Harry E. Pratt (1901-56) was born and raised in Cambridge, Ill. In 1923, he graduated from the University of Illinois, where a course under James G. Randall stimulated his interest in American history. He taught history in secondary schools in Ohio and Wyoming, and received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees by returning to Illinois in the summers.
For his dissertation under Randall in 1930, Pratt wrote on David Davis, Lincoln's friend. He then served as dean at Blackburn College and taught history at Illinois Wesleyan University. Pratt then became fully immersed in the Lincoln field, first as executive secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association from 1936 to 1943, and then as Illinois State Historian from 1950 until his death in 1956.
The collection includes copies of a number of Pratt's writings and an array of his incoming correspondence, mainly on Lincoln matters. It also includes a sampling of the books about Lincoln which Pratt annotated and into which he pasted original manuscripts that date from Lincoln's day. There are also a few loose documents of that time. Finally, the collection contains typescripts of David Davis manuscripts, many files of Pratt's research notes, and dozens of Lincoln-related articles, booklets, programs, and clippings which Pratt saved. Similar material is preserved in the Pratt collections at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
In 1950, after Pratt's first wife died, he married Marion Dolores Bonzi. The Pratt collection at Illinois came to it when she died in 1963.