Lincoln Life in Letters - Accordions

At its heart, the museum is a showcase for the millions of items housed in the library across the street. On any given day, at least 100 of those items are on display, drawn from our collection devoted to Illinois history and Abraham Lincoln. Included in that collection are more than 1,600 documents in Lincoln’s hand. We invite you to explore Lincoln’s life through some of the documents that shaped our museum exhibits and the stories they tell.


Lincoln’s appetite for reading started early, as did his quest for knowledge. Despite having less than a year of formal education, the future president read whatever books he could find, on a variety of subjects, whenever he could. Lincoln’s enthusiasm for self-education is wonderfully evident in these pages from a ciphering book he used in his teenage years to teach himself mathematics. This page contains the oldest known Lincoln autograph, as well as a humorous four-line poem.



Lincoln's Life in Letters Childhood- Letters

Letters from Childhood- Life in Letters Online Exhibit

Document image courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation


Lincoln's Life in Letters Childhood

Photos and Letters for Childhood portion of Online Exhibit

Exhibit photos from our Museum that bring these letters to life.

Lincoln's Life in Letters Childhood- Museum Photos

Scenes from the Museum that match the LLIL childhood scenes

Life in New Salem


Lincoln the Lawyer


The Debates


1860 Campaign 


The Lincoln Family 




Gettysburg Address

Almost a year after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to dedicate its new national cemetery. The largest battle ever fought in North America had been waged there from July 1-3, 1863, and Lincoln stood on that same ground on November 19 to give meaning to the bloodshed.

It became his most famous speech and perhaps the most well-known political speech in recorded history. This is one of only five surviving copies in Lincoln’s own hand, acquired by the State of Illinois in 1944 partly through $50,000 raised by schoolchildren donating pennies.


Lincoln's Life in Letters Gettysburg- Letters

Letters for Lincoln's Life in Letters online exhibit- Gettysburg


Lincoln's Life in Letters Gettysburg

Photos for the Lincoln's Life in Letters online exhibit- Gettysburg Address

Experiences at our Museum that bring these letters to life.

Lincoln's Life in Letters Gettysburg- Museum Photos

Photos from Museum that match the Gettysburg letters



The originals of all these documents are in our vault, but their images in this exhibit were created by our Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Please visit their website,, to see more documents written to and by Lincoln from all over the world. If you have a Lincoln document, or know someone who does, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new discoveries.

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