Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Contest with Little “Tad”

Mr. Carpenter, the artist, relates the following incident: “Some photographers came up to the White House to make some stereoscopic studies for me of the President’s office. They requested a dark closet in which to develop the pictures, and, without a thought that I was infringing upon anybody’s rights, I took them to an unoccupied room of which little ‘Tad’ had taken possession a few days before, and, with the aid of a couple of servants, had fitted up a miniature theater, with stage, curtains, orchestra, stalls, parquette and all. Knowing that the use required would interfere with none of his arrangements, I led the way to this apartment.

“Everything went on well, and one or two pictures had been taken, when suddenly there was an uproar. The operator came back to the office and said that ‘Tad’ had taken great offense at the occupation of his room without his consent, and had locked the door, refusing all admission.

“The chemicals had been taken inside, and there was no way of getting at them, he having carried off the key. In the midst of this conversation ‘Tad’ burst in, in a fearful passion. He laid all the blame upon me—said that I had no right to use his room, and the men should not go in even to get their things. He had locked the door and they should not go there again—‘they had no business in his room!’

“Mr. Lincoln was sitting for a photograph, and was still in the chair. He said, very mildly, ‘Tad, go and unlock the door.’ Tad went off muttering into his mother’s room, refusing to obey. I followed him into the passage, but no coaxing would pacify him. Upon my return to the President, I found him still patiently in the chair, from which he had not risen. He said: ‘Has not the boy opened the door?’ I replied that we could do nothing with him—he had gone off in a great pet. Mr. Lincoln’s lips came together firmly, and then, suddenly rising, he strode across the passage with the air of one bent on punishment, and disappeared in the domestic apartments. Directly he returned with the key to the theater, which he unlocked himself.

“‘Tad,’ said he, half apologetically, ‘is a peculiar child. He was violently excited when I went to him. I said, “Tad, do you know that you are making your father a great deal of trouble?” He burst into tears, instantly giving me up the key.’”