First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was intelligent, witty,
keenly supportive of her husbands political
career, a devoted wife, and an attentive mother.
Early in their lives, she was the first to realize
Lincolns potential for national leadership
and the presidency. She alone had wooed a most remarkable
human being to be her lifes companion, and
this was done contrary to the wishes of her socially
prominent relatives, with whom she was living at
the time of her engagement. They considered Lincoln
to be inferior.
Yet a vein of antagonism ran deeply through Mary
Todd Lincoln, which surfaced inexplicably at times.
Often her wrath was excited by little more than
her own imaginings and self-delusions. Just as
her husband took pains never to give offense,
Mary Todd seemingly never let opportunities escape
If not always gracious, Mary Todd Lincoln could
always be counted on to give the administration
a sense of style and fashion. A compulsive shopper,
the first lady delighted in refurnishing the presidential
mansion, overspending the twenty thousand dollars
Congress had allotted. She was just as lavish
on herself, especially in her wardrobe and jewelry.
Her dresses were designed and made to her specifications,
regardless of cost. On one gown alone she spent
two thousand dollars. As her personal debts grew
and grew, they added to her husbands many
According to one source, this photograph of Mary
Todd, wearing a meticulously fashioned black dress
with coordinated black jewelry, is believed to
have been taken in the autumn of 1863. She was
still in mourning for her eleven-year-old son,
Willie, who died of typhoid fever in February
1862. Willies death precipitated his mothers
rapid psychological decline, which would become
almost clinical after the presidents assassination
in April 1865.