||During the American Civil War the U.S. Sanitary Commission promoted "sanitary fairs" in northern cities to raise funds for medical
and other assistance for the Union troops. One such fair, the Maryland State Fair
Soldier Relief, was held in Baltimore from 18 April to 2 May 1864. Alexander Bliss,
assistant quartermaster general of the Union army, and John Pendleton Kennedy, Maryland
writer and politician, concocted a plan to solicit handwritten manuscripts from well-known
American authors for publication in facsimile in a book to be sold at the fair. (Some
sources say they also attempted to sell the original manuscripts.) The resulting printed
book was titled Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors.
After the book was produced, the original manuscripts were pasted into a bound volume,
the title, Autograph Leaves: 1864, and retained by Bliss and his heirs.
||Noted authors represented in the collection include John Quincy Adams, William Cullen
Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Julia Ward Howe, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Herman Melville, Charles Eliot Norton, Harriet Beecher
Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, and Daniel Webster. Writings include primarily short prose
pieces, fragments of longer prose writing, and poetry. The original manuscripts are
in the bound volume in no apparent order; in this guide they are listed alphabetically
the author’s last name, with page numbers given for ease of location.
||The contents of the manuscript volume and the printed book differ somewhat. The bound
volume originally contained 98 manuscripts (including the Preface by Bliss and Kennedy),
which five were physically removed before the volume was acquired by the Harry Ransom
Center, namely: a letter from Noah Webster to James Greenleaf; a letter from Lindley
to Robert and Elizabeth Pearsall; two excerpts by Louis Agassiz, one untitled and
from his "Methods of Study"; and Abraham Lincoln’s
handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address. The Webster, Murray, and Agassiz items
listed in the table of contents of the manuscript volume, but do not appear in the
version. Present in the printed book but not in manuscript is a copy of "The Star Spangled Banner" in the hand of Francis Scott Key. In
several instances an author is represented in the printed book by a different document
that included among the manuscripts. The printed book reproduces 93 documents in all.
||The reasons for the removal of the Webster, Murray, and Agassiz items are not known,
there any indication of what became of the Key manuscript. The Lincoln address remained
the collection until about 1949, when it was removed by the Bliss heirs and sold at
to a private collector. The new owner eventually bequeathed the document (known as
copy, one of five in existence in Lincoln’s hand) to the White House, where it now
the Lincoln Bedroom.