Lincoln Forgeries, 1852-1858 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection contains three Lincoln forgeries: a letter of June 1, 1852, and two legal papers dated June 1, 1858. Although all are purportedly written or signed by Abraham Lincoln, they clearly are not in his hand.
The letter is addressed to J. Edwards to whom Lincoln in fact wrote on another matter on the same day.1 The forgery refers to John A. McClernand as a potential Whig candidate "for a vacancy in Bloomington," although he was in fact a Douglas Democrat from Shawneetown.
On June 7, 1937, Felix Roppert, writing from the City Hall Station in New York City, offered this letter to the Library for $10. Annotating an inquiry from Willia K. Garver, who was in charge of Library orders, Roppert indicated that he acquired the letter from Goodspeed's Book Shop in Boston. Phineas L. Windsor, Director of the Library, approved the purchase but sought to know "who owned the coll." that contained the letter. On July 12, 1937, in the last item in the collection regarding the acquisition of Roppert's letter, Banks asked to see the "Lincoln" letter, as Goodspeed's was not "likely to have sold it to Mr Felix Roppert with whom we have had considerable correspondence."2
Two other "Lincoln" manuscripts concern a suit brought by William Miller against C. J. Edwards in the Circuit Court of Champaign County. In this suit, Miller, represented by Lincoln and Herndon, sued to recover $400 paid to Edwards for a certain parcel in which Edwards had no clear title. A memorandum in the collection states that the "Two documents [were] identified as Cosey forgeries by G. William Bergquist, of the New York Public Library, Oct. 19 1949."
Bergquist was an expert on literary hoaxes such as those perpetrated by Martin Coneely (1887-1950) whose favorite alias was Joseph Cosey.3 Cosey became Joseph Roppert in peddling the 1852 letter, the handwriting of which matches that of the 1858 legal papers. Lincoln Day by Day, now entitled "The Lincoln Log" on the website of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, places Lincoln elsewhere on the relevant dates--in Sullivan, not Springfield, and in Springfield, not Urbana.
1. Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809-1865, 3 vols., ed. Earl Schenck Miers (Washington, D.C.: Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission, 1960), 2:76
2. The letter is one of the forgeries listed in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler et al. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 8:448.
3. For information on Cosey's career, see Wikipedia as well as John Kobler, "Yrs. Truly, A. Lincoln," New Yorker, Feb. 25, 1956.