Student Finds Rare Lincoln Fingerprint

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A student at Miami University has discovered what experts say is a fingerprint belonging to Abraham Lincoln from nearly 150 years ago.

Lydia Smith, a first-year psychology major from Granville, Ohio, was transcribing a letter written by Lincoln on Oct. 5, 1863, for a class project when she noticed a smudge that she suspected could be the 16th president’s thumbprint. Lincoln historians have confirmed the print.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, reviewed and confirmed the print, making it the second rare fingerprint of the 16th president housed at Miami’s libraries.

The collection at Miami includes the first authenticated fingerprint of Lincoln with a signature known to historians since it was first verified in 1957. Lydia Smith's discovery of the second fingerprint has historians taking notice.

The 1863 letter was among hundreds of miscellaneous letters stored in Miami’s Walter Havighurst Special Collections section of King Library and uncovered this fall. With this find, the university now owns four Lincoln letters, all of which are part of a larger collection of Lincoln-related items donated to Miami in 1967 by alumnus William A. Hammond (’14) who had spent 30 years collecting Lincoln-related items.

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