Glass artists Frances and Michael Higgins met at the Chicago Institute for Design and married in 1948. Together, they founded The Higgins Studio in their Chicago apartment, using kilns positioned behind their sofa to create decorative and everyday items using their signature fused glass technique. They quickly attracted orders from major retailers such as Marshall Field’s and Georg Jensen.
This bodice was worn by Mary Lincoln approximately a decade after the death of her husband. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination had plunged Mary into a deep grief from which she never truly recovered, particularly after the additional blow of losing her youngest son, Tad, in 1871. The woman who once delighted in fine, fashionable gowns wore only somber black mourning ensembles for the rest of her life.
Illinois’ tradition of art pottery can be traced back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In the wake of this tragedy, the need for economical, fireproof building materials was made clear, and the architectural terra cotta industry was born. At the same time, the Arts and Crafts movement inspired ceramists to combine artistry with industry to create pottery whose beauty lay not in hand-applied surface decoration but in innovative shapes.
The Lincolns were fortunate to have a long back porch on their house when they purchased it in 1844. Despite adding on and changing the house elsewhere, they kept the south-facing porch as long as they lived in the house, only adding some latticework in one section for shade and a place for the climbing roses to grow, making it a pleasant place to pass the time.
Highs and lows were captured in this one artifact from the Lincolns’ lives in Illinois. The Lincolns’ oldest son, Robert, was born while they were living in one room at the Globe Tavern, and this cradle would have been much too large and expensive for the Lincolns. After the family moved into their one and a half story home, and Mary had their second son, Eddie, in 1846, they had the room and a little extra money to purchase this large walnut cradle.
Mary Lincoln did not know how to cook when she first married Abraham Lincoln, having grown up in homes with slaves in Kentucky. She quickly learned over the large, open fireplace in her new home, but the addition of a wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room destroyed the fireplace and gave Mary a chance to acquire a cook stove.
Mr. Lincoln is often only thought of as the President, but in Illinois, he was also a husband and father who was known to spoil his little boys. Mr. Lincoln also had an interest in technology. These traits came together in Mr. Lincoln’s purchase of a stereoscope for his sons. The stereoscope allowed for viewing on two sides and cost approximately $18-20, the equivalent of a laborer’s monthly wages.
Abraham Lincoln used this desk when he first “began to do business for myself” around 1844, according to the affidavit. About ten years later, he brought it home to his new second floor bedroom and used it there for a few years until he upset the inkwell on it and upset Mrs. Lincoln in the process. She threw it out!
This is Abraham Lincoln’s portable shaving mirror. He used it riding the 8th Illinois Judicial Circuit prior to his presidency. Made from stained oak, it could be folded and neatly tucked away in its self-contained wooden, rectangular case.
This sample case was carried by a representative of one of the many late 19th and early 20th century commercial portrait companies that created large crayon portraits from customers’ photographs. Armed with this case, the salesmen traveled (usually by train) across the country, knocking on doors, displaying his products, and deflecting objections in an effort to secure orders.