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.
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.