Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Rare Cane with Paper Trail From Abraham Lincoln to Charles Sumner to Mrs Hastings and Major Ben: P Poore

A Cane presented to President Lincoln was one of the relics owned by Major Ben: Perley Poore at his home, Indian Hill Farm in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Currently In A Private Collection. 

A Post card of Indian Hill Farm Estate in West Newbury, Massachusetts occupied by Ben: Perley Poore.
Indian Hill Interior

Portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. The background scene depicts ships of war. In a New Hampshire Private Collection.

The cane is most likely designed by John C Nobles of Rushford, New York, and presented to President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. There are two copies of correspondences answering queries on the cane. One from the United States Office of Commerce Patent Office and the other from United States Office of Interior Park Service in 1965 (provided by the current owner). The letters suggest the cane was a design by Nobles, but no direct match has been made to Lincoln. However, there are letters, memorial sketches, and newspaper clippings that reveal a direct association.  

John C Nobles Patents are listed in the Smithsonian Archives, Scientific American, House Documents, Otherwise Published as Executive Documents: 13th Congress, 2d Session-49th Congress, 1st Session, Volume 10, Part 1, Commissioner of Patents Annual Report. In August of 1862, Nobles is listed with a Thomas Birch, under the firm of Birch & Nobles in Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Part 1, Volume 1

I was able to establish a paper trial from Lincoln to Major Poore. However, I am not finding a date or place on when Lincoln actually was presented with the cane.

First, the cane was gifted to Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874) via Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) wife of Abraham Lincoln

In a letter dated May 9 1865, From Mrs. Lincoln to Sumner:

From Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume 4 Edward Lillie Pierce 
The cane is not described in this letter, but after Sumner's death in 1874 the cane is detailed when it went to Mrs Hastings, sister of Sumner. 

This would be his sister Julia Sumner (1827-1876) who married to Dr. John Hastings (1814-1891) in 1854 and moved to San Fransisco, California. She was named in Sumner's will, along with her daughters. (Charles Edwards Lester, Life and Public Services of Charles Sumner, pg 684-685)

According to "The Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume 1," Julia dealt with poor health, but her last visit to the Atlantic States was in 1862.  She visited Washington at that time. Her brother Charles accompanied her to New York, and parted with her at the steamer, as she sailed on her return. "I shall never forget," Julia afterwards wrote, "his tender care at that time. My last sight of him was standing on the wharf as the steamer moved off." (Edward Lillie Pierce, pg. 34)

In 1874, Julia Sumner Hastings presented the cane to Major Ben: P Poore. 

The cane presented to President Lincoln, who gifted it to Senator Sumner. Sumner left the cane to his sister, who gifted it to Poore. Saturday May 12 1883 page 3 Evening Star Washington District of Columbia Springfield Republican December 24 1874 

Charles Sumner, son of Charles Pinckney Sumner and Relief Jacobs was described as "the most elegantly tailored man in House or Senate," who "resembled Lord Chatham more closely than any statesman of the nineteenth century."  He had a "handsomely modeled head, wavy locks of hair, and sideburns." (Gingberg)

Ben: Perley Poore in his youth. Poore had beautiful features and a was a prolific writer. There is a similarity to Lord Byron. Portrait from Indian Hill now in private collection

Autograph sentiment signed: "With the regards of/ Ben: Perley Poore/ Indian Hill Farm, near/ Newburyport, Sept. 26, 1878"  Newburyport, Massachusetts. September 26, 1878.

In Major Poore's obituary the cane is mentioned, from The Burlington Free Press and Times   


Boston Post June 15 1887 Will of Ben: P Poore's Will and Locket containing Sumner's hair to Charles Wesley Slack, abolitionist, temperance advocate, editor and proprietor of the newspaper The Boston Commonwealth.

Obit for Charles Sumner Saturday, December 15, 1894 Sacramento Daily Union (Sacramento, California) Page: 8

A fun tidbit from 1902: The locals resurrected the famous "Savages," a battalion formed by Major Poore which became the Nineteenth Massachusetts Regiment. Organization of the "Savages" from The Boston Post 1920 mention Ben: P P Moseley, Paul N. Hale, Stephen Noyes, Henry D. Lay, Shubel Rogers, Carleton Moody, Richard Newhall, Joseph Floyd, E. Moody Boyton, and Carrie H Marsh.

  • Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years Carl Sandburg Sterling Publishing Company, 2007
  • Nason, Elias. The Life and Times of Charles Sumner: His Boyhood, Education, and Public Career

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