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Who Made the Dress?

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Well, the making of the dress is tough. There's a real question of whether the dress was made by Mary Todd Lincoln's favorite dressmaker who is now famous, named Elizabeth Keckley, or made by somebody else and the evidence is a little mixed. The Smithsonian got the dress back in the 19 teens from the son of Mary Todd Lincoln's cousin and the logic her was Mary Todd Lincoln after Lincoln was shot, she went back to Springfield and she gave away many of her dresses that were not black dresses since she would be wearing mourning for the future. She gave this dress to her cousin who was a really good friend of hers and who had lived in the White House with the President and Mrs. Lincoln for some six months early in his first administration. That cousin's son and daughter-in-law sold the dress to the collector and curator who donated it to the museum. When they gave the dress, they had a story about who had made it and they said it was made by Mrs. Lincoln's favorite dressmaker, the one who made most of her dresses who was an octoroon woman named Ann. Now, that's tricky because octoroon would mean I guess one-eighth part African American. That's not a category that's very used precisely in the 19th century, but certainly Elizabeth Keckley whom we know as Mary Todd Lincoln's favorite dress maker and confidant was an African American woman whose father was white and probably had other white ancestors. Her son enlisted as white in the Civil War so that may be a description of her from down the family lore.