“She is the very picture of Ann Rutledge”

Today I’ll be spending some time in my Lincoln class talking about the Ann Rutledge controversy.  People tend to take biographical information for granted, as if all the facts we think we know about famous historical figures have just always “been there.”  The Ann Rutledge case is a handy way to show students that historical information is constructed and contested, dependent on  the evidence researchers are able to uncover and how they interpret it.

Ann Rutledge died in 1835, when photography was still in its infancy.  That means I’ve got to rely on later, imaginative reconstructions when it comes to my PowerPoint slides.  But while I was browsing around the Interwebs yesterday, I stumbled across a picture I’d never seen before, with an interesting typewritten caption attached.

Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.

This photo is part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress; Stern acquired over 11,000 Lincoln items before turning his material over to the LoC in 1953.

In his book on the Ann Rutledge case, John Evangelist Walsh identifies James McGrady Rutledge as Ann’s favorite cousin.  He was one of the family members who claimed that Ann and Lincoln were formally engaged.

I haven’t found any other information on “Miss Minnie Harms,” but that photograph might be as close as we can get to knowing what Ann really looked like.

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1 Comment

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One response to ““She is the very picture of Ann Rutledge”

  1. Great topic, Michael. Now that we’re starting to have lots of discussions with Lincoln admirers about ‘Saving Lincoln’, Ann often comes up as a preface to other questions, e.g. “Given that Ann R. was Lincoln’s true love, do you think his marriage to Mary was politically motivated?” It’s amazing that this brief chapter in a young man’s life simply overshadows a loving partnership that lasted decades, but such is the tendency to seize on a gossipy sound bite.

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