Lincoln and the Jews. Civil War Scrapbook Belonging to One of Lincoln's Closest Jewish Friends, Abraham Jonas

A scrapbook belonging to Abraham Jonas (1801-1864), a Jewish lawyer from Quincy, Illinois whom 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln described as "one of my most valued friends." The scrapbook, covering the period 1846-1863 with the majority being 1860-1863, contains newspaper clippings, manuscript telegraphs, printed General Orders, and the occasional engraving, photograph, and hand-colored map, arranged in mostly chronological order, and adhered to approximately 120 pages total. Scattered manuscript captions in an unknown hand appear throughout. With green marbled boards and gilt-embossed leather 1/2 binding. The front board is partly detached, three-quarters of the spine is missing, and some of the pages are loose. Isolated instances where a news item or page has been excised. Toning, minor chipping, and some adhesive discoloration to the documents. Else very good. 9.5" x 11.75" x 1.5." Provenance information includes a magazine containing an article about Abraham Jonas; and information about the Battle of Shiloh, in which two of Jonas's sons fought against each other.

The scrapbook contains material from both Northern and Southern newspapers relating to the Civil War. It includes news items discussing public opinion/morale; the tenor of contemporary political discourse; historical views and precedents; the state of hospitals and prisons; military engagements such as Fort Sumter, Battle of Wilson's Creek, Great Bethel Affair, Fort Donelson, Battle of Shiloh, Capture of New Orleans, Battle of Cross Keys, Battle of Corinth, Battle of Pea Ridge, Second Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Baton Rouge, and the Battle of Gettysburg; and the thoughts/policy measures/commands of Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward, Stephen A. Douglas, Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, Joseph Holt, and innumerable generals from both sides. Abraham Jonas was tied through his sons to both the Confederacy and the Union, and this tension is alluded to by the items preserved in the album. Jonas's scrapbook provides a more balanced perspective than that garnered through your typical album of Union propaganda.

Abraham Jonas emigrated to the United States from England in 1819, thus belonging to the first 500 Jewish families in the United States. Jonas was the first permanent Jewish resident of Quincy, Illinois after he relocated there about 1838, and was also one of the founding members of the Congregation B'nai Israel, the first Jewish temple west of the Alleghenies. During his lifetime, Jonas served in both the Kentucky and Illinois legislature, belonged to the Freemasons, and served as Postmaster of Quincy for two terms, in 1849-1853 and in 1861-1864.

Jonas is important in his own right because he was one of the earliest Jewish immigrants to America, but he is also remembered as being one of Abraham Lincoln's closest friends. The two shared many similarities: practice of the law, political affiliation (first Whig, then Republican), and then, of course, their adopted home state of Illinois. Jonas personally arranged the Lincoln-Douglas debate that was held in Quincy in October 1858. Lincoln showed many kindnesses to the Jonas family in acknowledgement of his and Abraham's close friendship. Abraham Jonas's oldest son, a Confederate officer named Charles Henry Jonas (1832-1910), was granted temporary leave from a Union prison in order to be at his father's deathbed in July 1863. Lincoln appointed first Abraham Jonas's daughter Annie, and later his widow, to take over as Postmaster of Quincy.

The Jonas Family was fractured by political and military divisions. Of the six sons born to Abraham Jonas and his second wife Louisa Block (1809-1867), four served in the Confederate Army in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas units, and a fifth possibly served both the Union and the Confederacy. The fifth eldest son, Edward L. Jonas (1844-1918), served in an Illinois regiment and is believed to have faced off against older brother Julian J. Jonas (1836-1872) during the Battle of Shiloh. (See Provenance for more information.) Their sister Anna "Annie" Jonas (1841-1926) was a faithful volunteer of the Union soldier's aid group, the Needle Pickets. Abraham Jonas lost contact with his Confederate sons, and the division of his family caused him considerable grief.


- The Spring 2023 issue of "The Governor's Post," the magazine of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois, containing an article by Beth Young entitled, "Abraham Jonas…Lincoln's Dear Friend," pp. 8-10.

- A print-out, "Report of Brig. Gen. B.M. Prentiss…Battle of Pittsburgh Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn…" describing battle movements during the Battle of Shiloh, when Confederate brother Julian and Union brother Edward are believed to have been 460 feet apart on the battlefield.

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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