John Nicolay

John G. Nicolay (1832-1901). Collection: Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Born in Bavaria, John G. Nicolay (1832-1901) immigrated as a young boy to the United States, and his family ultimately settled in Illinois. Nicolay’s work as a newspaper editor and a state government official brought him to the attention of Abraham Lincoln. The trust and esteem Lincoln held for Nicolay was manifested in the appointment of the young German-American as his private secretary immediately after Lincoln’s inauguration as U.S. president on March 4, 1861. ┬áThis White House assignment provided Nicolay with an eyewitness seat to most of the key political events of the Civil War, a vantage point additionally shared by John Hay (1838-1905), who was selected as the assistant private secretary to President Lincoln soon thereafter.┬áChief among John G. Nicolay’s postwar contributions was his collaboration with Hay on two works that have proved indispensable to historians of the Civil War era: the ten-volume Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890) and the two-volume Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (1894).

  • "Our worst fears are confirmed"July 21, 1861John G. Nicolay (1832 - 1901) to Theresa Bates, July 21 - 22, 1861. Manuscript. John G. Nicolay Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress