Abraham Lincoln Sends His Autograph as a Favor to His Jewish Friend Sigismund Kaufmann

December 24, 1861

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Abraham Lincoln Sends His Autograph as a Favor to His Jewish Friend Sigismund Kaufmann
Autograph Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 357

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      Background

      "Kaufmann." When Lincoln first met the fiery Jewish refugee from the German Revolution of 1848, he knew enough German (or Yiddish!) to say that he understood that "kaufman" meant "merchant" - " and schneider means tailor." Sigismund Kauffman, however, was neither: instead, as a lawyer, he led New York's German Jews in supporting Lincoln, and cast an Elector vote for him in 1860.  It was, in fact, at a New York City reception for Republican members of the Electoral College that Lincoln (en route to Washington, on February 19, 1861) exhibited his familiarity with Judeo-German...

      How Lincoln gleaned this knowledge is easily conjectured: as a lawyer in Illinois, he had a number of Jewish immigrant contacts - including clients - and simply learned from them. Indeed, Adolphus S. Solomons, the Jewish Republican philanthropist and  name partner in the Washington firm  Philp & Solomons  - publishers, stationers, and photographic gallery - recalled Lincoln telling him a long story in which the main characters had Yiddish words for names - a Colonel Chutzpah, for one.

      On Christmas Eve, 1861, Lincoln did a favor, with this letter, for the influential representative of the German-Jewish Republican element.  “Below is the autograph for your friend,” Lincoln wrote Kaufmann, “as you request.” As a sign of special respect, he added the abbreviated courtesy title "Esquire" to Kaufmann's name - something he did, but rarely.



      Autograph Letter Signed (“A. Lincoln”), as President, 1 page, octavo, Executive Mansion, December 24, 1861. To Sigismund Kaufmann.
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      Executive Mansion
      Dec. 24. 1861

      S. H. Kauffman [sic], Esq

      My dear Sir

      Below is the autograph for your friend, as you request.

      Yours truly

      A. Lincoln.