertical compartments and two colonettes, the desk top with a gently sloped, felt-lined writing surface lifting up to reveal a deep well with a fitted interior, over a row of one false and two working, dovetailed drawers, the fronts fitted with brass ring pulls and inset key surrounds, all rising on robust rope-turned legs ending in ball feet, the leg blocks featuring finely carved rosettes; ht. 40.5, wd. 51, dp. 25.5 in.
 Walter Barlow Stevens. A Reporter's Lincoln. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 161
 The Lincoln Home. Lincoln Home Furniture Report, “SECTION D: EVIDENCE OF ORIGINAL FURNISHINGS RECORDED FURNISHINGS - SECOND FLOOR, BEDS.” Accessed on April 22, 2016. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/liho/sectiond-e.htm.
Minor surface wear and imperfections as would be expected with age and use. Some minor, scattered shrinkage cracks. Right-most colonette loose at top. Felt-lined writing surface later. Rear left leg with a repair just below the top block. Front right leg with a small glue repair to the edge of one of the turnings.
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