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March 26, 2001
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The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln*

The Law Library has just acquired a new electronic resource entitled The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition. This resource was a gift from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.

Background on Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Other than part-time service in the Illinois legislature and the United States Congress, law was his full-time occupation. Lincoln handled cases in almost all court levels and had three successive formal partnerships: John Todd Stuart (1837-1841), Stephen T. Logan (1841-1844), and William H. Herndon (1844-1861). Like many of his colleagues at the bar, Lincoln was a general practice attorney and represented clients in a variety of civil and criminal actions including debt, slander, divorce, dower and partition, mortgage foreclosure, and murder.


This collection documents the law practice of Abraham Lincoln from 1836 to 1861. It includes more than 1.5 million facts about cases and non litigation activities handled by Lincoln and his law partners. Legal cases comprise the overwhelming majority of the database.

A Lincoln legal document is any record, letter, document, contemporary printed account, or after-the-fact recollection that relates directly to Abraham Lincoln's law practice during the years 1836 to 1861. Documents contained in this edition were gathered from courthouses, record repositories, libraries, and private collections all over the United States.


Cases and activities are available through a topical index that includes social, historical, and legal topics. Keyword search by subject category, participant's name, case name, date, jurisdiction, court name, judgment, etc.

Search results contain the case or activity name, a narrative description, and date. Additional information is available by clicking the "Details" button. This may include facts about a case, list of participants with selected biographies, list of documents filed and authors, as well as original document images.

More than 90,000 original multiple-page document images are included in the edition. These images can be enlarged, reduced, rotated, paged through, and enhanced, as well as printed or saved to disk.

Also notable is the Reference section, located within the online help menu, which contains: a legal glossary; a chronology of Abraham Lincoln's life; essays on Lincoln the lawyer, nineteenth century courts, and nineteenth century pleading and practice; maps of Illinois including transportation routes and court boundaries; biographies of key people; searchable page images of the Illinois Statutes of 1839 and 1856; and more.

Accessing the Lincoln Collection:

This resource is accessible from UW Law School and Law Library workstations only. To open, point your internet browser to and scroll down to Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln. Click on the title to open the resource.

A User's Manual for this resource is also available in Law Library Reserve Collection. Ask at the Circulation Desk for call number: KF/368/L52/L39/2000

* This newsletter article was adapted from material contained in the online help manual.

Written by: Bonnie Shucha
Reference & Electronic Services Librarian

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