Fido’s Paw Notes

For our teen and adult readers, we’ve created Paw Notes: fascinating facts to help you teach young readers about our past! 

How old was Fido when he joined the Lincoln family?

The busy Lincolns never wrote about Fido’s arrival. Consider:  

  • Dogs were just becoming household pets in 1855. Many dogs were wild and carried diseases like rabies, which back then was incurable. This helps explain why Mary was terrified of dogs. When a dog bit young Robert, Mary insisted Abraham take him on a long trip see a woman with a remedy thought to prevent rabies. What a relief that Robert remained well. 
  • It’s unlikely Mary would have been frightened by a helpless, cuddly puppy. Plus, Mary loved her family deeply and a playful puppy would have given them such joy! 

For these reasons, the author believes Fido joined the Lincolns as a heartwarming pup.  

When Fido followed Abraham Lincoln to the market, how did Fido carry a package?

Abraham Lincoln took a basket to market, where sellers often wrapped his purchases in paper. Springfield residents did not describe how Fido carried these packages. (How do you think he did this?) Illustrator Kathleen Gadeken thinks he transported them proudly, like this:

What was Mary Lincoln’s recipe for husband’s favorite cake?

One of his favorite desserts was Mary Todd Lincoln’s white almond cake. She baked it for him when they were courting! Here is one famous version of her recipe: 

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake1  

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour 
1 cup butter 
2 cups sugar 
3 cups flour 
3 teaspoons baking powder 
1 cup milk 
6 egg whites 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

confectionary sugar  

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.  
  • Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. Add to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Stir in almonds and beat well. 
  • Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Stir in vanilla extract.  
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn out on a wire rack and cool. When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top. 

              A basic white frosting sprinkled with almonds was also popular.  

Try baking this cake as a delicious way to celebrate Abraham Lincoln—while you read the Hugging History picture book with children! Don’t forget to include Fido, who loves “tastes”! 

(Recipe from Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary was adapted by Janice Cooke Newman and posted with the permission of BiCast Laser Company of  Williamsburg, Virginia.) 

Why did Abraham Lincoln have a fence around his yard?

Almost all homes in Springfield at that time had fences for protection. These fences kept a family’s chickens in and the pigs that often roamed the streets out! 1 

Were Abraham and Mary Lincoln good neighbors?

Yes! There are so many stories of their neighborly kindnesses. The Dallmans, for instance, lived a few houses from the Lincolns, on Jackson Street. When Mrs. Dallman gave birth to a sick baby, she was too ill to nurse him. Mary Lincoln offered to feed him, with her husband carrying the newborn between homes for these feedings. Often, when Abraham Lincoln returned the infant, he would tenderly place him in his cradle, then sit and rock the cradle gently with his foot. Despite their efforts and those of doctors, the child died. When the Dallmans returned from his funeral, Abraham Lincoln was waiting with a comforting meal Mary had prepared and placed on her finest tray. 2 

Was Abraham Lincoln kind to children?

Yes! There are countless stories of his kindnesses to children. Children, especially those with big burdens, had a special place in his heart. 

Sometime after Fido’s arrival, Mrs. Lincoln hired Lizzie Decrastos’s mother to help with laundry. Years later, Lizzie recalled Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln visiting her mother after a mule’s kick killed Lizzie’s father. When Mr. Lincoln rescued Lizzie from her big brother’s prank and nicknamed her: “Firecracker.” Little Firecracker loved going with her mother to the Lincoln’s home, because Mr. Lincoln gave her “Hossy” rides. She’d hold his hands and sit on his boot. He’d bounce her gently with this rhyme: “This is the way the lady rides, ‘Nim-Nim-Nim!’” With higher bounces he’d say, “This is the way the gentleman rides, ‘Brim-Brim-Brim!’” She’d bounce wildly, shrieking with delight, as he’d say, “This is the way the countryman rides,’ Giddy-up-Giddy-up-Giddy-up!’” 3  

What did Black residents of Springfield think of Abraham Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln lived in an integrated neighborhood. Three Black families lived within three blocks of his home and one of these families served bravely in the Underground Railroad! The neighbors respected each other. The Lincolns often hired servants, including those who were  

Black. (Mary especially needed help because each year her husband traveled for months on the circuit court.)  

Beginning in 1854, Abraham Lincoln spoke often to oppose the expansion of slavery. He emphasized the Declaration of Independence and its principle of equality for all. When the Supreme Court ruled tragically in 1858 that Blacks, whether enslaved or free, were not American citizens and had no rights of citizenship, many Black Springfield citizens gathered in protest. They declared sentiments similar to those of Lincoln: 

We take that Declaration as the Gospel of freedom; we believe in its great truth,  

“that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which 

are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” [W]e claim our rights … under this  

“… Declaration” of the Old Thirteen [Colonies]. 4 

Following Lincoln’s death, Springfield organizers invited his closest friends to walk near the front of the funeral parade. This included Billy Florville, Lincoln’s close friend and former barber and client. Billy declined, choosing instead to walk with the other Blacks at the end of the parade. Billy explained he wanted to be with “those who cared most” about Abraham Lincoln. 5 

How did President Lincoln lead America to end slavery?

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, slave-owning states in the South began to quit (secede from) the United States of America. Soon, they formed their own country, called the Confederate States of America.  

Abraham Lincoln urged Southern states to stay in the Union. When he sent supplies to help Fort Sumter, the South attacked the fort. This started America’s bloody Civil War. The war lasted four years and so many American soldiers died. President Lincoln gradually realized our just God was punishing America for the terrible sin of slavery. He would later explain this eloquently in his Second Inaugural Address.  

He determined to end slavery legally, as he protected the Constitution of the United States. He realized he could issue the Emancipation Proclamation as a temporary wartime measure to end slavery in Confederate states that were in rebellion. Many people protested, but Lincoln was certain this was the right thing to do.  

President Lincoln worked mightily to persuade Congress to approve an amendment to our Constitution to end slavery in America. On January 31, 1865, he succeeded! Congress voted for the 13th Amendment! After Lincoln’s death, states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to finally free four million slaves and permanently abolish slavery in America. 

Do you ever feel discouraged when you are trying to do what is right? 

If you do, then be encouraged by Abraham Lincoln’s example! Abraham Lincoln labored mightily to stop the spread of slavery. That’s why he twice ran to become a U.S. Senator, but both times he lost. 

Back then, Illinois lawmakers chose their state’s Senators. In Lincoln’s first race for the Senate (1855), there was no clear winner, which resulted in more rounds of voting. Soon, a pro-slavery candidate took the lead. Abraham Lincoln shocked all by directing his voters to switch to a trailing candidate so an antislavery candidate would win. Lincoln cared more about fighting 

slavery than gaining power or money for himself. Would God bless his righteous actions?  

In his second race (1858), he ran against the most powerful, pro-slavery Senator of all: Stephen Douglas. Lincoln spoke eloquently against slavery, gaining attention nationwide. When Illinois lawmakers re-elected Senator Douglas, Lincoln thought he had failed and would be forgotten.  

Then a pastor invited him to speak in New York City. Abraham Lincoln electrified that audience with his brilliant case against slavery. Several months later, the anti-slavery party met to choose their man to run for President. Lincoln realized the leading candidate would not likely win in the first round of voting. Did he recall his first Senate loss when he proposed a risky strategy? He instructed his friends to persuade attendees to promise that if there was no clear winner in the first round of voting, they would switch their votes to Abraham Lincoln.  

It worked! Abraham Lincoln won his party’s nomination! The lesson from his earlier defeat likely helped him form his winning strategy in the most important race of all. So, be encouraged. As you stand for what is right, the lessons you learn in defeat may help bring about greater victory. 


1 Information provided by Susan Haake, Curator of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in  

  Springfield, Illinois, U.S. National Park Service. E-mail interview. Sept. 3, 2021.  

2 Paull, Bonnie E. & Richard E. Hart, Lincoln’s Springfield Neighborhood. The History Press,  

  Charleston, SC, 2015, pp. 54-55. Print.  

3  Ibid., pp 85-86.  

4 Hart, Richard E., “Springfield’s African Americans as a Part of the Lincoln Community” in the  

  Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Vol. 20, Issue 1, Winter 1999, pp. 35-54.–springfield-s-african-americans-as-a-part-of-the-lincoln?rgn=main;view=fulltext

5 Algeo, Matthew, Abe & Fido, Lincoln’s Love of Animals and the Touching Story of His  

  Favorite Canine Companion. Chicago Review Press, Chicago, Ill., 2015, p. 149. Print.