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Letter from the Director

Hello from the Harlan-Lincoln House!

I hope this new year finds you and your loved ones happy and healthy. The beginning of a new year can represent a time to contemplate the past, reassess the present, and make predictions for the future. During this time of year, people may find themselves saying, “Out with the old, in with the new.” People who don’t work in museums, that is. The idea of something being “new” isn’t often associated with history museums. In general, history museums focus on objects created and used years ago, to go along with content that helps to tell stories of the past. For example, many of the artifacts on display at the Harlan-Lincoln House were created and used in the 19th and 20th centuries, and many of the pieces belonged to people that passed away years before the Harlan-Lincoln House became a museum. So the idea of “newness” doesn’t seem like it would fit within the context of a history museum. 

A portrait of James Harlan, believed to be the youngest portrait on record, discovered by a Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House member in 2021.

And yet, it does. When something “new” is uncovered or discovered, it changes the way we interpret the past. Though new may mean new-ly discovered, and not contemporary in the sense that it was made in the 21st century, it is still fresh and additional information to use, and that makes a difference. New discoveries of old things make it possible to adjust our ways of thinking about history and telling stories of the past. Recently, one of the Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House members discovered and tracked down what is likely the youngest portrait of James Harlan. This find increased our understanding of James Harlan’s early life, and challenged us to expand our perception of a man whose life story is often viewed as complete.

Since part of our mission at the Harlan-Lincoln House is to share the museum with the public, we strive to tell the most accurate histories we know. Discoveries like this “new” portrait of a young James Harlan help us do that. The significance of findings like this cannot be overstated, especially in a museum setting. With that, if you or someone you know has information related to the Harlan and Lincoln families, please let the Harlan-Lincoln House know. This could be in the form of objects related to the families, oral histories of the house, or maybe just a story related to the families told over the years. You can contact hlhouse@iw.edu or call (319) 385-6319 with any information you want to share.

On behalf of the Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House and Iowa Wesleyan University, thank you for your continued support. We look forward to being together again this March for the Brown Bag Lecture Series and throughout 2022.

Madison Pullis

Director of the Harlan-Lincoln House

Four Marys and a Jessie

C.J. King poses as Peggy Beckwith during her presentation on October 14, 2021.

This past October, the Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House welcomed author and biographer C.J. King to Mount Pleasant. During her visit, C.J. presented “The Spirited Lincoln Women.” Posing as Peggy Beckwith, the last female Lincoln, C.J. shared her research on the Lincoln women’s spiritual connection to Christian Science, as well as on their individual, spirited personalities, and their family and community relationships.

A native of Indiana, C.J. King was in graduate school, when she discovered her connection to the Harlan and Lincoln families. Through genealogical study completed by her great aunt Helen Harlan, C.J. learned Mary Harlan Lincoln was a second cousin to her great-great-grandfather. After extensive research, C.J.’s initial interest in Mary Harlan Lincoln culminated in a book entitled Four Marys and a Jessie: The Story of the Lincoln Women. The book showcases the lives of the Lincoln and Harlan women, beginning with Mary Todd Lincoln and concluding with Peggy Beckwith, the great-granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln.

Signed editions of Four Marys and a Jessie: The Story of the Lincoln Women, by C.J. King, are on sale now at the Harlan-Lincoln House.

For those interested in purchasing a signed edition of Four Marys and a Jessie: The Story of the Lincoln Women, the Harlan-Lincoln House will be selling a limited number of copies. You can purchase a book online at harlanlincolnhouse.org/four-marys-and-a-jessie or by contacting Madison at hlhouse@iw.edu. For those who were unable to attend the event or interested in watching the presentation again, please contact Madison to receive a link to view the presentation.

Schedule of 2022 Brown Bag Lecture Series

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