SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield lawmaker announced Thursday the launch of a private fundraising campaign to buy a letter written by Gen. George McClellan to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said the goal is to raise the $14,500 necessary to buy the letter, which features McClellan requesting the promotions of several military leaders and Lincoln’s handwritten response on the back. If the campaign is successful, the letter would be donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The document is owned by a collector from California.
“It’s something that I think will benefit the museum, and I know how important the museum is to the community,” Murphy said. “Being a small businessperson for several years, the museum and library had a great impact on our business. Tourism is very important to us.”
To help raise funds for the effort, Murphy is partnering with local artist Julie Dailey, who is offering a poster she drew of Lincoln sites to anyone who donates $30 or more.
Murphy said he will focus more on the fundraising effort after the legislative session concludes May 31 with the hope of achieving the goal in time for the Illinois State Fair in August.
The effort is similar to the “Proud Penny Drive” organized by former state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove, in 2018, where Sangamon County schoolchildren and local businesses raised more than $18,000 to buy the Minute Book of Sangamon County from July 1835 to July 1838. That document, now on display at the ALPLM, certified that Lincoln, then a new attorney, was of “good moral character.”
ALPLM executive director Alan Lowe said the library’s director of acquisitions and the state historian both verified the document’s authenticity to a high degree of confidence.
“That’s part of the process now to make sure that we have a very good look at that chain of custody and so forth,” Lowe said. “So they’ve looked at that and it’s very, very good provenance.”
Such precautions come as the authenticity of a Lincoln stovepipe hat, considered the crown jewel of the Taper collection, has come into question. The private foundation that supports the museum borrowed $23 million in 2007 to buy the collection.
Lowe said about $9 million is still owed on that loan, which is due in October. He said he met with members of the foundation on Wednesday, who were “still hopeful” they could pay off the loan.
“That collection is vital to stay here in Illinois,” Lowe said. “It is one of the greatest collections of documents and artifacts pertaining to Abraham and Mary Lincoln in the world, so it’s very important that they’re successful.”
If Murphy’s fundraising campaign is successful, the document will be donated directly to the ALPLM. Those looking to support the campaign can do so by visiting several Springfield area businesses including Springfield Vintage, Studio on 6, the Danenberger Winery, Homescapes in the Gables and Keefner’s Restaurant.
Those looking to donate are told to make checks payable to Caddyshack Open, a not-for-profit organization operated by the Bank of Springfield.