Rare Idaho Document to Be Displayed at Statehouse Friday, Feb. 8

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President Abraham Lincolns appointment of William Wallace in March, 1863.
  • President Abraham Lincoln used this document to appoint William Wallace governor of the newly created Idaho Territory in March 1863.

When Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho Historical Society, stands before the Idaho Legislature's budget writing committee Friday morning, her annual budget presentation will include a fascinating and rarely seen document that is part of the State of Idaho's archives.

"For the past five years, we've brought along some items from the archives that have really grabbed a lot of attention," Gallimore told Boise Weekly. "We've brought the Idaho State Constitution and some of the original artwork of the Idaho Seal."

But Friday's show-and-tell may be the most fascinating and relevant in this, the sesquicentennial year of Idaho's founding: the original 1863 document appointing William Wallace as Idaho's first territorial governor. Citydesk got a glimpse of the two-sided document Thursday afternoon as Deputy State Archivist David Matte was putting the finishing touches on the presentation.

The document confirms Wallace's appointment to head what was then considered the largest territory in America, including all of the present states of Idaho and Montana and most of Wyoming. Shortly after the signing, Wallace returned to Idaho, but had to travel first to New York, then by ship through the Isthmus of Panama, around to the Pacific Coast and then north to Lewiston, which was supposed to be Idaho's capital. But by the time Wallace returned to Lewiston in July 1863, he found that much of that city's population had shifted south to the Boise Basin.

Wallace went on to be Idaho's first delegate to Congress, winning an election by 367 votes. He served one term as a territorial delegate before returning to the West. He died in 1879.

The unique document is affixed with a red seal.

"That's where the term 'red tape' came from," Matte told BW. "To this day, they still sell pieces of red tape in the gift shop at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C."

Janet Gallimore, executive director and David Matte, deputy state archivist of the Idaho State Historical Society hold original Lincoln appointment of William Wallace.
  • George Prentice
  • Janet Gallimore, Idaho State Historical Society executive director, and David Matte, deputy state archivist, hold the original Lincoln appointment of William Wallace.

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