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Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln Hardcover – March 27, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st Edition edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809330555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809330553
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“It has never been easy growing up or living in the public eye. To do so under the enormous shadow cast by our 16th president would test the resiliency of even the doughtiest character. As historian Jason Emerson details in in this richly informative biography, Robert Todd Lincoln, the only one of Abraham Lincoln's children to survive into adulthood, bore his peculiar burden with quiet grace and admirable dignity.”—Ron Reagan, political commentator and author of My Father at 100 

“Mr. Emerson’s impressive research and eye for detail yield dozens of. . .interesting though little-known historical tidbits. His writing is enjoyable and accessible...” Wall Street Journal

“A fine addition to shelves of historians and Lincoln aficionados.” Kirkus Reviews


“Well written and well researched, this book should. . .become the go-to book on the life of this interesting son of a former president. Highly recommended.”Choice


“I found this book gripping, ingeniously argued, and exhaustively investigated. I could not put it down. . . . .And I suspect that every reader with an interest in Lincoln will feel exactly the same way. For me, and for them, this book will become an essential item in the history of the era in a way that Robert himself, try as Emerson does, can never be. Emerson reminds us at the outset that Robert Lincoln never wanted to be the subject of a biography. Well, like it or not, he has one now—and a fine one, too.” Civil War Monitor

 “‘Robert’s life is a fantastic journey through a rich period of American history,’ writes Jason Emerson. And it is to his great credit as a biographer and historian that he so successfully brings Robert T. Lincoln out of history’s shadows and the times in which he lived back to vivid life.” The American Spectator

“Emerson’s biography of Robert Todd Lincoln is set within the context of Gilded Age culture, which was vastly different from that during the Civil War. His extensive and fresh research, as well as his inclusion of many never-before-seen photographs, should make this account one of choice for both scholars and Lincoln enthusiasts.”—America’s Civil War

“Jason Emerson, the premier young Lincoln scholar today, has written the definitive biography of one of America’s neglected and misunderstood leaders in both 19th- and 20th-century industry, law and politics. Beautifully written and illustrated, this is one of the best Lincoln books to appear in many years.”—Wayne C. Temple, author of Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet

“Here at last is the biography Lincoln aficionados have been waiting for. Historian Jason Emerson sweeps away a century of myths and misinformation about Robert T. Lincoln, including the musty old canard that he had no respect for his famous father and no sympathy for his emotionally fragile mother. This is an intimate, in-depth portrait that will be praised, quoted, and consulted for years to come.”—Thomas J. Craughwell, author of Stealing Lincoln’s Body

“This path-breaking biography tells the story of Lincoln’s only surviving son: a man utterly unlike his father in talent and temperament, yet who nonetheless found his own way to national prominence. Contemporaries of this reticent yet extraordinarily successful figure often referred to him as ‘Lincoln’s Silent Son.’ Now, thanks to Emerson’s thorough scholarship, Robert T. Lincoln is silent no more.”—Nora Titone, author of My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy

About the Author


Jason Emerson is a journalist and an independent historian who has been researching and writing about the Lincoln family for nearly 20 years. He is a former National Park Service park ranger at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, in Springfield, Illinois. His previous books include The Madness of Mary Lincoln (SIU Press, 2007—named Book of the Year by the Illinois State Historical Society), Lincoln the Inventor (SIU Press, 2009), and The Dark Days of Abraham Lincoln’s Widow, as Revealed by Her Own Letters (SIU Press, 2011). He lives near Syracuse, New York.


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Customer Reviews

Recommended reading if you are a lover of Lincoln.
Always Reading
Robert Lincoln deserved his own biography, as he achieved some great things in his own life.
Mark R. Brewer
Very well written and a wonderful read if you like biographies.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very good addition to the library of anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln, his wife and descendents, and his place in the nation's memory. And, of course, for anyone specifically interested in the life of Robert T. Lincoln.

Jason Emerson has written a book in clear prose that will help many better understand the one child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln who led a full life. Robert T. Lincoln was not a draft dodger during the Civil War, he was close to his father, he was not unkind to his mother, he was a success in his own right, he did many things to protect his father's papers and historical representations (for example, in paintings and sculpture).

While Mr. Emerson goes slightly overboard in his admiration of Robert T. Lincoln, he nonetheless provides much solid evidence to the kindness, judgement, and abilities of this former secretary of war, diplomat, and captain of industry.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jeff on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading biographies of Abraham Lincoln, visiting the Lincoln home and museum in Springfield, and visiting the Todd house in Lexington, I was pleased to find much more information about the entire family during Robert's young life. While it must have been somewhat difficult not to overshadow Robert in this book while a great figure in American history, Abraham Lincoln, was still alive. I think the author did very well in including Abraham while still making Robert the main focus throughout. This book was long overdue for someone who was a very accomplished man in this country, and not just because he was Abraham Lincoln's son.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Crabby Abby TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
While lengthy and extremely comprehensive, this book tracks the life and the legacy of Robert Todd Lincoln. Lincoln, the only son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, was the only Lincoln son to survive both his parents and live a long and productive life.
History has often been vague in regard to R.L.T.'s relationship with both of his parents. This book goes a long way to define his close relationship with his father and his protective stance toward his mother. It also details a very long and varied career as an attorney, businessman, statesman, very public figure, and a person in his own right who managed to step away from the long shadow of his illustrious father.
This book also manages to provide detailed information about both Lincoln and Todd ancestors and the direct line from Robert Lincoln and Mary Harlan which is now extinct. It is very well written and researched and effectively defines Robert Lincoln.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Ellen Connally on May 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Historians frequently debate how the images of historical figures are often shaped after the person's death by thier wives or decendents. Historians also look to the children of great men and women to see a legacy of greatnes. James Emerson does some of both in his aptly named biography - GIANT IN THE SHADOES - THE LIFE OF ROBERT TODD LINCOLN.

In this well written and easy to read biography Emerson chronicals the life of Abraham Lincoln's only son who survived to adulthood. At the time of his death in 1926 Robert Lincoln was the last living witness to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. He was a man that could easily have been president or vice president, senator or any other office, but he chose to pick his positions. And those he selected he did with great pride and often with great achievement.

Like his father, who never recovered from the death of his son Willie, the death of Robert's son Jack was a turning point in his life. Having been connected with the assassinations of of father, and Presidents Garfield and McKinley, it is ironic that he was ultimately buried in Arlington National Cemetery in view of the JFK gravesite.

For Lincoln scholars, students of the Civil War or readers who are interested in America during the late 19th and early 20th century, this book is well worth reading. It reveals a very different side of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and how Robert sought to create an image of his father that maintained his dignity and honor. Had Robert Todd Lincoln been a different person, we might all be seeing a different image of Abraham Lincoln.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Only one of Abraham Lincoln's sons live long enough to marry and have children. Christened Robert Todd Lincoln, he was Robert T. Lincoln in business and Bob to his friends.
He was born in a boarding house in the 1840s and died in a mansion in the 1920s. Robert Todd Lincoln saw much of and made some of America's history in the late Nineteen Century.

Jason Emerson gives us a scholarly and readable biography of a remarkable person. The book concentrates on Lincoln's public life in business and politics.
The author tells us about his private life but never descends into gossip or speculation. The only real exception is Lincoln's relationship with his mother.
For very good reasons, Robert T. Lincoln committed Mary Todd Lincoln to a sanitarium (asylum).
The press had a field day at his expense creating a very public embarrassment that still colors the public's views. The part of the book is very detailed.
The events leading up to the hearing, the hearing, the press' reaction, the solution and Mary's feelings to Robert are treated fairly.

Protecting his father's memory and managing the public record consumed large amount of Lincoln's time.
He was very protective of his father's papers, working to control what is said and who said it was not an easy task.
Part of this work was managing Lincoln's body. From the burial site, the structure of tomb and protecting the body from kidnappers is a constant effort.
While doing this, Lincoln managed to become a well-respected Chicago lawyer, Secretary of War, Minister to England and chairman of the Pullman Car Company.
An active Republican, he is mentioned as a possible candidate for President at multiple conventions.
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