“Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President.” -Abraham Lincoln
FIRST EDITION of Lincoln's historic Cooper Union Address, delivered on February 27, 1860 at the Cooper Institute in New York. The speech is largely credited to having launched Lincoln's Presidential bid. With silver print carte-de-visite of the Brady “Cooper Union” photograph.
In the fall of 1859, James A. Briggs, who served on the lecture committee of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, invited presidential candidate hopeful Abraham Lincoln to speak to a New York audience on any subject of his choosing. Lincoln accepted the invitation, choosing to speak of the current political climate in America. William O. Stoddard, an Illinois journalist who worked for President Lincoln during his administration, noted that “No previous effort of his life cost him so much hard work as did that Cooper Institute speech” and that the resulting speech “was a masterly review of the history of the slavery question from the foundation of the government, with a clear, bold, statesmanlike presentation of the then present attitude of parties and of sections. It exhibited a careful research, a thorough knowledge and understanding of political movements and developments, that staggered even the most laborious and painstaking students. It showed a grasp, a breadth, a mental training, and a depth of penetration which compelled the admiration of critical scholars” (Stoddard, Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life).
"Horace Greeley had rushed out the speech in pamphlet form as 'Tribune Tract' Number 4, under the headline: National Politics. Speech of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, Delivered at the Cooper Institute, Monday Feb. 27, 1860. The pamphlet was ready March 6, while Lincoln was still traveling through Connecticut. When he returned to New York, he found it already available to the public.
"Greeley marketed the eleven-page Tribune edition aggressively… As a bonus, the publication included Wisconsin Republican senator James Doolittle's February 24 speech attaching 'the new doctrine of judicial infallibility,' as did Lincoln's address at Cooper Union just three days later, and also, like Cooper Union, railing agains 'the headstrong zeal pursued by the other party to force slavery into Territories'…
"It was as if Republicans were now speaking with one voice: identifying with the founders, attacking the Dred Scott decision, rebuking John Brown, and drawing their own 'dividing line' on slavery extension. Lincoln did not say it alone; but he said it best… 'Mr. Lincoln's is probably the most systematic and complete defense yet made of the Republican position with regard to Slavery,' the Tribune declared in its initial advertisement for the reprints. 'We believe no speech has yet been made better calculated to win the intelligent minds over to our standard. Will the friends of the Cause everywhere aid us to circulate it?'
"The answer was yes. The Tribune Tract edition proved enormously popular, going through at least five additional editions… [Lincoln's] New York oration was enjoying a new and sustained life in pamphlet form, and was being purchased, individually, and in bulk alike, by admirers and groups across the North.
"The Cooper Union address tested whether Lincoln's appeal could extend from the podium to the page, and from the rollicking campaigns of the rural West to the urban East… Cooper Union held the promise of transforming Lincoln from a regional phenomenon to a national figure. Lincoln knew it, and rose to the occasion.
"As if to illustrate his metamorphosis, the Cooper Union appearance also inspired the most important single visual record on Lincoln's, or perhaps any, American presidential campaign: an image-transfiguring Mathew Brady photograph. Its later proliferation and reproduction in prints, medallions, broadsides, and banners perhaps did as much to create a 'new' Abraham Lincoln as did the Cooper Union address itself.
"Supposedly, Lincoln volunteered when he encountered the famous photographer again a few months later: 'Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President'… Make him president, they undoubtedly did” (Harold Holzer, Lincoln at the Copper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President).
Note: Although it is difficult to date, the carte-de-visite appears to be a late-nineteenth century production.
Provenance for the speech: From the collection of George Hambrecht, first president of the Wisconsin Lincoln Fellowship and renown Lincoln scholar/collector, with his signature in pencil on rear wrapper.
New York: New York Tribune, Tribune Tracts, No. 4, 1860. Octavo, original wrappers; custom box. Light uniform toning. Lincoln's speech comprises pages 1-11 (out of a total of 16 pages). With New York Tribune ads and subscription terms on rear wrapper. RARE.
Price: $9,500 .