Lincoln Room

During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln would often stroll across Pennsylvania Avenue for quiet, off-the-record conversations with his cabinet member Montgomery Blair, in what was then Blair’s study and former law office. This continued family patriarch Francis Preston Blair’s tradition of receiving Presidents, notably Jackson and Van Buren, in this room.

Historical Anecdote
After the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, this room witnessed Blair asking Robert E. Lee—at President Lincoln’s request—to lead the Union Army. Then-Colonel Lee declined, saying, “Though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I [can] take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.” Lee soon decamped southward to accept command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

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Lincoln Room
  • The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet

    The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet, 1866

    Published by Derby & Miller, Alexander Hay Ritchie’s engraving based on Francis Bicknell Carpenter’s painting depicts Abraham Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. Francis Preston Blair’s eldest son, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, appears standing at far right behind the table. Original to Blair House, it is signed by both the engraver and the painter. Carpenter’s painting hangs in the U.S. Capitol.

  • Photograph of General Sherman and Advisors

    Photograph of General Sherman and Advisors, 1866

    This original albumen print from the studio of famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady depicts Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and his generals and staff. Francis Preston Blair’s youngest son, Francis Jr. (Frank), is seated on the far right. He was not present for the original sitting, and his photograph was added to the image after the fact. The print is in its original frame.

  • The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet

    Political Cartoons, 1844

    This original, hand-colored lithograph is one of seven that have hung in this room since Francis Preston Blair used it as his private office. Published by J. Baillie of New York City, the cartoons satirize the Polk/Clay presidential campaign and the controversy over the admission of Texas to the Union. It is under original black-and-gilt églomisé reverse-painted glass in its original gilt wood frame.

  • Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, 1864

    Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, 1864

    Painted from life by Edward Dalton Marchant (1806–1887), a prominent American painter who received commissions from many political figures, including John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant, the portrait was purchased for Blair House by the Blair House Restoration Fund in 1988.

    Notable Quote

    In a letter to William Whiting, War Department Solicitor, Marchant said, "For several months ... I was in daily communication with the remarkable man whose features I have sought to portray, my studio being at the White House, and there I learned like everyone else to love him."

  • General Robert E. Lee

    General Robert E. Lee Portrait

    This portrait of General Lee in his Confederate dress uniform is a modern copy by Gregory Stapko of the original by James Elder in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The United Daughters of the Confederacy presented it to Blair House in 1961. The brass frame plate commemorates the 100th anniversary of President Lincoln’s offer of the Union Army command to Lee via Francis Preston Blair in this room on April 18, 1861.

  • Greek Revival Mantel c. 1800

    Greek Revival Mantel c. 1800

    Salvaged from the Portland, Maine, home of Asa W. H. Clapp, a Blair family ancestor, this beautifully carved wood fireplace mantel with plaster decoration was installed here in the early 1920s. It contains trophy ornaments—the Phrygian cap atop a sword over a reversed crown—symbolizing freedom and liberty over monarchy.

  • Robert E. Lee’s resignation of his commission in the U.S. Army (facsimile)

    Robert E. Lee’s U.S. Army Commission Resignation, color photocopy of original

    Dated 20 April 1861, the letter from Robert E. Lee to Secretary of War Simon Cameron reads: “Sir, I have the honor to tender the resignation of my commission as Colonel in the 1st Regiment of Cavalry.” Lee would shortly afterward accept command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. This framed copy stands on an end table in the Lincoln Room. The original is in the National Archives.

  • Hon. Abraham Lincoln

    Lithograph Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, 1860

    After Lincoln received the Republican nomination for President in 1860, New York print publisher William Schaus commissioned painter Thomas Hicks to create a life portrait of Lincoln. That June, Hicks traveled to Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln sat for him. Hicks also used an Alexander Hesler photograph for inspiration.

    The first print based upon the Hicks portrait was made by lithographer Leopold Grozelier and published by Schaus during the 1860 campaign. As was common during the period, the Schaus lithograph was soon available in pirated copies. This version with the facsimile inscription “Yours truly/A. Lincoln” is by J.H. Bufford and is from the original Blair family collection.

    Notable Quote

    Abraham Lincoln noted, “I think the picture has a somewhat pleasanter expression than I usually have, but that, perhaps, is not an objection.”