See the Autographed Abraham Lincoln Letter at the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library
On Saturday, February 17, 2024, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., a letter written by Abraham Lincoln and owned by Hayner Library will be displayed in the Genealogy & Local History Library. This letter, written before Lincoln became the sixteenth President of the United States, is addressed to Alton resident Simeon Ryder. Ryder was a sea captain and fisherman who moved to Alton in 1834 and opened a grocery, dry goods, and hardware business. He was also involved with the development of the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad. The Ryder Building, now housing My Just Desserts in downtown Alton, was built and owned by Simeon Ryder.
Hayner Library has had ties to Abraham Lincoln since the library’s 1852 founding. In the mid-1850s, Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, was a speaker in the Alton Library Association’s lecture series. In addition to the Lincoln letter, several other Lincoln-related items in the library’s collection, including a small china cup and saucer said to have belonged to former First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, will also be displayed. The seventh and final of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates was held in Alton in 1858, and this debate was the only one attended by Mary Todd Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas traveled to Alton from Quincy by steamboat, but Mrs. Lincoln came by train from Springfield to support her husband with their eldest son, Robert.
To give context to the Lincoln letter and Lincoln’s ties to this area, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 17, historian Tom Emery will present a lecture entitled “Abraham Lincoln in Alton” as part of our Historic Preservation Lecture Series, co-sponsored by Alton Area Landmarks Association (AALA). For more information and registration instructions, please visit: https://www.haynerlibrary.org/registration/reimagining-places-of-the-past-historic-preservation-lecture-series-part-ii-abraham-lincoln-in-alton-with-tom-emery/.