The Wakefield Autograph Book: Congress in 1884


On a visit to the Faribault County Historical Society I found, on a desk that had belonged to James B. Wakefield, a noted citizen of the county, an old autograph book, of a kind commonly kept in the Nineteenth Century.  This one, however, was different.  Mr. Wakefield had represented his Minnesota district in the United States Congress, and the autographs he collected provide a fascinating glimpse into the Congress of that day.  In the book were signatures of Civil War generals, old foes, Confederate and Yankee, future governors and presidents, men who had practiced law with Abraham Lincoln, men who had voted to secede from the Union, then came back to help govern it.  Robert Smalls, a Civil War veteran and slave freed by the 13th amendment, was there to represent his South Carolina district in the days before Jim Crow.  There were men who had won Medals of Honor, and men with names like Sunset Cox and Freshwater Pool.  A snapshot of history during the days of Reconstruction.

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