Mary Lincoln photographed by James Brady in a Elizabeth Keckley Gown
She shopped and shopped and hid as much of her over-spending as she could from Abe. After his death, creditors who had been reluctant to dun the president’s wife, now wanted to be paid. Traveling with her dressmaker and b.f.f.,Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave and later society modiste to real life Civil War Housewives Mrs. A. Lincoln, Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. U. S. Grant, Lincoln secretly visited New York hoping to discretely resell her stuff. The press found out and “the old clothes incident” became yet another embarassment for Mrs. Lincoln:
Varina Davis and Jefferson Davis, Elizabeth Keckley GownGrant
Julia Grant and U.S. Grant
Before His Tomb Days, Gown by Keckley
Mary’s sister: “Her chief enjoyment consists in purchasing and storing.”
Source: PBS.org, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided“The horrors of the Civil War, domestic bereavement, and the fact that she was not accepted socially in Washington, then largely a city of Southerners, made Mrs. Lincoln’s White House years unhappy. She vented her frustrations in an orgy of spending — buying handsome clothes and beautiful accessories for herself and elegant furnishings for the White House.”
Source: Smithsonian. First Ladies Hall. no page #.
Abe Lincoln on learning of Mary’s over spending while redecorating the White House: “It never can have my approval … It would stink in the nostrils of the American people to have it said that the President of the United States had approved a bill overrunning an appropriation of $20,000 for flub-dubs for this damned old house when the soldiers cannot have blankets … The house was furnished well enough, better than any one we ever lived in … Well, I suppose Mrs. Lincoln must bear the blame, let her bear it, I swear I won’t!”
Source: PBS.org, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided
After Willy’s death, Mary retreated more into herself showing signs of instability and imbalance. Along with believing that Willy and Eddy visited her at night, Mary went on irrational shopping sprees.
“Mary continued to try to find comfort in possessions. She bought new dresses, hats … it was said that in three months, she purchased 300 pairs of gloves. Many of her purchases were never even unpacked.”
Source: PBS.org, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided”
With all due respect to Daniel Day Lewis, Louis C. K. will always be ‘Lincoln’ to me and I will use any cheap excuse to post video of L.C.K. in top hat and Lincoln suit on SNL: