Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Inside the White House: The Lincoln Bedroom

The Lincoln Bedroom is perhaps one of the most famous rooms in the White House. It's part of a guest suite in the southeast corner of the second floor, and while it's technically part of the family quarters, it is as well-known as many of the State Rooms.
The Lincoln Bedroom in 1962, during the Kennedy Administration. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain.
Many assume Lincoln slept in the room, using the furniture inside, but he did not. The famous, gigantic bed (eight feet by six feet) was one of many furnishings purchased by Mary Todd Lincoln, along with the marble-topped table in the room, and these two items were kept in what was then called the Prince of Wales room down the hall. Mrs. Lincoln had purple drapery added to the bedstead. 

Lincoln slept in another bed in another room, which has since been converted to the Private Dining Room and Family Kitchen.

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President Lincoln. Public Domain
And this particular room was used by Lincoln as presidents had used it since 1825--as an office.

During Lincoln's presidency, the walls were covered in dark green and gold wallpaper, and a green carpet covered the floor. Books and papers piled on the tables, and maps to help plan military strategy for the Civil War were tacked on the walls alongside paintings. Two large wicker baskets held debris, often to overfloweing. Here, Lincoln met with military leaders as well as every day folks.

Lincoln also issued the Emancipation Proclamation in this room September 22, 1862 (it went into effect January 1, 1863). An engraving of the 1864 painting, "First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation," now hangs in the room (the original is in the Capitol Building). 

Emancipation proclamation.jpg
"First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation" by Francis B. Carpenter, 1864. Public Domain
The Presidential office was moved to the West Wing in the early 20th century, and the room became a bedchamber for the president's family members or guests. 

While Lincoln may not have slept in the bed now in the room, it's believed his young son Willie, aged 11, died in the bed in 1862. Later, other presidential couples chose the bed for their master suites, including Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and Mr. and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. The Coolidges also used the bed.

in the 1950's, President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess decided to place the large bed and marble-topped table in the former presidential office. The chamber has been known as the Lincoln Bedroom since then.

The Lincoln Bedroom, 1985-1995. Public Domain.
The Committee for the Preservation of the White House assessed the room and its contents in 2002, and the decision was made to finance a historical refurbishing project. Using etchings, newspaper articles, a painting, and photographs of the Lincoln office to guide them, they chose a diamond-patterned wallpaper for the room. While the original paper in the room was dark green, the room was papered in creamy tones to reflect the preferences of President George W. Bush, although the diamond pattern in the paper was kept.

Duplicates were made of many fixtures and furnishings that had once been in the room, although there are some original pieces, too: the clock once sat on Lincoln's mantel, and four walnut side chairs once sat around Lincoln's cabinet table. A rocking chair from the period, similar to the one Lincoln sat in at Ford's Theater the night of his assassination, is also in the room.

Perhaps the most breathtaking item in the room, however, is a copy of the Gettysburg Address, handwritten and signed by Lincoln.

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President Obama with Peng Liyuan, Xi Jinping in the Lincoln Bedroom, viewing the Gettysburg Address, 2015. Public Domain. Note the diamond-patterned wallpaper and the restoration of purple drapery over the bed in the background--much like Mary Todd Lincoln had it.
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Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who won an Oscar for portraying Abraham Lincoln, views the Gettysburg Address during a 2012 visit to the White House. Public Domain
Sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom is considered an honor. Today, guests of the president continue to sleep in the room, no doubt cherishing the opportunity to spend the night in a place so steeped in American history, and associated with such a great man and president.


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's a Selah Award-winning author. A pastor's wife and mom of two, she loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.


  1. Thanks for the information. Too bad President Lincoln didn't actually use the bed.

    1. It's so long, it seems like he would have indeed used it, doesn't it? But it sounds as if the Lincoln's used it as a guest/extra bed, since their son slept in it while ill.

      Hope you're having a great day!

  2. Thank you, Susanne, for such an interesting article. Would love to spend a night in that fascinating White House room.

    1. I would, too, Diane! Can you imagine?!?! To be in the room where Lincoln worked... and where so much has happened. And to look upon a copy of the Gettysburg Address! Wow!

      Have a great day!

  3. Suzanne, this was a fabulous post. The pictures added so much along with all the history. Happy 4th of July!

    1. Happy 4th of July to you, too! May your celebration be rich and meaningful...and fun, too! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post!