Abraham Lincoln and Buffalo, NY


The Lincoln statue was originally located in the State Court, it was commissioned by the Lincoln Birthday Association, founded by, and in honor of Buffalonian Julius E. Francis. (Charles H. Niehaus, Sculptor; 1902)

“Tens of thousands shall inhabit this country where only thousands inhabit it now.”

President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived at Buffalo’s Exchange Street Station on the evening of Saturday, February 16, 1861, while journeying to Washington for his inauguration. Today the site is occupied by a modern Amtrak station.

Lincoln was met by former President Millard Fillmore and an enormous, enthusiastic crowd. By some estimates, 75,000 citizens swarmed downtown Buffalo to get a glimpse of the new president.

After making his way through the crowds to the American Hotel, Mr. Lincoln appeared on the balcony and was welcomed by the acting chief magistrate. The site of the American Hotel is now occupied by the Main Place Mall. 

Readers may be interested to know what he said to Buffalo on that day: “MR. MAYOR AND FELLOW CITIZENS:—I am here to thank you briefly for this grand reception given to me not personally, but as the representative of our great and beloved country. Your worthy Mayor has been pleased to mention in his address to me, the fortunate and agreeable journey which I have had from home—only it is rather a circuitous route to the Federal Capitol. I am very happy that he was enabled, in truth, to congratulate myself and company on that fact.

It is true, we have had nothing thus far to mar the pleasure of the trip. We have not been met alone by those who assisted in giving the election to me; I say not alone, but by the whole population of the country through which we have passed. This is as it should be. Had the election fallen to any other of the distinguished candidates instead of myself, under the peculiar circumstances, to say the least, it would have been proper for all citizens to have greeted him as you now greet me. It is an evidence of the devotion of the whole people to the Constitution, the Union, and the perpetuity of the liberties of this country. I am unwilling, on any occasion, that I should be so meanly thought of as to have it supposed for a moment that these demonstrations are tendered to me personally. They are tendered to the country, to the institutions of the country, and to the perpetuity of the liberties of the country for which these institutions were made and created.

Your worthy mayor has thought fit to express the hope that I may be able to relieve the country from the present, or, I should say, the threatened difficulties. I am sure I bring a heart true to the work. For the ability to perform it, I trust in that Supreme Being who has never forsaken this favored land, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people. Without that assistance I should surely fail; with it I cannot fail.

When we speak of the threatened difficulties to the country, it is natural that it should be expected that something should be said by myself with regard to particular measures. Upon more mature reflection, however, I think,—and others will agree with me—that, when it is considered that these difficulties are without precedent, and never have been acted upon by any individual situated as I am, it is most proper that I should wait and see the developments, and get all the light possible, so that, when I do speak authoritatively, I may be as near right as possible. When I shall speak authoritatively, I hope to say nothing inconsistent with the Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State, and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.

In this connection, allow me to say that you, as a portion of the great American people, need only to maintain your composure, stand up to your sober convictions of right, to your obligations to the Constitution, and act in accordance with those sober convictions, and the clouds which now arise in the horizon will be dispelled, and we shall have a bright and glorious future; and, when this generation shall have passed away, tens of thousands shall inhabit this country where only thousands inhabit it now. I do not propose to address you at length. I have no voice for it. Allow me again to thank you for this magnificent reception, and bid you farewell.”

Crosby, Frank
Life of Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States: Containing His Early History and Political Career; Together with the Speeches, Messages, Proclamations and Other Official Documents Illustrative of His Eventful Administration, pp. 75-77. Philadelphia, PA: J.E. Potter, 1865.

Crosby’s book is online in full text at Google Books. Paragraphs were added for the purpose of this article.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in The Buffalo History Museum‘s Spring 2015 issue of The Album.

** For more Lincoln love join the Buffalo Civil War Roundtable as they celebrate President Lincoln’s Birthday. There will be a short program and a Lincoln orator. Join uniformed re-enactors as they perform a rifle salute on the Portico. Local authors will be present and there will also be activities for the whole family. Sunday, February 14, 2016 from 12-2pm. FREE. More info at buffalohistory.org.

Street of Shops Makeover

streetofshopssignsAbove the staircase and leading to the museum’s lower level are engraved words, “1870s Street of Shops.” This signage and the exhibit it teases were intended to endure time. For over a half century, it has done just that.

The exhibit lies within earshot of my office, from which I have listened as thousands of visitors have passed through the artificial streetscape. Many reminisce about their childhoods, each storefront sparking a different story. Others recall seeing the display with their parents when they were young. It became evident that the exhibit had, over time, become as much a part of people’s memories as the items held within it.

streetofshops2In recognition of this, we worked to update the Street of Shops while maintaining its history and charm. The exhibit now boasts a new paint job, with colors inspired by late 19th century paint swatches preserved in our library. A newly installed ceiling painted as the sky adds to the display’s immersive ambience. The most notable change, however, is the space formerly occupied by our Buffalo Savings Bank display which has been transformed into a family-friendly interactive photo studio. 

BfloBlissCutieThe newly added space, Bliss Bros. Studio, was inspired by a longstanding and well-respected photography business which first opened on Main Street in 1861. For over 50 years, the Bliss family produced some of the city’s finest portraits and landscapes. Now, the story of their business will be shared with our visitors.

bflobliss2Inside the studio, guests are encouraged to dress up in vintage clothing and pose in front of our custom made backdrop to create their own vintage portrait. Images may be shared via social media by using the hashtag #buffalobliss. When at the Museum, visit our new studio, take your picture (or a “selfie” as it were) and join in on the fun while being a part of continuing story of photography.

Anthony Greco
Director of  Exhibits & Interpretive Planning

(This article was featured in our Summer 2015 issue of “The Album“. TBHM’s quarterly newsletter)

Spotlight Artifact: Pacemaker

From the TBHM Collection Medtronic Minneapolis, MN 1965

From the TBHM Collection
Minneapolis, MN

In 1958, Dr. Wilson Greatbatch of Clarence, NY invented and patented the lifesaving cardiac pacemaker. Dr. Greatbatch worked alongside Dr. William M. Chardack and Dr. Andrew A. Gage to create the device and it was first used in humans at Millard Fillmore Hospital in 1960. The variable rate/variable output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker and the fixed rate/fixed output artificial implantable cardiac pacemaker, which are shown in the photograph above, are on permanent display in the Bflo. Made! Exhibit. These two medical marvels are perfect examples of the ingenuity and inventiveness that Western New York has to offer.

Dr. Greatbatch founded Wilson Greatbatch Ltd. in 1970 to develop long-lived primary batteries to fuel pacemakers. He created the lithium iodide battery system to replace the mercury batteries that powered the early models that are on display in the museum. To this day, both the pacemakers and the special batteries that meet the particular needs of the pacemaker’s pulse generators are made by Wilson Greatbatch, Ltd. in Clarence. Dr. Greatbatch’s exceptional inventions maintain a profound, global impact in our lives.

– Rebecca Justinger, Registrar

*This article was featured in the Winter 2013 issue of “The Album”

Buffalo’s Julius Francis and Mr. Lincoln

JuliusFrancisJulius E. Francis came to Buffalo in 1835 from Connecticut and ran a successful drug store business for nearly 35 years, mostly at 268 Main Street. The photo above is of his store at 16 South Division St. Beginning in 1865, with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Francis became absorbed in preserving and promoting the martyred President’s memory. He collected much Civil War and Lincoln memorabilia, but determined that there must be a national observance of Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. A bachelor, he declared that this cause was “my wife and my life.” At his own expense, Francis held the first of seven annual observances of Lincoln’s birthday. Each year until his death in 1881, he rented a hall, arranged the speakers, poets, music, essayists, and invited the public to attend free of charge and honor Abraham Lincoln.

PAB_11.14.2007 Lincoln-His two attempts to persuade Congress to establish a national Lincoln’s Birthday holiday failed and he died in 1881, having founded the Buffalo Lincoln’s Birthday Association which continued the work. In his will, he made the Association heirs to his house and lot at 145 East Eagle Street, and six $1,000 bonds. In 1901, the Association contracted with New York sculptor, Charles H. Niehaus, to create a statue of Lincoln that would grace the new Buffalo Historical Society in September, 1902. Their Francis legacy had grown to $10,000 ($221,556 in 2005 dollars), of which they spent $6,000 for the 1,200 pound bronze statue. At least one copy of this statue exists, in a park in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The chair is a copy of Lincoln’s “chair of state,” stored at the Smithsonian.

The original location of the statue was in a portion of the new Buffalo History Museum building named, “The Lincoln Room.” That room also contained the Francis Lincoln memorabilia collection. In the early 1930’s, the statue was moved outdoors in front of the South Portico of The Buffalo History Museum, where is remains today.

Lincoln’s Birthday was never designated as a national holiday (unlike George Washington’s), but was approved as a legal holiday in a number of states. Today, most people assume incorrectly that President’s Day nationally honors both Washington and Lincoln.

2006 is the 132nd year during which observances have been made in Buffalo for Lincoln’s birthday. The ceremonies are carried on in Julius Francis’ memory, also, for having the passion and the vision to celebrate one of the greatest American Presidents.

Article written by Susan Eck and featured in “Western New York Heritage Magazine”

Join us this Sunday, February 15th for President Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration!

My Collecting Passion

Part of TBHM Bill's Collection

My first pack of Football Cards

My passion for collecting began as a young boy when I bought my first pack of football cards in 1965. When I opened the pack to see a Buffalo Bills player on the 2 ½” by 4 ½” card with a pink background and smelled the fresh Topps chewing gum, I immediately fell in love with the idea of collecting cards and the thrill of discovering which players would be inside each pack. This thrill was addictive to me as a young boy, and coincided with my intense interest in football I picked up from my grandfather Cy Sanders, who played college football for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. Those interests combined with me watching the AFL Champion Buffalo Bills on television and my passion was born. This collector’s passion continued to grow each week as I received my $.25 allowance and rushed to the corner store, on the same city block as my elementary school, to buy another pack of Topps cards.

My first football game

My first football game was an overwhelming experience. To think that I was going to see all my favorite Bills players, Jack Kemp, Elbert Dubenion, Tom Sestak and Mike Stratton that I watched on television, live, in person was almost beyond my imagination.

Part of TBHM Bill's Collection

The anticipation and excitement running through me was almost uncontrollable as I rode with my Dad in his 1964 Ford Station Wagon to my first live football game. As we neared the stadium, the concrete facade of the stadium rose up from the horizon. It seemed so big, and the sight of it made my heart race with excitement.

Walking among all the parked cars, seeing all the people grilling food, eating, throwing footballs, was an amazing sight to behold. As we got closer to the entrance gate, I noticed vendors with carts, selling souvenirs. Immediately, I ran to one of them to get a close up of what they were selling. After reviewing all of the items for sale, I begged my Dad to buy me a bobble head doll and a pennant. Luckily he relented, and my collecting passion grew. I thought this experience was just as good as, if not better than, getting packs of football cards.

Part of TBHM Bill's Collection

Upon entering the stadium, I saw another vendor standing next to a few boxes, yelling “Get your program, get your game program, only $.50.” Again, I begged my Dad to buy me a program, which he did. I must have leafed through that program at least a thousand times, until the pages became dog eared. Incidentally, I now own every program from every Bills game.

Following the game, a Bills victory that solidified my attachment to the team forever, I returned home and placed the bobble head doll on my bedroom dresser in the most prominent spot. I hung the pennant on the wall behind my bed, so I could see it each night before going to sleep.

I still have the original three collectibles from that first game I attended with my Dad, and since 1965, have amassed the largest Buffalo Bills football memorabilia collection.

Passion for History

Part of TBHM Bill's Collection

As I went through school, I really enjoyed my history classes and was especially interested in American History. When I graduated from college my interest in American History aligned well with my Buffalo Bills collecting passion. The Bills are much more than a football team to Western New York. They are a critical part of the fabric of the community and the region’s history. As I began earning my own money, I started to add to my Collection with a focus on capturing the Buffalo Bills history from their founding in 1960. I thought back to all of the football cards I had collected throughout my youth that I had left at my parents’ house when I left for college. Upon returning home and much to my disappointment, I learned that my mother had thrown out most of my football cards when cleaning house while I had been away. As I would tell her years later, she and other mothers like her (with the desire to clean) helped create an entire industry. The value of baseball and football cards has increased due to their scarcity. As baby boomers try to recapture their childhood, these cards continue to rise in value.

That setback of losing my precious football cards further fueled my passion to collect the story of the Bills history through football cards, programs, publications, and collectibles of all sorts.

Part of TBHM Bill's Collection

The Hunt

One of the thrills of collecting is “the hunt,” the passion and focus to find another collectible to add to your growing collection. The thrill of finding the item you don’t yet have makes the hunt worthwhile. I believe it is the combined passion of the hunt and the thrill of finding an item you don’t yet have in your collection which fuel the collector’s desire.

My hunting and searching have taken me to countless garage sales, flea markets, sports card shows, memorabilia shops, antique markets, used book stores, toy stores, malls, stadium shops and other collectors homes. Always on the search and looking for that elusive Buffalo Bills collectible. 

The best feeling for me as a collector is that evoked on a crisp fall morning before dawn breaks at the Clarence flea market, flashlight in-hand, hunting for Bills collectibles. Moving among the vast array of artifacts and collectibles from dealer to dealer, rooting through box after box, I then feel the thrill in finding a new Bills item for my Collection.

Before eBay came along, I scoured through classified advertisements in the Buffalo News, Sports Collectors Digest, Beckett, among others to find another collectible. In addition, I sent hundreds of letters to fellow collectors, dealers, and teams and made dozens of telephone calls networking with other collectors and dealers asking about Bills collectibles.

To obtain autographs of players, I purchased address lists and sent letters to the players’ homes. I went to the Bills annual training camp and hung out after games outside the team locker room, trying to obtain autographs. In addition, I attended many events where players were signing – commemorative dinners, card shows, book signings, and store promotions.

I have had many wonderful, memorable experiences while searching for my collectibles.

Greg Tranter
TBHM Board Member

Start Your Engines!

Last year’s 1st Antique & Classic Car Show at The Buffalo History Museum.

The Buffalo History Museum 2nd Annual Antique & Classic Car Show is nigh!

The rain or shine festivities will showcase prized autos that are true works of gleaming history, art and industry on wheels. Among the hundred plus cars anticipated (provided the weather is fair), this year introduces a special section for cars “Made In Buffalo” and will feature 1936 Pierce Arrow Coupe and 3 Playboy Motor Cars.

Adding to a full day of history fun, the Museum is offering free admission, free docent led mini- tours… And, what’s an event without food? Bring your own picnic or nosh on the old fashion menu of favorite festival foods while chillin’ out to the ‘Hit Parade’ tunes by DJ ICE!

Nalina Shapiro from Channel 4 – WIVB will host the awards ceremony portion of the event.

nalina shapiro

News 4 Buffalo WIVB Nalina Shapiro

WHEN: Sunday, August 3, 2014
TIME: 12 noon – 4 p.m.
COST: Museum admission and show are free
WHERE: The Buffalo History Museum
One Museum Court (Elmwood Ave. and Nottingham Terr.)

Since our parking lot is filled with show cars, there is parking along the park edge and additional parking can be found in McKinley High School lot at 1500 Elmwood, just across the street and a half block north of the Museum

By the way, if you have a show car and wish to enter: registration for cars day of event is from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. Cost is only $15. The coveted dash plaque magnets – collected by participants – will be given to the first 100 registrants.

Greetings Military History Enthusiasts!

Last fall, to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the Museum  premiered “By Fire & Sword: War in the Niagara Theatre.”   This exhibit focuses on the Niagara Frontier’s role in one of our nation’s most  formative military engagements.

Marketing Associate, Jen LaBella, demos one of the tablets.

Marketing Associate, Jen LaBella, demos one of the tablets.

This exhibit is the Museum’s most modern and interactive to date. Inside, Google Nexus tablets will use military re-enactments and green screen technology to guide guests through the nearly two and a half year campaign.

Historical narrators featured include Laura Secord, Cyrenius Chapin, General McClure, and more. The technology driving By Fire & Sword is a collaborative effort between The Buffalo History Museum and Canisius College and is funded by the Perry Memorial Fund.

Tony Greco with ceremonial headress

Tony Greco with ceremonial headress

I wish that I had the ability to see the Museum again for the first time. So much has changed. The impact and optimism of that change has grown exponentially in the community. We hope to see you will stop in for a visit. We think you’ll be happy you did.

Anthony Greco
Director of  Exhibits & Interpretive Planning

Frederick Law Olmsted’s Buffalo Park System: Drawings and Photos of the First Park and Parkway System in America.

The Civil War is over and the soldiers have returned home. The American Industrial Revolution is in full swing. The pre-war population of the City of Buffalo was 81,129. The population after the war it is approaching 117, 714.

Pratt was Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. Portrait: Collection of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Pratt was Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. Portrait: Collection of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Frederick Law Olmsted recognized the need for green space in urban areas whose lands are being covered with factories emitting soil and air contaminants. At this time Buffalo was one of the largest cities in America. A citizens’ committee, whose members included Pascal P. Pratt, Sherman S. Jewett, and Wm. Dorsheimer, realized the city’s need for open spaces and requested the landscape firm of Olmsted, Vaux & Co., to plan a park. After an initial visit the firm decided the city really needed a whole system of parks and parkways. 

Pratt became the first Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from its creation in 1869 to1879. “He will go down in history as the founder of Buffalo’s magnificent park system.”

Olmsted’s vision was to create “a City within a Park.”

The first parks designed were “The Park,” “The Front” and “The Parade.” Each park had a different purpose.

“The Park”  (1875), Richard Veenfliet  (1843 - 1922) Collection of the Buffalo History Museum

“The Park” (1875), Richard Veenfliet (1843 – 1922) Collection of the Buffalo History Museum

The Park was for strolling around the lake and down the paths that lead through woods and meadows always presenting a fresh view to visitors.

Olmsted’s design intent at The Front, however, “was not simply discovered scenery, but was artfully constructed to enhance nature.” 

The Parade (Martin Luther King Jr., Park) a 56-acre park designed by Olmsted in 1871, was intended for military drills.

Humboldt Park (formerly the Parade): revised preliminary plan. Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Brookline, Mass., December 11, 1895. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

Humboldt Park (formerly the Parade): revised preliminary plan. Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, Brookline, Mass., December 11, 1895. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

Humboldt Park (Martin Luther King, Jr., Park)
Formerly the Parade Revised Preliminary Plan, 1896. In 1896 there was no longer a need for military drills. John C. Olmsted redesigned the park. He added a 5-acre wading pool, lily pond and a sheltered dining area where one could rest and be refreshed.

South Park, Preliminary plan for South Park.  F. L. Olmsted & Co., landscape architects, Brookline, Mass., April 27, 1892. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

South Park, Preliminary plan for South Park. F. L. Olmsted & Co., landscape architects, Brookline, Mass., April 27, 1892. Collection of the Buffalo History Museum, gift of the City of Buffalo

South Park
The 155-acre South Park was designed in 1894 as an arboretum with more than 2,300 types of trees, shrubs and plant life appropriate to the Buffalo climate. A special area within the park or a large conservatory building was also planned.

Martha Neri, Archivist for Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Cynthia VanNess, Library Director of The Buffalo History Museum, organized the exhibit.

On display now at the WNED Horizons Gallery is a wonderful collection of rarely exhibited framed drawings by Frederick Law Olmsted and his firm. The exhibit can be viewed in the WNED Horizons Gallery during regular business hours until May 9 2014.

Signs from Different Times

Working in the museum’s Collections Department has given me the chance to encounter some very interesting artifacts. The same can be said for my work as the Archivist for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Buffalo. I never thought to contemplate what kinds of similar things exist in both places until the idea was presented to me.  In looking back at everything I have worked on over the years, I realized that  one type of object I had come across quite a few times were signs. It’s a funny thing to think about what a sign can really mean to a place, people, and/ or time in history. When I see a sign on a building, or on the side of a road, I don’t really think deeply about its significance. But when a sign is viewed outside of its original location, or out of context, it almost forces you to think about where it came from and its significance. Some of my most interesting research has been done because of signs.

One of the first signs I worked on at the museum was one made by a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. For history buffs like myself, researching information about important historical periods, like WWI, is usually something to look forward to because more times than not you come out knowing so much more than you knew before you started. WWI sign

For example, “TO BERLIN”:  I knew before starting my research that it was originally hung in a town in France called Thiaucourt.  What I discovered was that the town was involved in a major battle of the war, the St. Mihiel Offensive, which was led by General John “Black Jack” Pershing in September 1918. This action during the war was particularly significant because it was the first large-scale offensive action that was taken by American forces independent of the Allies. It never ceases to amaze me when I see objects like this sign which have withstood the destructive violence of war and yet find their way to places thousands of miles away. I only wish that we knew more about the man (or men) who made that journey happen.

In a city like Buffalo, there is a lot of history to look back on and reminisce about. There have been a lot of events, neighborhoods, people, and buildings that have made the city what it is. Once in a while those things come back into the spotlight and being able to look at artifacts from the past makes for an interesting comparison to the present. One area of the city that has been in the headlines for many years is the Webster Block.
 It was a timely thing, then, when I came across two street markers from the corner of Main and Perry Streets ???????????????????????????????during the time the sale to the Sabres was happening. These marble street signs were actually incorporated into the exterior of a building that sat at that corner in 1838. They were chiseled from the sides of the building at an unknown time and eventually donated to the History Museum in 1969. Not having known much about the Webster Block before working on these signs, I was unaware that part of it was located at this intersection and in doing my research, I was even more surprised to find that it had been built up all the way back in 1835 by a prominent figure in Buffalo history, Benjamin Rathbun. Just because of these two signs, I learned some very interesting information about the city I’ve lived in my whole life that I had never even thought to ponder.

It’s amazing what a sign can show you!

Sabine Fisher
Collections Assistant

Hockey Memories


One of the many tickets on display from the 1970-75 Sabres seasons.

I was probably 6 or 7 years old when I first started watching hockey. My aunt would come over to babysit my brother and me. We’d make popcorn in the air-popper and plop down on the couch in front of our now prehistoric Zenith television. It wasn’t long before my father took me to my first game. It was against Winnipeg. We sat up in the oranges. I can remember the people in front of me chanting, “Fly Home, Jets!”

Growing up in Kenmore, my friends and I played street hockey until it was too dark to see the bright orange ball. When Sega Genesis came along, NHL ’93 was one of my first games. We played every day after school. (To this day, NHL’14 is the only reason I own a Sony Playstation) I was like a lot of kids, hockey was just always in our lives.


Tim Horton’s last worn home jersey before his tragic accident.

Fast forward 20 years—

I’m on a ladder, installing into a case the last home jersey that Tim Horton wore before his tragic car accident. Sometimes I feel bad that other people can’t have my job.

Since our Buffalo Sabres exhibit opened last Friday, I have met countless people who have come in to relive some of the team’s early days. They share with me their stories. They tell me about how their first game, their favorite moments, and their favorite players. In that moment, you realize that we are all so similar. In that moment you realize that, someday, you might be in their shoes.

We all seek to share stories with one another. What better place than here?

Anthony Greco
Director of  Exhibits & Interpretive Planning

FORGING A CONNECTION: YOUR BUFFALO SABRES 1970-1975 runs through May 25, 2014
at The Buffalo History Museum, located at 1 Museum Court at Elmwood Avenue