Touring Mr. Lincoln's House: Inside the home today (cont...)

By The Old House Web

One of the boys' toys is also in the sitting room: a stereoscope. Robert, Willie, and Tad would open the top to allow light into the box, would insert into the stereoscope a card which had two identical photographs side-by-side, and then would peer through the two holes in front. This arrangement would make the images in the photographs appear three dimensional, as if the boys could touch the objects in the photographs even though they could not.


The Lincolns used the foyer to greet visitors to the home. It was also the place where they hung their coats and hats, and where the main staircase led upstairs.


Family and friends of the Lincolns stayed in the guest room, including Robert. In 1859, Robert failed the Harvard College entrance exams, so his parents enrolled him at Phillips Exeter Academy. Here he spent one year preparing for the exams which he passed the following year, allowing him to enter Harvard, from which he was graduated in 1864.


Up to 1860, Abraham Lincoln was clean shaven. In 1860, he received a letter from a young girl - Grace Bedell - in Westfield, New York, who told him that he would gain far more votes with a beard. He took her advice and became the first American president in office with a beard.


This was Lincoln's bedroom from 1855 to 1861. When the Lincolns moved their sleeping quarters from the first floor to the second, they moved into separate bedrooms. Following the custom of the day, if the family's finances allowed, the husband and wife were given their own bedrooms. In fact, throughout the 1900s, most Presidents and First Ladies have had separate bedrooms in the White House - a tradition established in the 1800s.


For a time, Mary shared her room with her two youngest children, Willie and Tad. When Mary and Abraham shared a bedroom, they would have also shared it with Bobbie and Eddie as well. This was a common sleeping arrangement during this time. When the children were considered old enough, they received their own room. In Willie's and Tad's case, this meant moving across the hallway.


Willie and Tad stayed in this room. Several toys are visible: a wooden horse, blocks, marbles, and hoops for hoop and stick. They do not have a stove though. So when it became cold, they would grab their blankets, cross the hall, and curl up before the stove in their father's or mother's room.


The back bedroom was used by a hired girl. While the Lincolns' laundress and cook returned to their homes at night, the hired girl would sleep here. Hired girls, often immigrants, were usually about fourteen or fifteen years old. The average wage was about a dollar fifty per week, plus room and board. Hired girls' chores included making fires, emptying chamber pots, cleaning lamps, and carrying water from the well and cistern.


The kitchen was the center of activity in the home. The Lincolns hosted many parties occasinally with 150 to 200 guests. The kitchen was often crowded with Mary, her hired girl, and the cook. Lincoln would help by milking the cow and fetching the wood, two duties he had performed since childhood.

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