The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
Born enslaved in Virginia, Elizabeth Keckley was brought to St. Louis in the mid-1840s by Hugh Garland, a lawyer who argued against Dred Scott’s suit to obtain his freedom. Though Keckly was able to purchase her freedom from Garland in 1855, a law required free African Americans living in Missouri to have a license. John Finney put up by this bond on Elizabeth Keckley’s behalf, ensuring that the applicant was “of good character and behavior.” Keckley went on to achieve fame as the personal dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln. She wrote about her experience as a “companion and confidante” of the first lady in her autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, in 1868.