Cornell and the Gettysburg Address

When Alexander Bliss discovered that the manuscript copy of the Gettysburg Address he had obtained from his stepfather could not be used for his book project, he returned it to Lincoln, but asked if he might have it back again, as he had promised it to his stepfather, George Bancroft. Both the Bancroft and Bliss families ended up with Lincoln’s copies of the Address.

When George Bancroft died in 1891, his grandson, Wilder Bancroft, inherited the Address and brought it with him to Ithaca when he became a Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University in 1895. For most of the 30 years that he owned the manuscript, Wilder Bancroft lived in the faculty cottage at No. 7 East Avenue, a site now occupied by the Statler Hotel. In 1929, he sold the Address to an autograph dealer, who in turn sold it to a representative for private collectors, Nicholas H. Noyes, Cornell Class of 1906, and Marguerite Lily Noyes, who acquired the document in 1935.

In recognition of her husband’s nearly fifty years of service to Cornell and its ideals, Marguerite Lilly Noyes presented the Nicholas H. Noyes Collection of Historical Americana—including the Bancroft Copy of the Gettysburg Address—to Cornell University Library in 1949. The Noyes family has included multiple generations of proud Cornellians, starting with Frederick W. Noyes, Class of 1876, and extending to the current generation.

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