Skip to Main Content

Special Collections: African American Studies Research Guide

Introduction to the Lincoln Collection in Special Collections

The University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press houses the Lincoln Collection, which contains over two thousand books and pamphlets, photographs, artwork, sculpture, artifacts, historic documents, and miscellaneous material pertaining to the life and career of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the sixteenth president of the United States (1861-1865).

The Lincoln Collection is an encompassing topical area of primary resources related to Abraham Lincoln, at the core of which is the material collected by Frank Gifford Tallman, Jr. (1894-1952), a founding member of the Lincoln Club of Delaware. Other individual collectors of Lincolniana as well as members of the Lincoln Club of Delaware have added to this collection at the University of Delaware.

Born in the Kentucky frontier on February 12,1809, Abraham Lincoln moved with his family to further wilderness in Indiana and Illinois. Largely self-educated and seeking betterment in life, he labored as a farmer and rail-splitter, boatman, storekeeper, surveyor, and more before settling on the law and aspiring to be a legislator. After four terms in the Illinois legislature (1834-1840) and one term in Congress (1847-1849), Lincoln was caught up in national debates about western expansion and slavery, receiving the Republican nomination and national election to the presidency in 1860. South Carolina seceded from the Union before his inauguration and his presidency was marked by the Civil War. Though he had been elected to a second term and the war ended with the Union preserved, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.

The Lincoln Collection is full of biographical sources, memorabilia, and items with personal association to the legendary man, but the Lincoln Collection is an invaluable resource for 19th-century politics and history, particularly for African American studies and research. African American history is entwined with the life and political career of Abraham Lincoln, from legal practice to political party debates to national legislation and constitutional amendments addressing the institution of slavery in the United States. 

Among the most significant items in the collection are copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment signed by President Lincoln. Political pamphlets, newspapers and magazines of the period, speeches, histories and contemporary treatises relate to politics, civil liberties, military strategies and the many national issues of Lincoln's presidency.

Also included are official documents with Lincoln’s signature, two books from Lincoln’s personal library, and a copy of the Ford’s Theatre playbill printed shortly after the assassination. Among the artwork in the collection are portrait photographs by Alexander Gardner and photographs of Lincoln's assassins, and lithographic portraits of Lincoln and bronze portrait busts. A group of prints by Currier and Ives depict Lincoln’s assassination and funeral. The collection also includes a large group of printed funeral orations and memorials attesting to Lincoln's enduring impact on American history.

The Lincoln Collection is a non-circulating collection available for research in the Special Collections Department. Selected items may be available as digital collections and many items are featured in online exhibitions.

History of the Lincoln Club of Delaware

Founded in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1929, the Lincoln Club of Delaware is an informal, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting understanding and appreciation of the ideals and achievements of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States (1861-1865).

The initial activities of the Lincoln Club of Delaware centered around its annual celebration of Lincoln's birthday with a dinner and program on February 12th. A November lecture program was added and these biannual events continue to the present day.

In 1938, Frank G. Tallman, one of the founders of the Lincoln Club, presented to the Wilmington Institute Free Library his extensive collection of Lincolniana, one of the finest private collections in the United States at the time. Numbering nearly two thousand items, the Tallman Collection was housed in a special room at the Wilmington Institute Free Library. The Lincoln Room opened May 26, 1941, and was furnished as a period room by members of Mrs.Frank Tallman’s family and the Lincoln Club of Delaware. Over the years, numerous individuals donated additional books and other items to the Lincoln Collection.

In 1972, the expanded Lincoln Collection was donated to the University of Delaware and relocated to the University’s Goodstay Center in Wilmington, where it was housed in three rooms with period furnishings. Over the years, the Lincoln Club of Delaware and the University administration determined that significant portions of the Lincoln Collection would be more appropriately housed and displayed in the University’s Special Collections Department located in the Hugh M. Morris Library on the Newark campus. The rare and valuable books, manuscripts, artwork, and artifacts would be housed in a secure, controlled environment specifically created for the storage of special collections. Accordingly, during the summer of 1998, selected materials were transferred from the Goodstay Center to the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library. Portions of the Lincoln Collection remained at the Goodstay Center until 2016 when the entire collection was transferred to Morris Library.

The construction of a case in Morris Library to house a permanent, rotating exhibition of material from the Lincoln Collection was completed in August 1998. Ongoing exhibitions interpret aspects of Abraham Lincoln's life and his momentous times.

The Library maintains a formal relationship with the Lincoln Club of Delaware, promoting use of the Lincoln Collection and housing the archives of the organization. Additional information is avaialable at the Lincoln Club of Delaware.