Lincoln items donated

WARREN – A Warren man has parted with a priceless collection of history – including rare books, documents and paintings pertaining to former president Abraham Lincoln.

On Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, John Carroll University announced that alumnus Robert E. Heltzel Jr. donated nearly 60 pieces to the college’s Grasselli Library.

The collection includes an executive order signed by Lincoln on Sept. 5, 1863, assigning a draft quota to the Eleventh District of Ohio; an original photograph of Lincoln taken 11 days before he delivered the Gettysburg Address; a limited edition of “The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln,” published in 1928 and bound with fabric taken from the draperies that hung in Mary Lincoln’s home; and a sea letter signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward in 1863 giving permission for the New Bedford whaler Cornelius Howland to sail to the Pacific Ocean.

Heltzel and his wife, Heidi, also bestowed a $1 million gift in support of the digitization project, which also establishes the Heltzel Endowed Professorship in Economics.

Heltzel is the retired owner / president of Kenilworth Steel in Warren.

Heltzel said Tuesday evening he wanted to contribute items from his collection of Lincoln that he has accumulated over the past 35 to 40 years as an important and useful addition to the university’ rare book room.

”These will be of use to the university for its students and staff,” Heltzel said, noting all items were authenticated by the university.

In addition to being on display in the library, the collection also is digitally preserved as part of the library’s online resource, Carroll Collected.

Heltzel has been donating pieces from his collection to the school over the years. He said he plans to visit the room where the items will be housed to also see other items already on display.

”I’m glad that others will also have access to them now. Forty to 50 years from now, people will be able to have access to handsigned historic items on Lincoln,” he said.

Heltzel said he hopes his donation will also encourage others to consider giving items to their college or university.

”I hope this does raise some awareness in other people who may want to give to John Carroll University or any university,” Heltzel said.

Grasselli Library curator of special collections Charles Zarobila said, “We’re very lucky to have it and we’re very grateful that he has given it to us.”

Zarobila, who has worked with an appraiser to determine the value of items in the collection, said many of the items are extremely rare, and all are in very good shape.

“Some of the other institutions we contacted … we could tell that they were jealous of some of the things that we have, so that made us feel very good,” he said.

One of the items Heltzel donated is a complete book published by Edward Everett, the main speaker at the Gettysburg Cemetery dedication. The digitized version of the book, which also contains Lincoln’s speech, can be downloaded in PDF format. Zarobila said the book is one of the first published items to contain Lincoln’s speech.

“(Everett) talked for about two hours. Lincoln got up and talked for two minutes, and his is the address that everyone remembers,” he said. “(Lincoln) did so much to save the country back in the critical time of the Civil War.

”His ability to heal the wounds of the nation after the war and bring people together and to help the country go forward after that terrible time, I think that’s why he’s so beloved and respected.”

Zarobila said JCU students who are enrolled in history classes will visit the library and view the collection in order to supplement what they are learning in class.

In a prepared statement released after the donation, Heltzel states, “The commitment that Heidi and I have made … is really a reflection of our blessings which lead to our desire to help create opportunities for bright young men and women who are seeking a John Carroll education.

“Our gift can benefit today’s and tomorrow’s students in a number of ways that will help enrich their experiences at JCU, whether it be through scholarships or exposure to the Abraham Lincoln Civil War Collection.”