Every year in May, organizations across the country celebrate Preservation Month to highlight the places that demonstrate the rich diversity of our national story. In many ways, every month is preservation month at President Lincoln’s Cottage as the work to maintain the Cottage is never really done. But, it’s not only critical maintenance projects that keep Jeff Larry, our Senior Preservationist busy — exciting discoveries constantly unearth hidden dimensions of this place.
In May we also set aside days to remember the special mothers in our lives and also members of our nation’s armed forces who have lost their lives in service to our country. The establishment of both Mother’s Day and Memorial Day have their roots in the Civil War and have important meaning to us at President Lincoln’s Cottage. For many — especially children who have lost mothers, mothers who have lost children, and those who have lost loved ones in service — these are sacred days of memory and reflection. We are honored to offer visitors opportunities for memorializing their lost loved ones in our exhibit, Reflections on Grief and Child Loss, and through a special offering of a tour of the US Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
Remembering mothers, children, and servicemen and women who have died may seem to have little in common with Preservation Month. However, stories like these — of heartache and service — fill this sacred place and are examples of why we work so hard to preserve the Cottage for future generations.
Bourbon and Bluegrass is an annual preservation fundraiser and celebration of great American music and cocktails to help safeguard Abraham Lincoln’s beloved summer home. This year’s virtual event will be headlined by Dom Flemons, feature local legends Hollertown and Moosejaw and be livestreamed from the Cottage porch where it will be enjoyed live by the retired veterans on our historic campus. For our local friends, specialty bourbon cocktails by our sponsor Beam Suntory can be brought to you with the purchase of a VIP ticket. Tickets and more info here.
Our recent discoveries and work in the Cottage parlor (see here) also included maintenance and research on some of the Cottage’s historic door and window hardware. In honor of Preservation Month, our Senior Preservationist, Jeff Larry, discusses his findings:
When the Cottage was built in 1842 most locksets, and other door and window hardware, were imported from England. In his 1976 book, Early Locks and Lockmakers of America, the author Thomas Hennessy notes this trend in a quote he pulled from an 1862 lock company catalogue:
“It is difficult today to conceive of the inveterate prejudice that existed only twenty-five years ago, against American Manufacturers. Hardware men would scarcely look at an American lock, and the man that offered them felt called upon to make a hasty retreat, fearing extra inducement. They scouted the idea that the Americans could compete with the English manufacturers. Commission houses would take them and one by one work them off. The Company’s resources were locked up in piles of unsaleable goods and bankruptcy stared them in the face. This was the position of affairs in 1841.”
The original “specifications of materials and workmanship” for the Cottage, written by builder William Degges, call for British made “Carpenters 6 inch rim locks” on all of the second floor doors. Unlike a mortise lock which is placed inside the door stile, a rim lock is mounted to the surface of the door. It is easier to install and allows for a thinner, less expensive door. However, as is frequently the case, building plans change and the cheaper rim locks were relegated to the attic and basement doors. The lock pictured here is the Cottage’s last remaining original Carpenters rim lock.
The first and second floor doors received mortise locks, but, surprisingly, they did not come from the British ironmongers they came from an American lock maker! Twenty years before Yale & Towne and Russel & Erwin there was lockmaker Day, Newell & Day and they were making really good locks.
The three men set up shop in 1833 at 589 Broadway in New York City and, despite the occasional fisticuff and raised cane by two of the bickering brothers, they managed to produce locks that won numerous awards and accolades. But, what really got the firm attention was Newell’s 1844 patented Parautoptic Bank Lock and victories at lock picking competitions in England that resulted in them being named special patrons and protectors to her Majesty Victoria’s Crown Jewels. Though the business was passed down to their sons it seems one of the elder Days never relinquished his passion for locks and lock picking as revealed in this story from son John Day, “I took him to the sanitarium and saw him well placed in a room and the door securely locked as supposed, but when I got home I found the old gentleman sitting contentedly in his accustomed chair…”
If you love Lincoln, puzzles and the thrill of snail mail, our Lincoln Letters program is for you! Click HERE to sign up today for our subscription base puzzle game solved through letter mailed directly to your home. Designed with our partners at Game Genius.
On April 24th we were delighted that Senators Ben Cardin (MD), Maria Cantwell (WA), Kristen Gillibrand (NY), Tim Kaine (VA), Pat Leahy (VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and several of their spouses, came for a tour of the Cottage with our director Callie Hawkins, our Visitor Services Manger, Michelle Martz, and Chairman of the Board, Rick Murphy.
In this year’s summit, students from around the world will come together to solve an actual problem that anti-trafficking experts are currently facing.
Please tell the young activists in your lives to apply today!
Support our educational programs, preservation efforts and public events by making a contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage. Donate online today.