Sep 29, 2022 - Sale 2615

Sale 2615 - Lot 265

Price Realized: $ 4,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
(GIDEON WELLES.) Cane said to be made for Abraham Lincoln from the wood of Fort Sumter. Elaborately carved wooden cane, 35 1/2 inches in length including modern imitation ivory knob added to replace the damaged original. No place, circa 1865?

Additional Details

This cane is reputed by family history to have been made from wood taken from Fort Sumter for President Abraham Lincoln, and then presented after his death to his Secretary of the Navy and personal friend, Gideon Welles. The cane bears no inscriptions and the story is probably impossible to prove, but we have not managed to disprove it, either.

The Union Army regained possession of Fort Sumter on 22 February 1865, which would allow for less than two months for a cane to be made and presented to Lincoln before his death. In at least three letters to her close friend Mary Jane Hale Welles from July through December 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln stated her intentions to give Gideon Welles a cane from Lincoln's collection: "I intend sending Mr Welles one of the best canes, and it is quite embarrassing that I have so long delayed doing this." (see "Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters," pages 257, 277, 317). The cane was photographed in a 1975 article on the consignor's family papers, with the note "Brainard also owns a cane, which Lincoln, who owned many of them, gave to Welles. It is reputed carved from wood taken from Fort Sumter" ("Gideon Welles had an Eye for History," in Hartford Sunday Times Magazine, 30 March 1975). Provenance: from the collection of Thomas Welles Brainard, great-great-grandson of Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.