History of the Collection
In 1905 a group of Fort Wayne, Indiana, business leaders led by
Arthur Hall founded The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company.
Hall, a lifelong admirer of Abraham Lincoln, desired that the
company be associated with the values Lincoln embodied.
Accordingly, he wrote Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, to
request a photograph of the president to use on the company
letterhead. Robert sent a photograph of his father, noting,
"I take pleasure in enclosing…what I regard as a very good
photograph of him."
In February, 1928, in honor of the 16th president's birthday, Hall repaid the Lincoln family by creating the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation. With Lincoln scholar Dr. Louis Warren as director, the new Foundation began collecting Lincoln-related material including several personal collections, all donated by Lincoln National executives.
In February, 1931 - again, in honor of Lincoln's birthday - the Foundation dedicated the Lincoln Museum and Library to house the growing collection and make it available to the public.
Under the expert guidance of the four directors since 1928 - Dr. Warren, R. Gerald McMurtry, Dr. Mark Neely, Jr., and Joan Flinspach - a world-class research collection of documents, artifacts, books, prints, photographs, manuscripts, and 19th-century art related to Lincoln was created.
When Lincoln Financial Group announced in March 2008 that the Lincoln Museum would close, Lincoln Financial Foundation, which owned the museum collection, was adamant on two points. First, the organization wanted the collection to be donated to an institution capable of providing permanent care and broad public access. Second, the collection would not be broken up among multiple owners. In other words, this collection which had been built over so many decades was not for sale and would remain intact.
In December of 2008 those conditions were met when one of the largest private collections of Abraham Lincoln-related material in existence was donated to the people of Indiana. Today the Collection is housed in two institutions, the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne. This allows the Collection to live on in its entirety, available to the public in various exhibits at all times.