A courtship of historical proportions
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) is currently offering walking tours this summer letting guests learn about the improbable courtship and marriage between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd.
The tour, “Abe and Mary: Quite Contrary,” takes visitors through downtown Springfield, where Lincoln, a budding lawyer and politician, and Todd, a young debutante, fell in love and married, embarking on an 18-year odyssey together here before leaving for Washington for Lincoln’s presidency in 1861.
Jennifer Brownell, ALPLM tour guide, originally coordinated the tour three years ago as part of the museum’s 10th anniversary. “We wanted to add a component of education that was a little bit different from other exhibits we’ve normally done,” Brownell said in an interview. “The tour was so popular that we just kept offering it annually. It’s a very cool experience for our visitors.”
In researching the tour, Brownell said she was amazed at how well Lincoln and Todd got along, despite the glaring differences between them. At the time of their courtship in the early 1840s, Lincoln was nine years older and came from an impoverished background, while Todd was a privileged, Southern belle who had recently moved from her home mansion in Kentucky into her sister’s mansion in Springfield. “While Mary’s stature went down,” she said, “Lincoln’s went up, but together they rose in a lot of different ways, such as their love for each other, housing and political standing.”
The tour starts at the ALPLM, located on 212 N. Sixth Street, and makes stops at locations such as the site of the Globe Tavern at 701 E. Adams, which was a two-story lodge where the Lincolns took up residence in the early years of their marriage, the Lincoln family home on 413 S. Eighth St, where they resided for 16 years and the First Presbyterian Church at Seventh Street and Capitol Avenue, where Mary Todd Lincoln’s funeral was held.
In paraphrasing the eulogy given by the pastor, guide Adam Curran concluded the tour best describing the relationship between Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. “Their love was like two pine trees. They grew tall and strong by each other’s side, and over the years as they grew stronger and stronger, the roots became intertwined,” he said. “But when one was struck by lightning, the other wasted away.”
Open and free to the public, “Abe and Mary: Quite Contrary” will be presented every Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in June, July and August. As the tour covers 1.5 miles, guests are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the projected humid weather. For more information, visit the museum’s website at http://www.alplm.org.