Speed, Joshua F.

Born: 1814-11-14 Louisville, Kentucky

Died: 1882-05-29 Louisville, Kentucky

After receiving his education at local schools and St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, Kentucky, Speed worked in the mercantile business in Louisville. In 1835, he moved from Louisville to Springfield, Illinois, where he started a mercantile business. He became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln in 1837 when Lincoln moved from New Salem, Illinois to Springfield. Lincoln rented a room above Speed's store, and for the next four years, Speed and Lincoln lived and worked together, becoming best friends and close companions. After the death of his father in 1840, Speed sold his business in Springfield, and moved permanently to Kentucky on January 1, 1842. On February 15, 1842, he married Fanny Henning. In 1848, he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. In 1851, he moved to Louisville and acquired a large fortune in the real estate business. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Speed heartily embraced the cause of the Union. During the war, Lincoln (whom Speed frequently visited in Washington, DC), entrusted him with many delicate and important duties in the interest of the government. Speed’s and Lincoln’s friendship lasted until Lincoln’s death in 1865.

Gravestone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky; Robert L. Kincaid, Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln's Most Intimate Friend (Harrogate, TN: Department of Lincolniana, Lincoln Memorial University, 1943), 10; Susan Krause, "Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, Attorney and Client,” Illinois Historical Journal 89 (Spring 1996):35-50; U.S. Census Office, Sixth Census of the United States (1840), Sangamon County, IL, 3; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County, ed. by Paul Selby (Chicago: Munsell, 1912), 1:495; Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon, 17 September 1866, Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 342. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.