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Family Sitting Room

The Room

The family sitting room was an informal space where the Edwards family would spend time together. Visitors would not come into this room unless they were especially close to the family. Victorians often divided their houses into threes types of use - private, like this room and the bedrooms, public - like the parlors, and servant areas, like the kitchen and servant quarters. Sitting rooms were special because Victorian culture became very sentimental about ideas of the home and family. It saw the rise of a professional class of men who left home every day to go to an office; home became that much more attractive as a retreat to one's family at the end of the day.

Benjamin Edwards (above the fireplace) was the patriarch of this branch of the Edwards family. He was the youngest son of Governor Ninian Edwards, who was both Illinois' territorial governor and our third governor. Benjamin was also the first man in Illinois to graduate from Yale.

Helen Edwards (above the settee) was the wife of Benjamin. She was born in Illinois, but grew up on the east coats. She and Benjamin truly met when he attended Yale with her brothers. Helen was thought of as an excellent hostess in Springfield with a warm heart.

The Edwards' raised three daughters in this home: Helen Maria, Alice, and Mollie (three photos beside the fireplace).

Benjamin basically had all the advantages in life that Lincoln lacked: family connections, education, money. But he lacked Lincoln's way with people, as Benjamin was known to be aristocratic in his bearing.

The Edwards girls are roughly the same ages as the Lincoln boys, and they were friends. But the Edwards girls had a much different upbringing. Lincoln was a very permissive parent who let his sons run wild, while Benjamin Edwards was a strict patriarch who always told his daughters what to wear, what to read, and how to behave. They were expected to behave like little ladies all the time.

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Benjamin Edwards.jpg

Benjamin and Helen Edwards

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Mollie Edwards Raymond.jpg

Top to bottom: Helen Maria, Alice, and Mollie


In this room, the little bluebird figurine and the clock on the mantle are original, as are the portraits. The portraits of Benjamin and Helen are attributed to George Healy. This is the same artist who painted the famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln with his chin in his hand. Healy was based in Chicago in the 1860s and was the "it" portrait painter for prominent Illinois citizens of that time. We have seven Healy portraits on display in this house.

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