Oliver Barrett-Carl Sandburg Papers

Institution: Newberry Library
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-255-3506
Date: 1860-1966
Extent: 4.5 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
Born in 1873, Oliver R. Barrett began collecting autographs and historical documents in his boyhood in Pittsfield, Illinois, by simply writing to celebrities and politicians, asking for their signatures. He taught himself how to set type and then distributed circulars reading "Wanted, Letters of Famous Men." By age seventeen Barrett was advertising in weekly county newspapers for autographs and documents, particularly for items relating to Abraham Lincoln such as letters, tokens, handbills, newspapers and any other miscellany. Having grown up among people who talked about the Civil War and President Lincoln from firsthand experience, Barrett developed a passion for acquiring Lincolniana that eventually resulted in one of the largest and finest private Lincoln collections of the twentieth century.

Oliver Barrett and Carl Sandburg met in 1924. The year before Barrett's death in 1950, Sandburg published the volume, Lincoln Collector: The Story of the Oliver R. Barrett Lincoln Collection, a lengthy project he claimed he wouldn't have undertaken were it not that Barrett has been his counsel and friend for so many years. Barrett's short obituary states: "Mr. Sandburg, a life-long friend of Mr. Barrett, had obtained documentation of many of his works from him."

Scope and Content Note:
Correspondence between Oliver R. Barrett, lawyer and collector of Abraham Lincoln material and poet Carl Sandburg, primarily pertaining to the interest of both men in Lincoln, plus a few other letters of Oliver Barrett and his son Roger; numerous brief undated notes from Sandburg to Barrett and work notes on Lincoln's biography by both men; copies of several articles and numerous poems by Sandburg; miscellaneous printed items relating to Sandburg, his work and his public appearances; and photographs of Sandburg and Barrett. Also, a large collection of stereographs (scenes of the American Civil War, world views and many slides of Chicago before and after the fire of 1871) and cabinet and carte de visite portraits.

Related Material: None