Mary Todd Lincoln Hoax

a portrait that isn't Mary Todd Lincoln

This seems more hoax than myth, but either way, it’s one that has been going on for almost a hundred years. The New York Times carried this story a few days ago.

The painting was purported to be one Mrs. Lincoln had made of herself as a surprise gift for the president, but before she could give it to him, he was assassinated. Turns out it’s another woman’s likeness, and the painting was retouched by a vaudeville actor, no less, in the 1920s and sold to Lincoln descendants along with the heart-wrenching story. The forger changed the hairdo to look more like Mrs. Lincoln’s and added a brooch that showed a picture of Abraham Lincoln. The scam earned him a couple hundred bucks. Art conservators who cleaned the painting discovered the over-painting and realized it wasn’t Mrs. Lincoln at all. For the whole story, see 


3 Responses to Mary Todd Lincoln Hoax

  1. Did Mary Todd Lincoln leave Abraham lincoln for any period of time…one of my books said she got fed up and took the kids to Kentucky with her family and then came back later…another says she always remained staunchly by his side. Please clarify. Thank you!

    • marymiley says:

      I can’t answer that without reading a biography of Lincoln and/or Mary Todd Lincoln. Why don’t you check out a biography from your library and let us know?

  2. Curtis Cook says:

    There was a time during his presidency when she took the children to a house on a wooded hill close to a day’s carriage ride from Washington. I believe her intention was to remain there for the duration (she supposedly hated living in Washington D.C.), but after some weeks or a couple of months Abraham rode out to see her and convinced her to move back to the White House.

    At the time the story was let out to the press that her absence was to avoid the chance of her or the children contracting yellow fever or one of the other plagues that tended to sweep through the city every summer. This occured during a summer and some time after their son Willie had died of a fever in 1862.

    Couple that with her chronic depression, arguements with Abraham over her spending habits, her inability to navigate D.C. society, her persistent migraines, and her POSSIBLE pernicious anemia and bipolar disorder, and I think it’s a miracle they stayed together.

    Note that she also had her good points, including her unwavering support of Abraham’s political policies, and the time and attention she lavished on wounded veterans. She and her husband were both devoted to their children.

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