Friday, May 8, 2009

Field Trip - Breakfast with Mary Lincoln

This week we're going to have breakfast with Mary Lincoln. Of course it's not the real Mary, it's local storyteller Lynn Rymarz who has done a good amount of research in order to portray Mrs. Lincoln.

A wonderful local shop called The Little Traveler hosted the event which began with a light breakfast inside the antique room and restaurant area of the shop. We walked across the street to a church hall where Lynn would make her presentation.

It was quite dramatic when she was introduced and walked out dressed in full mourning. Lynn portrays Mary Lincoln at age 62 which is at the end of her life. She died at age 63.

The presentation was very interesting and the script was written to present the facts seen from Mary's point of view.

Lincoln was considered by all to be a very bad match since Mary was formally educated and from a wealthy and distinguished Kentucky family. He was deemed to be crude and beneath her status. But still, they were attracted and against all advice to the contrary they married in her sister's parlor.

Here's a vignette of Lincoln family photographs. The Little Traveler provided the table and chair which were perfect backdrops.

Mary and Abraham spent most of their adult lives as Illinois residents and there are many local connections.

At one point, after Lincoln's death, her son Robert and her friends petitioned to have her declared insane. They were successful and Mary was confined at a sanitarium in nearby Batavia, Illinois. Several years later she petitioned was released.

Her relationship with her son never recovered. All the books I have read indicate that she was quite a handful and created alot of drama for those in her inner circle. She suffered so many losses, how could she not have been affected?

If you read any first person histories of the era you will know that many, many children failed to survive into adulthood.

As a gift for his wife, Lincoln purchased a pearl necklace and matching bracelets and earrings from Tiffany's in New York.

Lynn brought a variety of books on the Lincoln's. There are some I haven't read and will be ordering from Amazon.

One of those books is a cookbook entitled "A. Lincoln Cookbook". Mary Lincoln was famous for her White Almond Cake, a recipe that had been handed down in her family.


Adapted from "Lincoln's Table", by Donna D. McCreary

6 egg whites
3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped finely in a food processor to resemble a coarse flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg whites with a mixer on a medium-high speed in a medium bowl until stiff, about 4 minutes; set aside. Sift the flour and the baking powder together 3 times in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together with a mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating after each addition. Stir in the almonds.

3. Fold the egg whites into the batter; stir in the vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 to 12 cup bundt pan. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove from pan to a wire rack; let cool 1 hour. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

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My question for Lynn after the presentation was, "What happened to the pearl jewelry?"

Well, you know I'm all about the jewelry!!!

She didn't know but after a quick search I discovered they are a part of a Library of Congress collection of Lincoln items.

I was envisioning a traditional pearl necklace but it is a seed pearl creation and quite lovely.

Photo - Library of Congress

Do not miss the Lincoln Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois. If you're interested in history or the Lincoln's, it's a must see. They have managed to bring history alive. You realize that these were real people with real problems. When we were there I caught an image of a young teenager contemplating the wax figures of the Lincoln's and I could just imagine her saying, "Wow, they were a family just like us".

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thanks for coming along to meet Mrs. Lincoln. Ms. Rymarz also portrays other historical figures including Nellie Bly, Martha Washington and Susan B. Anthony. Here's her website.

Storyteller Lynn Rymarz


Carol said...

Thanks, that was very interesting. Love history.

Lucy said...

I love the Lincolns. I just finished reading Mrs. Lincoln and was fascinated about it. Although I had read many books about her before, I still found things I did not know. My heart is out to her. She was 'persecuted' by everyone she knew. Whether it was her fault or not, I will not blame her knowing all that she went through. I could not have done it.

Susan said...

I like this post. Always was fascinated with the Lincolns. I had to chuckle when I read the recipe. I wonder what kind of food processor Mary Lincoln used to make her cake, which, by the way, sounds very tasty.

Becky said...

I read there was a new book on Mary Lincoln.....something about her insanity actually being an addiction to a drug for a medical condition...I think I saw it on Amazon. Here it is

The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln by Anne & Sabina Beidler

I think I will read it to see if it has any would explain a lot if it did.
Thanks for the trip....I'm gaga over the Lincoln's too! Becky

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

Great post... I've always been fascinated by the life of Lincoln, and Washington too. Since we are in Virginia there's great Washington history here.

Enjoy the day!
The Blue Ridge Gal

Ang. said...

I wish I could have gone to this! I haven't been to the Little Traveler since I was a kid. Getting the chance to hear some Lincoln history would have been wonderful. We plan on visiting the museum this summer with the kids as well as hitting some of the other Springfield attractions.

Ang. said...

I meant to add that sadly there are no Abraham Lincoln descendants left. Robert had 2 girls and neither of them had children (or children that survived...I can't quite remember now).

Vee said...

Isn't it fun when history comes alive this way? Thanks for sharing it with us, too. It's interesting that, as unlikely a couple as the Lincolns were, they were madly in love with each other. And, really, talk about stress and all those horrible losses. It's no wonder that she was a bit eccentric. Her cake sounds marvelous.

Significant Snail said...

That was terrific - wish I could have been along for the tour! It is always so much better to have a live presentation like that.

Lisa said...

What a great field trip. I'm so glad you did your homework & posted a picture of the necklace. It is beautiful and not at all what I expected. I had no idea there was a Lincoln cookbook ~ I am one of those people who love cookbooks...I will actually read through them from cover to cover.

JC said...

Thanks for the memories. I actually went to the museum when I was on a historical tour. It was the Summer I graduated from High School. I was 17 and far away from home. I live in WA. Haven't really thought about that in a long time. I was in awe of it.

Steph said...

I've always been interested in the Lincolns. I wrote many reports on him in school!

belladella said...

That necklace is amazing! And the Lincolns are so fascinating.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Farmchick said...

I really enjoyed this post. I live about 30 minutes away from the farm that Lincoln's father purchased when they lived in Kentucky. The park service runs the facility and they have a replica of their log cabin. The necklace is beautiful and not what I was envisioning either, but stunning nontheless.