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Joseph Medill (1823-1899) letters to Abraham Lincoln in the Library of Congress (copies)

Identifier: III-23

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Scope and Contents

This collection consists of photocopies and transcripts of letters from Joseph Medill to Abraham Lincoln, written between 1858 and 1865.

The collection spans seven critical years in Lincoln's political career, from his unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1858, to the period following his re-election to the presidency in 1864 and before his assassination on April 14, 1865. Medill had no hesitancy in giving advice to Lincoln in almost all phases of his career: how to debate Douglass in 1858, the selection of a cabinet in 1861 and 1865, planning political and military strategy during the Civil War, and so on. In a letter written on December 31, 1860, Medill calls himself "a volunteer sentinel on the wall." (Ten months later the famous Chicago Tribune editorial appeared, which likened leading newspapers to "watchmen on the walls.")


  • 1858 - 1865


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.


1 Boxes

Language of Materials



Arrangement completed prior to receiving the collection from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Custodial History

These copies were discovered by George Hoffmann on September 11, 1978 in the safe of the Robert R. McCormick Charitable trust in room 1412, Tribune Tower, in a folder labeled "from Colonel McCormick's safe on 24th floor."

An accompanying letter from Joseph P. Blickensderfer of the Library of Congress reference room indicates that the copies were made from the Lincoln papers in the Library of Congress in 1947 at the request of Eleanor Medill (Cissy) Patterson as a Christmas gift for Colonel McCormick. Internal evidence that these photocopies existed was found in 1975 when the Patterson papers were processed, but at the time they could not be located. It appears that Colonel McCormick had the letters placed in the 24th floor safe after his secretaries had transcribed them.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Chicago Tribune Company, and Nexstar Media Group on January 10, 2020, accession #SPEC-2020-1.

Related Materials

The Tribune Company Archives also holds original letters written by Lincoln to Medill, and other related materials:

  • Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Springfield, June 25, 1858)
  • Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Springfield, June 15, 1859)
  • Abraham Lincoln to the Press and Tribune Co. (Springfield, June 15, 1859)
  • Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Springfield, September 4, 1860)
  • Envelope addressed by Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Springfield, July 31, 1860; marked "empty")
  • Abraham Lincoln to C.H. Ray (Springfield, June 4, 1858)
  • Abraham Lincoln to C.H. Ray (Springfield, June 27, 1858)
  • Joseph Medill to Abraham Lincoln (Chicago, April 14, 1865. This letter arrived after the death of Lincoln, and was returned to Medill by Congressman Schuyler Colfax)
  • Mary Todd Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Chicago, December 16, 1867)
  • Robert Todd Lincoln to Joseph Medill (Versailles, December 21, 1889)
  • William H. Seward to Joseph Medill (Washington, December 24, 1864)

A note appended to the original typed finding aid (Marilyn Traum, December 10, 1990) indicates that the letter in this list from Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Medill of June 15, 1859 may be a typographical error (combining the previous and following entries), as no letter of that date existed when the Tribune Company Archives were inventoried.

Guide to the Joseph Medill (1823-1899) letters to Abraham Lincoln in the Library of Congress (copies)
Lee Major. Input from typescript by Gary L. Strawn
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US