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Abraham Lincoln Collector Frederick H. Meserve ALS Re: Supplementing 1911 "Photographs of Abraham Lincoln"

1p ALS inscribed overall, and signed by notable Lincoln collector Frederick H. Meserve (1865-1962) as "F.H. Meserve" at bottom. Written in New York City on March 23, 1955. The watermarked cream stationery has "Frederick H. Meserve / 148 East 78th Street / New York 21, N.Y." letterhead. Expected light paper folds, and a few scattered ink blots, else near fine. 8.5" x 11".

Frederick H. Meserve, a world-renown collector of Lincoln and Civil War-era photography, ephemera, maps, and books, wrote Arnold F. Gates (1914-1993), fellow Civil War enthusiast and author:

"Upon my return to the City I find the January issue of The Round Table which which [sic] you edit so ably. If you have two extra copies could I have them for my daughter and another friend. Because of my engagements I often find it impossible to be present at the meetings, but my interest is unabated. You will be interested to know that I am working on Supplement No. 4 to my book 'The Photograph [sic] of Abraham Lincoln' of 1911 which will contain 6 more or less known portraits, not published by me."

Frederick H. Meserve's The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln was published in New York in 1911. It was the first catalog raisonne of Lincoln photographs assembled from Meserve's and others' private collections. Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, his family, and his cabinet were included, as well as views of the president's Address at Gettysburg and his interment in Springfield, Illinois. The original 1911 printing was funded by subscribers and limited to 102 copies. Supplement No. 1 was printed in 1917, No. 2 in 1938, No. 3 in 1950, and No. 4 in 1955. The last supplement, which Meserve anticipated would contain 6 photos, actually contained 8 photos.

Meserve, who was then 89 years old, did not allow his advanced age to slow him down. Instead, he complained that numerous "engagements" prevented him from attending Civil War Round Table meetings. The mission of Civil War Round Table organizations--still very much active today--is to increase understanding of the war's context, battles, participants, and effects. The Chicago chapter was the first such organization established in 1940; Milwaukee followed in 1947, and the District of Columbia in 1951. The New York chapter was co-founded by Meserve and a few others on January 24, 1951. Besides Meserve, another celebrated member of the New York chapter of the Civil War Round Table was Allan Nevins (1890-1971), whose 8-volume Ordeal of the Union examined the causes and denouement of the Civil War.

The New York chapter of the Civil War Round Table was just one of the ways that Civil War devotees connected. Members of a specialized community that developed in the mid-twentieth-century United States, they included historians, collectors, autograph dealers, veterans' descendants, freelance writers, history buffs, and reenactment fans. These enthusiasts created a dynamic and rigorous academic environment in which to discuss their favorite subject; they wrote and shared articles and books, met regularly at symposia, and frequently collaborated.

Meserve began collecting Lincolniana in 1897, with the intention of illustrating his father's Civil War diary. Meserve continued collecting over the next sixty years, eventually amassing 200,000 pieces including some previously "lost" or unknown images of Lincoln. Meserve's collection was so esteemed for its completeness that he essentially became the custodian of "Lincoln's image." For example, Meserve was approached by medal and currency engravers, as well as by the sculptors of Lincoln's Memorial Monument, for direct access to his presidential photographs. In 2015, the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection was acquired by the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Connecticut.

In the letter, Meserve requested a Civil War Round table issue for his daughter. Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt (1901-1979) helped research, catalog, and curate her father's enormous Lincoln collection, and she herself became a respected authority in the field.

Arnold F. Gates also had a lifelong interest in the Civil War. Gates edited and published works relating to the Civil War period, contributing to such works as the anthology Lincoln for the Ages. His independent monographs include Amberglow of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed and The Rough Side of War: The Civil War Journal of Chesley A. Mosman, First Lieutenant, Company D, 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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