Gilcrease Museum is temporarily closed for construction.

Get the Full Story

Emancipation Proclamation Broadside, 1864, signed by Abraham Lincoln / American

Essay/Description

Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln. A limited edition of 48 copies of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation were printed and signed by the President and Secretary Seward, for the benefit of the Sanitary Fair held in Philadelphia during the Civil War, to raise funds for the care of wounded Soldiers. Folder 7

Curatorial Remarks

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, in the second year of the Civil War. In a preliminary proclamation issued four months earlier, Lincoln stated that on the first of the year “all persons held as slaves” in “States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States” would be free. The Emancipation Proclamation put this declaration into effect. It named the states or parts of states in the Confederacy at the time and promised that the executive branch and U.S. military would maintain the slaves’ freedom.
Lincoln was unsure about the extent of his executive power and whether he had the authority under the Constitution to free the slaves. Eventually he saw this action as a military necessity that fell under his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. Lincoln also weighed the effect that the proclamation would have on the Union war effort in a contest that was still more than two years from being decided. His concerns included the loyalty of border states such as Maryland and Kentucky, which, even though they held slaves, had not joined the Confederacy. Would the Emancipation Proclamation force those states into the arms of the Confederacy, increasing its manpower and supplies?
Lincoln also considered Northern public opinion that supported a war to save the Union but not necessarily to free the slaves. After issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, however, the freedom of slaves became a central war aim and Lincoln stood by this position, even risking losing the election of 1864. Upon signing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln said, “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.”
Gilcrease Museum’s copy of the Emancipation Proclamation is one of the Leland-Boker authorized editions that were sold in June of 1864 at the Philadelphia Great Central Sanitary Fair to raise funds to care for sick and wounded Union soldiers. Lincoln signed 48 of these authorized copies which were sold for $10 each. Of those 48 original copies, only about half have survived to the present.

By Mark Dolph, Curator of History for the Gilcrease Museum, 2020.

You may be interested in...

Title(s): 
"Emancipation Proclamation"
Culture: 
American
Date: 
June 1864
Materials/Techniques: 
ink on paper
Classification: 
Accession No: 
5326.801
Department: 
Not On View

Our Online Collections site is a work in progress. If you have information about this item that may be of assistance, please contact us.