Skaneateles Myths about Robert T. Lincoln abound. Jason Emerson, historian, editor and author, has demystified those myths through his recently released 750 page book, “Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln.” Emerson spoke about his book April 24 before a large audience at the Skaneateles Historical Society Museum at the Creamery.
He began by saying, “Robert stood apart from his family, hated his mother, destroyed some of his father’s papers. This is the typical portrayal and it is not true.”
The audience settled in as Emerson set the record straight about the son of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. “He was in my opinion a great man. He not only protected his father’s history, he made his own history. He was the oldest of four sons, the only one to survive to maturity. He was Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Harrison, a self-made multi-millionaire who died in a 25-room Georgian mansion in Manchester, Vermont,” the historian said. “He was the owner of all of his father’s papers and manuscripts from 1866 until his death in 1926. Every day Robert received hundreds of letters. Every day he answered them all. He was a true Victorian gentleman.”
Emerson has spent 20 years engrossed in study and research of the Lincoln family. He has worked as a National Park Service ranger at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois and Gettysburg National Military Park. His latest book is his fourth focusing on the family and in August another will debut, “Mary Lincoln’s Insanity Case: A Documentary History” published by University of Illinois Press. However, it is the Robert T. Lincoln biography published by Southern Illinois University Press that is catching current attention.
For the past ten years, Emerson has traveled the United States in search of Robert’s history to uncover the facts. Considered an expert on the Lincolns, he has been featured on the History Channel, C-Span and Book TV.