Thursday, January 31, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 2:06 PM
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:28 AM
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
News broke this afternoon of the arrest of a New York state archivist who was selling rare American documents on eBay. Daniel Lorello has been accused of stealing the documents from the New York State Library and then selling them on eBay in order to raise money for his daughter's credit card debts.
Items he is accused of selling are very rare Davy Crockett almanacs (popular in the 1840's and 1850's), Currier and Ives lithographs, and a timetable for Abraham Lincoln's funeral. Fortunately, a sharp-eyed history buff in Virginia noted the then-current auction on eBay of an 1823 letter written by Vice-President John C. Calhoun. The buff, an attorney in Virginia, did some quick research and discovered it belonged to the New York State Archive collection. He notified New York authorities, who placed the winning bid for the letter.
Officials in New York are trying to determine just how many items have already been sold and some are in the process of being returned. No mention was made if the buyers will be held responsible. A search of Lorello's home found hundreds of other rare documents. Lorello had a wide-ranging access to the documents in the collection. Thank goodness he didn't get to an exceptionally rare draft of the Emancipation Proclamation!
It's revolting and extremely upsetting when crimes such as these occur. These documents are part of our history and they belong to all of us, especially to the citizens of New York state.
If convicted of these crimes, Lorello faces roughly 25 years in prison. If he's guilty, let's hope he's sentenced the maximum time permitted under law.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 6:40 PM
I've heard of "Snakes On A Plane," but "Abe On A Plane?" While searching for some Lincoln-related news today, I stumbled upon this article. Seems that Madame Tussaud's opened a new wax museum back in the fall in Washington, D.C. and as a publicity stunt, it flew the wax figure of Lincoln in First Class on Delta Airlines from New York City to Washington.
Like most wax figures, this statue resembles, but doesn't quite "match" the photos of the historical figure being depicted. Still, it's sort of eerie. Check out the woman flying next to Abe. She looks really creeped out, doesn't she?
I always knew Lincoln operated on a "higher plane" than his political rivals. Now we have proof.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:28 PM
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:41 AM
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:21 PM
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Here's a very detailed photo I found today in the Louisville Courier-Journal (Kentucky) of the gloves that Lincoln wore on that fateful night. One can still see the blood stains more than 140 years after the fact. Also shown is the handkerchief he had that night. This photo was taken at the Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois last year. I'm not sure if the gloves are on permanent display there, on loan from Ford's, or if they are from a private collection. This photo is part of a series in today's edition of the paper.
A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how curators at Ford's Theater moving the clothing that Abraham Lincoln wore the night of his assassination from the museum at Ford's to safe storage during the renovation of the theater.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 2:40 PM
Monday, January 21, 2008
Just yesterday, I posted about the archaeological dig going on at Knob Creek, the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky. I had speculated what archaeologists might find, including glassware or plates, or even the footprint of the original cabin.
Alas, today brings news that the search for anything related to Abraham Lincoln and his family recovered nothing. They couldn't locate the true site of the original cabin at all. The only significant items found were some stone chippings from Native Americans, who would chip at larger rocks or stones in order to shape them into tools or weapons. The chippings are remainders of those items.
The archaeologists believe that development over the last 100 years likely erased any traces of the Lincoln farm. The only item known to exist from the original home is a family bible.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:08 AM
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:53 PM
Friday, January 18, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:32 AM
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Just a couple of months after the recent discovery of the "new" photographs of what is potentially Abraham Lincoln in the crowd at Gettysburg, comes the announcement tonight from the Library of Congress that "new" photos of the crowd at Lincoln's Second Inauguration have been discovered!
The website containing this article provides links to the other recently identified photographs. None are known to show Lincoln, so technically these are not new Lincoln photos. But they most certainly help historians and other researchers gain more knowledge about the events of that day, just a few short weeks before the tragedy at Ford's Theater. Per the Library of Congress web page about this discovery, Lloyd Ostendorf's indispensable "Lincoln's Photographs" (1998 edition), pages 200-201, was used to help positively identify these new photos. I just finished consulting my volume of the book, and sure enough, the curator is correct. The photos in Ostendorf's book are from a different angle than these new ones, but the building and crowd scene are identical. What an important find!
What other Lincoln artifacts are out there just waiting to be discovered? I can't wait to find out!
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 10:04 PM
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:52 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:05 PM
Monday, January 14, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:48 AM
Friday, January 11, 2008
In every presidential election cycle, much is made about the "experience" that candidates bring (or do not bring) to the table in order to sway voters. This is especially true during our current election campaign. For the first time in many decades, neither a current U.S. president nor a current U.S. vice-president is running for election to the nation's highest office.
In our current cycle, Hillary Clinton touts her experience as a "doer" in Washington and claims that she had many influences in the Clinton White House. John McCain reminds voters that he is strong in foreign policy experience. And Barack Obama is almost daily compared to Abraham Lincoln because of Obama's same lack of experience in Washington which Lincoln lacked, the implication being that limited experience is good.
Just how much should experience count in the country's decision for president? When Abraham Lincoln ran for President of the United States, his total political experience was limited to a single term in the U.S. Congress, and a handful of terms in the state legislature in Illinois. (for a more detailed recounting of his political experience, click here). He ran for U.S. Senate and was defeated. He was involved in failed businesses (although their failures were not his fault). He was a successful lawyer, but there was nothing in his background to suggest to the nation's electorate that he would go on to become such a towering figure in American history.
Other men who served as U.S. President brought enormous political experience to the White House, but were considered to be ineffective at best during their term or terms in office. A classic example is John Quincy Adams. JQA was by all accounts brilliant. He served as Secretary of State, as foreign minister (ambassador) to Russia and to other countries in Europe. Yet from the beginning of his term in office (after being elected by the House of Representatives), his presidency was a failure. Congress ignored his initiatives, supporters of Andrew Jackson were furious that Adams was chosen by the House over their candidate, and government was more or less paralyzed for four years.
Today's issue of the Albany (New York) Times Union newspaper contains a well-written editorial which addresses this very topic. It starts off talking about a man who was poorly dressed, awkward in appearance, and who had a nearly total lack of political or leadership experience. The man was of course Lincoln. It also describes how John F. Kennedy brought almost no experience to the White House as well, but how his strong and determined leadership forced the Soviet Union to remove its Cuban Missiles. Kennedy also established the Peace Corps, a true example of the good which America can do. It also tells the story of Harry Truman, a former haberdasher, and selected for office by a corrupt political machine. He had no experience, yet was selected to be Vice-President and then ascended to the presidency when Franklin Roosevelt died. Truman showed a refreshing honesty and strength of leadership during his presidency. Today, many historians consider Truman to be one of the "near-great" presidents.
I agree with the conclusion of the editorial: experience (or lack thereof) does not mean everything when we select a president. As the editorial states: "...experience is in the final analysis no substitute for vision and character."
What do you think? Feel free to add your comments.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
From Fox5 News in Washington, D.C. comes the exciting news that the official D.C. Police logs from Abraham Lincoln's assassination have come to light. In a video report, the story is told how the retired police chief of the D.C. police force has recently donated a log book to the D.C. Police museum which contains firsthand accounts of the events of the evening of April 14, 1865.
In the video, officer Kenneth Stewart, the curator of the museum, shows the log book to the TV reporter, with the specific log entries from the night of the assassination and the aftermath. It begins by relating that "Lincoln, the president of the United States, was shot at the Ford's Theater on 10th Street." It then continues:
"The excitement was great throughout the precinct...but the people were orderly and quiet..the whole force were immediately put on duty by order of Superintendent Richards"
It then continues with a poignant and sad entry:
"The gloom that overshadowed the nation by the sad occurrence deeply affected the whole force and brought many heartfelt sympathies from the nation's loss"
The log book was recovered from the trash decades ago in a precinct station and eventually found its way to the retired chief who donated it to the police museum. That's a very noble gesture on his part, because he could have sold this book for hundreds or thousands of dollars to a private collector. Now, it's available for viewing and enjoyment by everyone.
To view this news report, you'll most likely need to have Flash software installed.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:26 AM
Monday, January 7, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:48 AM
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Even in death, Abraham Lincoln could find no save haven from the plots which plagued him during his life. Today's edition of the Chicago Tribune contains a brief summary and review of a book released in April 2007 about the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln's body. The book titled "Stealing Lincoln's Body" by Thomas J. Craughwell was issued on April 15, the anniversary of Lincoln's death.
Body stealing was a fairly common occurrence in earlier times, with the stolen bodies either used for ransom money from the deceased's family or even being sold to unscrupulous medical schools. But the plot to steal Lincoln was organized by counterfeiters, of all things.
Seems as if this gang of counterfeiters had a compatriot in prison, one Ben Boyd, who was a master counterfeiter. So "Big Jim" Kenally, the leader of the gang, cooked up the plot to steal Lincoln's body and demand both $200,000 and the release of Mr. Boyd.
Thanks to some fine detective work by the fairly new Secret Service, the plotters were thwarted in the act. (It should be remembered that even today, the primary purpose of the Secret Service is to deter counterfeiters from polluting the U.S. money supply with bogus money. )
The thieves actually escaped the law for a time, but were finally captured on November 16, 1876. Unfortunately, there were no state laws against grave robbing at that time in Illinois, so the robbers were charged only with trying to steal the coffin itself. They were sentenced to one year in prison.
The photo I've included is a historical marker in Illinois on the spot of the gang's headquarters.
I had known about this plot thanks to other sources I'd read, primarily Candace Fleming's fine article in the Lincoln 140th Assassination Anniversary issue of American History magazine published in 2005. In that article, Fleming detailed not only this plot but the other struggles on how to properly bury Lincoln in his (finally) final resting place in 1901. It's a fascinating story.
The publication of Craughwell's book had escaped my notice. I'll be adding it to my ever-growing Lincoln library in the near future.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 2:46 PM
Friday, January 4, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 2:49 PM
Today's Washington Post contains an op-ed piece from Michael Gerson which claims that Democrats are in denial about Iraq. Mr. Gerson was the chief speech writer for George W. Bush until 2006, at which time he joined the editorial board of the Post.
Of course, Mr. Gerson conveniently leaves out the fact that 2007 was the deadliest year yet in Iraq for U.S. forces.
This isn't the only article which claims Bush has found his General Grant. Only time will tell if he has, but trying to imply that Bush is just like Lincoln is comical in the least. Big difference is that Lincoln had a war thrust upon him while George W. Bush chose to launch one.
Of course, that won't stop the Bushies from trying to equate their hero to Lincoln.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 12:04 PM