HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Autograph Note Signed for Soldier's Fair - 1864
Autograph Note by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which he includes his signed name as a contribution to fundraising efforts for the "Soldier's Fair" during the Civil War. In full:
With Mr. Longfellow's compliments and best wishes for the success of the Soldier's Fair.
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for the creation of the United States Sanitary Commission, organized to facilitate the delivery of goods to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. As the war progressed, the Sanitary Commission expanded its efforts, training nurses to staff hospitals, providing and staffing convalescent facilities for the wounded, and organizing a delivery system for troop mail. All this required a great deal of non-governmental funding. The Sanitary Commission was organized by civilians, run by civilians, and funded by civilians.
Leaders of the Chicago branch of the Commission came up with the idea of a "sanitary fair" to benefit soldiers, which many patriotically dubbed the "Soldier's Fair." The ten-day Northwestern Soldier's Fair held in Chicago in 1863 raised over $100,000, followed soon after by the Boston Sanitary Fair in 1864, where $140,000 was raised. That success inspired more Sanitary Fairs, drawing huge crowds seeking goods presented for sale or raffle to benefit men and women serving their country, during a war in which 620,000 American soldiers lost their lives.
Among the raffled goods offered were large private autograph collections, comprising "one of the best, perhaps the very best, ever offered for sale in America," including autographs that had been obtained personally by collectors for decades, from such prominent people as George Washington, William Thackeray, Alfred Tennyson, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, and in this case, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.