Commander in Chief & Great Emancipator


Robert Todd Lincoln and the Smokers Club at Harvard. [1860-1864]. Photograph.

Dubbed the “Prince of Rails,” Robert Todd Lincoln was the eldest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln and the only one to outlive his parents.  Robert spent little time in the White House, since he was enrolled at Harvard when his father was elected president.  Robert, who graduated in 1864 ranked thirty-second in a class of ninety-nine, is shown here (second from right with cigar) with Harvard classmates who formed a smoking club.  On 9 December 1862, Lincoln was notified by the president of Harvard that Robert was “publicly admonished for smoking in Harvard Square after being privately admonished for the same offense.” (It is not known how Lincoln reacted to the letter.)  After graduation, Robert served on General Grant’s staff as a captain.  He later became a successful lawyer, served as secretary of war under presidents James A. Garfield and Chester Alan Arthur, minister to England in President Benjamin Harrison’s administration, and, from 1901 to 1911, as president of the Pullman Palace Car Company.  Robert was a life-long Republican who was mentioned as a potential candidate for president during the 1880s.  In 1868, he married Mary Eunice Harlan (1846-1937).  Robert had his mother committed to a private institution for the insane in 1875, for which she never forgave him.

HUPSF Smokers Club.   Harvard University Archives.