This collection contains letters and other materials mainly from the files of Oliver Barrett, a Chicago lawyer and Lincoln collector.
It is particularly rich in documenting the friendship and collaboration of Barrett and Carl Sandburg between the mid-1930s and the late 1940s. When Sandburg wrote Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), no one worked with him more extensively than did Barrett. On the dedicatory page of that work, Sandburg began with Barrett: "To the attorney-at-law, collector of documents and source items in history, seeker of basic human lore, Oliver R. Barrett," and in 1949 he published an entire book to acknowledge his indebtedness to Barrett: Lincoln Collector: The Story of Oliver R. Barrett's Great Private Collection.
As the Preface to Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926) attests, he also drew heavily on the Barrett collection when he first ventured into the Lincoln field. For other references to the Sandburg-Barrett relationship, see Irving Dillard, "Oliver Rogers Barrett, 1873-1950," in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 43:3 (Autumn 1950), 169-86, and Philip Liebson, "The Barretts of Abbotsford Road," Caxtonian, 21:9 (Sept. 2013), 1, 3-10.
This collection contains not only many letters from Barrett to Sandburg, but a substantial number of letters and notes from Sandburg to Barrett. In addition, it contains considerable correspondence from others to each of them, most of which relates to Sandburg's Lincoln books and some of which Barrett answered for Sandburg.
Sandburg also received and occasionally answered many personal communications from women whom he met, mainly in the 1930s. He apparently gave this non-professional correspondence to Barrett for safe keeping. These writings do not seem to have been known by Sandburg biographers, nor were they only platonic in the way that Penelope Niven describes Sandburg's relationships with other women. See pages on Brenda Ueland and Donna Workman in Carl Sandburg: A Biography (1991).
Taken as a whole, this collection complements the Barrett-Sandburg papers at the Newberry Library. (See http://mms.newberry.org/html/BarrettSandburg.html). Acquired by C. E. Van Norman at the time of the auction of the Barrett estate in 1952, it came to the University of Illinois in 2013.
Appended to the inventory of this collection is a portfolio of ephemera regarding the campaign to acquire for Illinois as much Lincoln material as possible at the Barrett auction The Barrett Lincoln Collection Fund Committee was able to secure a number of important Lincoln letters and related items for the Illinois State Historical Library (now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). See the summary in "Presentation of Barrett Manuscripts," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 45:1 (Spring 1952), 70-72. The portfolio regarding this acquistion came to the Library from Earl C. Kubicek who collected material on several Lincoln topics which are listed under his name in this database.