Mary Todd Lincoln


Mary Todd Lincoln (1818‒82) was the wife of President Abraham Lincoln and first lady of the United States during the Civil War. Born into a large and influential family in Kentucky, she moved to Springfield, Illinois in 1837, where she met Lincoln. As first lady, Mary Lincoln renovated the White House, established a salon where political and literary figures could meet, nursed wounded soldiers in hospitals, and raised money for impoverished former slaves who were flooding into Washington. She helped to define the role of the modern first lady that was emulated in different forms by her successors. She and Lincoln had four sons, Robert Todd (1843‒1926), Edward Baker (1846‒50), William Wallace (1850‒62), and Thomas “Tad” (1853‒71), three of whom died during her lifetime. She was especially hard hit by the death of William (“Willie”), who was stricken by typhoid fever in the second year of Lincoln’s first term. She was with Lincoln when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865. As a widow, Mary Lincoln sought out spiritualists who she hoped could enable her to communicate with her sons, and in 1875 she was consigned to an insane asylum at the initiative of her son Robert. With the help of Myra Bradwell, one of the first female lawyers in the United States, she won her release and lived most of the rest of her life in France. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Edward Anthony, New York

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : carte-de-visite, albumen paper ; 8.6 x 5.4 centimeters


  1. Jean H. Baker, "Lincoln, Mary Todd," in American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Last updated: March 22, 2016