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Robert Todd Lincoln in 1865
Library of Congress
Robert Todd Lincoln TimelineThe eldest son of President Lincoln, Robert experienced a very different life from his famous father. Instead of spending his youth at hard physical labor, living in remote log cabins and educating himself, he graduated from Harvard College, acquired monied friends, aristocratic tastes and lavish homes. He spent most of his working life as a lawyer and executive in Chicago, with a few interludes in public service as Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Arthur and Minister to England in the 1890s.
The timeline here reveals the highlights of Robert's life, including his descendants. Although Robert lived a privileged existence, as you can see below, it was not without its share of painful losses. With the passing of his grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, both the Lincoln family line and Harlan family line came to an end.
AUGUST 1, 1843
Born in Springfield, Illinois, to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.
MARCH 10, 1846
His brother, Edward Baker Lincoln, is born at home in Springfield.
OCTOBER 25, 1847
Travels with his parents and brother enroute Washington, DC, where his father will serve one Congressional term.
JULY 17, 1849
His maternal grandfather and namesake, Robert Todd, dies at age 58 in Lexington, Kentucky.
FEBRUARY 1, 1850
His brother Edward dies at age 3 years and 11 months in Springfield.
DECEMBER 21, 1850
His brother, William Wallace Lincoln, is born at home in Springfield.
JANUARY 17, 1851
His paternal grandfather, Thomas Lincoln, dies at age 73 in Coles County, Illinois.
APRIL 4, 1853
His brother Thomas (Tad) Lincoln is born at home in Springfield.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1859
Enters Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, New Hampshire, to prepare for Harvard.
Enters Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
MARCH 4, 1861
Attends his father's first presidential inauguration in Washington, DC.
AUGUST 3, 1861
Attends a White House dinner for Prince Napoleon of France.
FEBRUARY 20, 1862
His 11-year-old brother Willie dies in the White House; he attends the funeral on February 24.
JULY 20, 1864
Graduates from Harvard College and hears Edward Everett speak.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1864
Enters Harvard Law School and studies for a semester.
FEBRUARY 11, 1865
Receives Army commission as captain and assistant adjutant to the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant.
MARCH 4, 1865
Attends his father's second inauguration in Washington; on March 6 he escorts Mary Eunice Harlan to the inaugural ball.
APRIL 9, 1865
Witnesses General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appommatox Court House, Virginia.
APRIL 22, 1865
Resigns his U.S. Army commission, which is completed on June 10.
MAY 4, 1865
Attends his father's burial service at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
MAY 22, 1865
Leaves Washington with his mother and brother enroute Chicago, Illinois.
Studies law at the University of Chicago; works with Scammon, McCagg & Fuller of Chicago.
FEBRUARY 25, 1867
Passes the bar examination, allowing him to practice law in Illinois.
NOVEMBER 13, 1867
Inherits $36,991.54 at the settlement of his father's estate.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1868
Marries Mary Eunice Harlan at her home in Washington.
APRIL 12, 1869
His step-grandmother, Sarah Johnston Lincoln, dies at age 80 in Coles County, Illinois.
OCTOBER 15, 1869
Becomes a father when his first daughter, Mary (Mamie) Lincoln, is born.
JULY 16, 1871
Holds a funeral service in his Chicago home for his 18-year-old brother Tad, who died the day before. Attends Tad's Springfield funeral on July 17.
Forms law partnership in Chicago with Edward S. Isham.
AUGUST 14, 1873
Becomes a father again when Abraham Lincoln II (Jack) is born.
FEBRUARY 16, 1874
His step-grandmother, Elizabeth Humphreys Todd, dies at age 74 in Kentucky.
MAY 27, 1874
Instrumental in forming the Chicago Bar Association.
MAY 19, 1875
Commits his mother to a mental institution in Batavia, Illinois, after a public trial declares her insane.
NOVEMBER 6, 1875
Becomes a father again when Jessie Harlan Lincoln is born.
OCTOBER 10, 1877
Declines Rutherford B. Hayes' offer to become Assistant Secretary of State
DECEMBER 30, 1878
Joins the Board of Trustees of the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago.
MARCH 5, 1881
Becomes Secretary of War under President James Garfield; after his assassination, serves under President Chester Arthur.
JULY 2, 1881
Witnesses the shooting of President Garfield in Washington, DC.
JULY 19, 1882
Attends his mother's funeral in Springfield, Illinois, who died at age 63 on July 16.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1884
His mother-in-law, Ann Peck Harlan dies at age 60 in Fort Monroe, Virginia.
NOVEMBER 6, 1884
Inherits $84,035 as executor and sole heir of his mother's estate.
JULY 3, 1885
Returns to law practice in Chicago.
JUNE 29, 1885
Serves as pallbearer at the funeral of David Davis, a close friend of his father from Bloomington, Illinois.
JUNE 16, 1887
Deeds his parents' Springfield house to the State of Illinois.
MARCH 30, 1889
Appointed by President Benjamin Harrison as minister to England.
MAY 25, 1889
Presented to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.
MARCH 7, 1890
Attends the funeral of his 16-year-old son Abraham Lincoln II (Jack), who died in London on March 5.
NOVEMBER 8, 1890
Buries his son "Jack" at the Lincoln family tomb in Springfield, Illinois.
SEPTEMBER 2, 1891
Attends the wedding of his daughter Mary (Mamie) to Charles Bradford Isham, in London, England.
JUNE 8, 1892
Becomes a grandfather when Lincoln Isham is born in New York to his daughter Mary and her husband.
MARCH 25, 1893
Resigns his diplomatic position after President Harrison's defeat and prepares to return to Chicago and practice law.
JUNE 23, 1893
Receives an honorary degree (L.L.D.) from Harvard University.
OCTOBER 7, 1896
Speaks at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, at the 38th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Becomes president of the Pullman Palace Car Company after George Pullman's death.
NOVEMBER 10, 1897
His daughter Jessie elopes with Warren Beckwith in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
AUGUST 22, 1898
Becomes a grandfather again when Mary Lincoln Beckwith (Peggy) is born to his daughter Jessie and her husband.
OCTOBER 5, 1899
His father-in-law James Harlan dies at age 79 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
JULY 19, 1904
Becomes a grandfather again when Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith is born to his daughter Jessie and her husband.
JUNE 20, 1905
Moves into Hildene, his country estate in Manchester, Vermont.
FEBRUARY 12, 1909
Attends centennial celebration of his father's birth held in Springfield.
Resigns as the Pullman Company president and becomes chairman of the board.
Sells his Chicago house and buys a house at 3014 N Street in Washington, DC.
JUNE 9, 1919
His son-in-law, Charles Isham, dies at age 65 in New York.
JANUARY 14, 1922
Retires as the Pullman Company chairman of the board.
MAY 30, 1922
Attends the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
JULY 26, 1926
Dies at age 82 at his summer estate in Manchester, Vermont.
MARCH 14, 1928
Buried privately at Arlington Cemetery at his widow's direction, despite wanting to be buried in the Lincoln family tomb.
MAY 27, 1930
His widow has their son Abraham Lincoln II reburied at Arlington Cemetery.
MARCH 31, 1937
His widow dies at age 90 in Washington, D.C.
NOVEMBER 21, 1938
His daughter Mary Lincoln Isham, dies at age 69 in New York.
JANUARY 4, 1948
His daughter, Jessie Lincoln Beckwith, dies at age 72 in Rutland, Vermont.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1971
His grandson, Lincoln Isham, dies at age 79 in Dorset, Vermont.
JULY 10, 1975
His granddaughter, Mary Lincoln Beckwith (Peggy), dies at age 76 in Rutland, Vermont.
DECEMBER 24, 1985
His grandson and last known descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, dies at age 81 in Saluda, Virginia.
Documents and Resources
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (ALA)
Lincoln Collection (LOC)
Lincoln Historical Digitization Project (NIU)
Papers of Abraham Lincoln (IHPA et al)
Robert Todd Lincoln and a Family Relationship (JISHS)
A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln (CHM/GLI)
Mary Todd Lincoln: Managing Home, Husband, and Children (JALA)
Mary Todd Lincoln Timeline*
Robert Todd Lincoln and the "Purely Private" Letters of the Lincoln Family (JISHS)
Robert Todd Lincoln: First Son, Presidential Confidant, and Civil War Soldier (ALI)
The Education of Robert Todd Lincoln (JISHS)
The Time of the Lincolns (PBS)
Willie Lincoln Death*
Bellevue Place -- Illinois*
Harlan-Lincoln House -- Iowa*
Harvard College -- Massachusetts*
Lincoln Cottage -- Washington
Lincoln Home -- Illinois*
Robert Lincoln Home -- Vermont
Robert Lincoln Tomb -- Washington*
White House -- Washington
Emerson, Jason. Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
Emerson, Jason. Mary Lincoln's Insanity Case: A Documentary History. University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Emerson, Jason. The Madness of Mary Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.
Goff, John S. Robert Todd Lincoln: A Man in His Own Right. University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
Lachman, Charles. The Last Lincolns: The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family. Union Square Press, 2008.
Neely, Mark E., Jr. and McMurtry, R. Gerald. The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.
Neely, Mark E., Jr. and Harold Holzer. The Lincoln Family Album. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Paperback Edition, Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.
Randall, Ruth P. Lincoln's Sons. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1955.
Lincoln and Gettysburg Timeline*
Lincoln Early Life Timeline*
Lincoln Family Timeline*
Lincoln Legal Career Timeline*
Lincoln Pre-Presidential Political Timeline*
Lincoln Tomb Timeline*
Mary Todd Lincoln Timeline*
*Pages created by Abraham Lincoln Online
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