SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan has announced that a collection of rare newspapers, political memorabilia, photographs and Lincoln-related material, all amassed by former Lincoln Tomb manager Herbert Wells Fay, has been donated to the Illinois State Historical Library. The donation was made by Phillis Kelley, DeKalb County Historian, who acquired the material from the family of the late Paul Nehring, who purchased the Fay collection in the 1950s.
“This unique collection will be a valuable supplement to many of the Historical Library’s holdings,” said Governor Ryan. “These items can also be showcased at the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum being built in downtown Springfield.” The Historical Library and its collections will move to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum once construction is complete.
Fay was Custodian of Lincoln Tomb from 1920 to 1948, where he had access to the elite in both the political world and in Lincoln scholarship. Fay was an avid Lincoln collector and constantly tried to find and record Lincoln artifacts and images. He maintained correspondence with any he felt could help him in his quest for new and unusual Lincoln items. Fay was also an accomplished and well-traveled photographer, and his images feature many one-of-a-kind views of historic buildings and events.
Fay’s collection of images relating to Abraham Lincoln include 14 images of New Salem village shortly after its reconstruction in the 1930s; a rare lithographic print of the Emancipation Proclamation done in 1888; and a rare contemporary print of President Lincoln’s funeral service at Columbus, Ohio on April 29, 1865.
The collection includes manuscript correspondence about Lincoln from 1880 to 1949 with such people as Illinois politician Paul Powell, Lincoln scholar William Dodd Chenery, and artist Wallace Nutting. There are also letters from Mrs. Emma Weaver Hoge of Walnut, Illinois whose father, Perry A. Weaver, was present at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated. The collection also includes a near-complete run of Fay’s Springfield newspaper column “Lincoln Tomb Notes,” a weekly recounting of the events and people surrounding Lincoln Tomb.
Fay was noted for his Illinois photographs, many of interest to central Illinois and Springfield. They include a 1930s aerial view of the Illinois State Fairgrounds, local celebrities of note, and the celebration of Mass at the new Cathedral in Springfield in April 1929. Fay also took a series of photos while traveling in the west, and the collection includes views of the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Political memorabilia from Illinois includes a rare 1912 statewide presidential ballot and a broadside used by U.S. Senator Shelby M. Cullom for his 1912 primary race.
The Fay collection includes rare newspaper imprints from the Illinois State Chronicle, an African-American paper from Springfield; the Log Cabin, an 1840 campaign paper for William Henry Harrison, published by Horace Greeley; and the Chicago Evening Journal with its detailed account of “’About the Barb City,’ Largest Factory of its size in the west,” concerning DeKalb and its notable businessmen.
The donated collection includes more than 300 letters; 40 broadsides and posters; 150 photographs and images, including some of Lincoln; more than a dozen books and pamphlets; and more than 1,000 newspaper clippings.
The Illinois State Historical Library is the state’s chief historical and genealogical research facility. Its holdings include 175,531 books, 391,207 audio-visual materials, 86,572 reels of microfilm, and 10.4 million manuscript items contained in 6,200 collections. The library’s 40,000-item Henry Horner Lincoln Collection features more than 1,500 manuscripts written or signed by the 16th President. The library is located beneath the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in downtown Springfield.