4 Replies Latest reply on Oct 24, 2018 12:06 PM by V. Van Hyning (formerly of By the People LOC)

    Are all past presidents’ records part of the National Archives?


      I’m looking for information on Abraham Lincoln. Does the National Archives hold his records? If not, who does?

        • Re: Are all past presidents’ records part of the National Archives?

          While the National Archives holds records produced during all Presidential administrations (for example, the records of the State Department and other departments), it does not hold the papers produced by Presidents before Hoover.


          Look to the Presidential Libraries for papers of President Hoover and those after him; papers of earlier Presidents are held at various institutions, listed here: Other Places to Research Presidential Materials


          One resource for digitized copies of Abraham Lincoln's records is the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project.

          2 people found this helpful
          • Re: Are all past presidents’ records part of the National Archives?
            Maarja Krusten Adventurer

            Hi, Holly,


            Why all past presidents' records aren't part of NARA's holdings is a great question for which archival records provide some interesting insights!  Until the passage of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) in 1978, presidential papers by custom were considered personal property.  The U.S. National Study Commission On Records And Documents of Federal Officials (1974-1977) examined a number of government records issues, among them whether the practice of private ownership of presidential records should continue.  If you're interested in archival records about the change from private to statutorily mandated public ownership, check out the good summary and finding aid information at the NARA administered Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.  You'll also find good results on the work of the 1974-1977 Commission by searching The National Archives Catalog.    A chapter written by Trudy Huskamp Peterson for a NARA publication and included among Archives History Sources places the work of the Commission and the passage of the PRA in historical context:  https://www.archives.gov/about/history/sources/peterson.pdf.





            2 people found this helpful
            • Re: Are all past presidents’ records part of the National Archives?

              Hello Holly,


              We apologize for this late response, but we wanted to tell you that the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds a large collection of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.  Most of the collection was obtained from his son Robert Todd Lincoln.  It dates from 1774 to 1948 and contains over 40,000 items in 221 containers and 5 oversized boxes.  The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and other papers relating to Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War. 


              In 1959 the Library of Congress issued a reproduction of the collection on 98 reels of microfilm, and an index to the correspondence in the collection was published in 1960.  You can view the _Index to the Abraham Lincoln Papers_ online at

              < http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/scd0001/2010/20101124004al/20101124004al.pdf > (in .pdf format) or <  http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=gdc3&fileName=scd0001_20101124004alpage.db > (in web format).  Please note that the items in the collection are generally arranged by date, and the index is organized by the names of those with whom Lincoln corresponded.  The index cannot be used for subject searches, except for documents authored by Lincoln and listed under his name.


              In November 2017 the Library mounted a new, color presentation of the digitized Lincoln papers on its website at < https://www.loc.gov/collections/abraham-lincoln-papers/about-this-collection/ >.   The new presentation is described in a press release at < https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-17-168/papers-of-abraham-lincoln-now-online-in-full-color/2017-11-08/ >.


              On that site, transcriptions of selected documents are available through the “Show Text” button beneath the document heading, and just above the document image.


              Many of Lincoln's writings have been printed in _The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln_, a nine-volume set, with two supplements, sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Association and edited by Roy P. Basler (New Brunswick, NJ:  Rutgers University Press, 1953-55).  The _Collected Works_ is available in a fully searchable form online at < https://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/ >.


              We hope that this information is helpful.


              Reference Staff

              Manuscript Division

              Library of Congress

              3 people found this helpful
                • Re: Are all past presidents’ records part of the National Archives?

                  For anyone who is interested in transcribing papers within the Abraham Lincoln collection, please join us on crowd.loc.gov, a new crowdsourcing website launched at the Library of Congress today, October 24, 2018! To start with we've released three tranches of letters and other content sent to Lincoln during his lifetime:

                  1. 1830-1839: First forays in politics and law
                  2. 1840-1849: Marriage, family, politics, and law
                  3. 1850-1857: death and birth of children, and re-entry to politics

                  As we add more material to the "Letters to Lincoln" Campaign you'll see changes here. The Campaign contains a total of some 28,000 pages of the 40,000 in the collection, which Bruce Kirby describes above. We're also hosting an ambitious Challenge, and hope that you'll join us! We want to see if our volunteers can transcribe all 28,000 pages from the Campaign, which will be returned to the Library of Congress's catalogue in order to make the entire Lincoln collection word searchable. Volunteers' transcriptions will join existing transcriptions of most of the materials in Lincoln's own hand, which were created by volunteers from Knox College.


                  There's so much exciting material in the Letters to Lincoln challenge, and the papers touch on just about every aspect of Lincoln's life. Join in! What will you discover?