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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      "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.