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The Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Institute
Special Lincoln's Birthday Edition
Revealing Lincoln's Kalamazoo Tea Hostess!
Lincoln's Kalamazoo tea hostess was
Eliza Taggart Walbridge (1803-1866)!
How do we know?
In August of 1860, almost exactly four years after his 1856 visit to Kalamazoo, Abraham Lincoln received a letter from Michigan's U.S. Senator Zachariah Chandler inviting Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to join Chandler at the Michigan State Fair.  You can see Chandler's letter to Lincoln, which is held by the Library of Congress here.  

On August 31, 1860, Lincoln wrote back declining the invitation but recalling that he and Chandler had met in Kalamazoo with a "jovial elderly lady, and wife of an M.C. with whom we took tea. . . . "  You can see a transcription of Lincoln's letter to Chandler here.
What is an "M.C."?
In order to determine the identity of the "wife of an M.C.," it is first necessary to figure out what Lincoln meant by "M.C."  There are several possibilities: "master of ceremonies," "member of congress," "master chef," and "Marine Corps" might come to mind today.  Or perhaps, "M.C." refers to some other title that is no longer in current use.

In order to determine what Lincoln meant, the Kalamazoo Abraham Lincoln Institute's Tom George searched for the use of the phrase "M.C." throughout Lincoln's other letters and writings.  He found 45 examples where Lincoln used the phrase "M.C."  In eight of these instances, the initials "M.C." were part of a proper name, like "M.C. Meigs" (the quartermaster general of the Union army).  The remaining 37 times, "M.C." was used as an abbreviation for "member of Congress."  Never was "M.C." used to abbreviate "master of ceremonies," "Marine Corps," "master chef," or any other title.

So, when Lincoln wrote, "the wife of an M.C.," he was referring to the wife of a member of Congress.
Who was the M.C.?
At the time of Lincoln's Kalamazoo visit, Michigan was entitled to four congressional seats.  One of Michigan's congressmen was David S. Walbridge, a Republican from Kalamazoo.  Walbridge was up for re-election that year and would have been expected to participate in the 1856 political rally that brought Lincoln to Kalamazoo.  Walbridge was the "M.C." Lincoln was referring to in his letter.
David S. Walbridge, M.C. (R-Kalamazoo)
Where was the M.C.?
Congress had been called into emergency session to make a military appropriation, so Congressman Walbridge was in Washington, D.C. at the time of Lincoln's visit.  Michigan's three Republican M.C.s sent a telegram to the rally goers explaining their absence.  With Congressman Walbridge gone, Mrs. Walbridge (Eliza Taggart Walbridge) had tea with Chandler and Lincoln, as recorded in Lincoln's letter.  The tea probably took place at the Walbridge home, which was near today's Bronson Park, the site of the political rally where Lincoln and Chandler spoke.
1861 map of Kalamazoo showing "Walbridge's Addition" direclty east of the park.
Who was Eliza Taggart Walbridge?
Eliza T. Walbridge's obituary indicated that she was born in Massachusetts in 1803.  As a child, she and her parents lived in the household of her paternal grandfather, Samuel Taggart (1754-1825).  Samuel Taggart was himself a seven-term member of Congress from Massachusetts. Eliza's parents managed his household during the time of his congressional service.  Eliza and her parents later moved to New York where she met and married David S. Walbridge.  The Walbridges had three sons.  In 1842, Eliza, David, and two of their sons moved to Kalamazoo.  David served as president of the Village of Kalamazoo in 1848.  Eliza Walbridge joined the Kalamazoo Ladies' Library Association (LLA) and is found in its earliest membership roster.  The membership records of the LLA are held in Western Michigan University's Zhang Legacy Collections Center.  Unfortunately, no photograph of Eliza Taggart Walbridge has been found.  She died in 1866 and is buried in Kalamazoo's Mountain Home Cemetery.
Eliza Taggart Walbridge's headstone in Kalamazoo's Mountain Home Cemetery
An article explaining the process by which Eliza Taggart Walbridge was identified as Lincoln's Kalamazoo tea hostess, and including more information about her life, was recently published in The Michigan Historical Review.
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