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Formal Parlor I

The Room

This is the room where you will see the objects most associated with Abraham Lincoln. We have a couple of items related to him from the home of Ninian Wirt Edwards. The portraits above the couch depict Ninian Wirt Edwards, Benjamin's older brother, and Elizabeth Edwards, Ninian's wife who was Mary Lincoln's sister. Mary Todd lived with Elizabeth and Ninian when she first came to Springfield from Lexington on an extended visit. She was of marriageable age at this time, and Springfield had many up-and-coming personalities who could be good matches for her. Her suitors, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas among them, called on her at Ninian and Elizabeth's house.

This horsehair sofa was purchased by Ninian and Elizabeth shortly after they moved to Springfield in 1835. It sat in their parlors when Lincoln came to call on Mary. We call it the "courting couch," because Mary and Lincoln sat there together during their courtship. Elizabeth remembered coming into the parlor and seeing Lincoln and Mary sitting together. Mary would do most of the talking, and Lincoln would "gaze on her as though drawn by some superior power, irresistibly so." The couch was restored in 2014. The horsehair upholstery is original to the sofa - it's exactly how it was when Lincoln sat on it in the 1840s.

Ninian and Elizabeth also owned the square grand piano to the left of the fireplace. It was made by Sherr in Philadelphia. This is a piano that Abraham Lincoln knew well; in fact, it was even said to have played the music at the Lincolns' wedding. We recently had it restored to playable condition, so we have concerts featuring Lincoln's favorite music. We also rent out the space for weddings, so people are able to have their wedding music played on the same piano that likely played Lincoln's wedding music!

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The portrait over the fireplace is of Governor Ninian Edwards, Benjamin's father. The Governor never lived to visit this house as he died in a cholera epidemic in 1833 at the age of 58. He was a wealthy man when he died (primarily through land speculation) and each of his four surviving children came into a substantial inheritance, which included thousands of acres of land in Illinois. The painting is the work of James William Berry, one of the earliest and most important portrait artists in Illinois. He painted it in 1827. Berry also painted the portraits of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette that hang in the Old State Capitol.

No family would have had two pianos in their home, but we happen to have two remarkable ones in our collection. The tall one dates to the early 1830s and was originally owned by a Springfield politician named William L. May. It is a pyramidal upright grand piano - picture a typical concert grand piano flipped vertically, with the tuning strings running up and down. It was made by Jospeh Hiskey in Baltimore, but is made in the "Viennese style" - Hiskey was originally from Austria.

The music books in the case belonged to Helen Edwards and her daughter, Helen Maria. They date from the 1830s to the 1850s. The music was purchased in individual sheets which were eventually bound into songbooks.

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