Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, enjoyed going shopping in Manhattan. Actually, she enjoyed it so much that reporters started following her around into shops. She was addicted to most modern clothing at the time, such as gloves, lavish gowns, and cashmere shawls, along with some expensive gems like diamonds and pearls.

In fact, she was so addicted to going shopping that she used some of taxpayer money out to buy things with at shops. She also thought that a good use of the federal funds would to be to redecorate the White House using it. She brought the idea of redecorating forward to congress, who approved and gave a $20,000 limit.

Mrs. Lincoln’s redecorating exceeded the congressional appropriation by over $6000. Mrs. Lincoln sought help from Benjamin Brown French, federal Commissioner of Public Buildings.  Mary wanted him to talk to the president, and try to persuade him to give his approval to the bills.

Benjamin went to see Abraham, but he refused to give approval of the bill. He said, “It would stink in the land to have it said that an appropriation of $20,000 for furnishing the house had been overrun by the President when the poor freezing soldiers could not have blankets, and I would pay out of my pocket rather than put his name to the bill!”.

Mrs. Lincoln had never told her husband how much money she had spent when he died. She said that, “If he knew that his wife was involved to the extent that she is, the knowledge would drive him mad. He is so sincere and straightforward himself, that he is shocked by the duplicity of others.”.

When Abraham died, Mary was roughly $27,000 in debt to various shop owners in Pennsylvania and New York. With no way to resolve this debt, she tried a multitude of things to get out of it, including having Mrs. Elizabeth Keckley attempt to sell her clothes anonymously in New York City in 1867.

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