Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mr. Lincoln On eBay

It's time once more to stroll through the land of eBay, looking for items associated with Abraham Lincoln. It's one of my favorite pastimes (and vices) for one never knows what one will find. At any given time, there are at least 700-800 items found by searching for "Abraham Lincoln." Items ranging from priceless letters signed by Lincoln to photos to just plain weird things can be found. Without further adieu, here is a sampling of the current Lincoln items.

  • An Abe Lincoln electric guitar? Hand carved body with Abe's face, American and Rebel flags, text, etc. Unusual. I'd be tempted if I played.

  • An old Harper's Weekly issue describing Lincoln's death and funeral. It's here. Has lovely sketches of the funeral in Springfield, Illinois. Front cover shows one of the conspirators, Lewis Powell (Payne).

  • Abe and his family paper dolls. Would be interesting for children, I guess.

  • A rare complete set of the classic 10-volume biography of Lincoln written by John Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretaries in 1890. This is a first edition set and is therefore quite expensive. These books are leather, making the set even more valuable.

  • A rare 1860 Lincoln campaign "Rail Splitter" medal. I don't know much about such medals, but they are interesting and quite desired by collectors.

  • A cool piece of sheet music from the 1860 campaign. Titled "Honest Old Abe's Quick Step" and written for piano. Quite nice.

  • Abe on a watch. A bit on the tacky side, but kind of interesting. Contains the famous "head on" photo which in my opinion is the best Lincoln photo.

  • A reprint of the supposed "last" photo of Lincoln. No, no, and NO! This is a common misconception. I'll have to address this in a detailed posting. Folks, this photo was not taken on April 10, 1865 as long believed. It was taken in February 1865 and another photo session was held in March 1865 in the White House.

  • Finally, the most expensive Lincoln item being offered at this point on eBay. This document is a signed endorsement by Lincoln, asking someone for help in finding a gentleman a job. Estimated to sell at live auction for $4000-$6000. Heritage Auction Galleries has wonderful items, but it can be frustrating to deal with the business. I bought once from there and it was a hassle with conflicting emails, etc. Still, you'd not find too many other galleries in the U.S. with nicer (and more expensive!) Lincoln items.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Teaming To Bring Lincoln Artifacts To Washington

I've posted several items in recent months about the impending closure of the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The museum has unfortunately suffered from years of declining attendance and Lincoln Financial, the owner and operator of the museum, has said enough. The closure date is in a few days.


Several groups and institutions across the country hope to be the ultimate winner of the "contest" to see who will house this remarkable trove of Lincoln items. Announced today in The Washington Post is a teaming arrangement between The Library of Congress, Ford's Theater, The National Museum of American History (Smithsonian), and The Lincoln Cottage, the former Soldiers' Home in Washington. This arrangement will no doubt provide formidable competition to the other major institutions, such as The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.


Representatives of this teaming arrangement make the claim that Washington, D.C. is the most logical city to house this priceless collection. After all, Lincoln lived in Washington while president and was of course assassinated and died there as well. Indeed the leader of the group states that no other institution in America can match the visitorship and financial backing of the team in Washington.


The final decision by Lincoln Financial is by January 2009. I'll keep my readers posted.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Visit The Lincoln Museum In Harrogate, Tennessee


I've posted previously about the Abraham Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois and the unfortunate closing of the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But did you know that a Lincoln Museum exists in the state of Tennessee? It's true.

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is located on the grounds of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, located about 55 miles northeast of Knoxville. The present building was open in 1977 but the university has held important Lincoln artifacts since the 1920's. Included in the museum's collection are photos, books, rare diaries pertaining to Lincoln, scrap books, letters, and so forth. This link provides a nice list of the items in the museum's collection, each item fully described.

I've been to the museum, but it was many years ago, perhaps only after it had recently opened. The museum can't compare to the "glitz" of the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, but it is still a valuable source of information for the Lincoln enthusiast. If you visit, you will not be disappointed!

Mary Todd Lincoln And Her Madness


One of the more important books associated with Abraham Lincoln to be published recently is The Madness Of Mary Lincoln, written by Jason Emerson, a young independent historian currently based in Virginia. As you might guess, the book deals with the mental problems Mrs. Lincoln exhibited during her lifetime, especially after the death of her husband. Eventually, these problems led to her commitment to a mental institution by her sole surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

On June 14, 2008 I had the great pleasure of attending a lecture and book signing given by its author at the National First Ladies' Library in my hometown of Canton, Ohio. Since I live only 5 miles from the library, I would have been remiss to not attend. I'm glad I did!

During the lecture, Mr. Emerson told the fascinating story behind his discovery of 20 letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln's mental problems, of which many were written by Mary herself. These letters were long thought to have been destroyed by the Lincoln family, either by Robert himself or by descendants. Instead, the letters were tucked away in a trunk owned by the son of Robert Lincoln's personal lawyer, where they lay unknown to historians for many decades. The lawyer's families are to be commended for donating these documents to the Library of Congress, where they are available to anyone who wishes to read them. Mr. Emerson thoughtfully has included the text of each of these letters in his book.

Mr. Emerson also told the lecture audience how debate still goes on today over Robert Lincoln's actions in committing his mother to the mental hospital. Some believe he did so in order to keep his mother from spending his inheritance and that he was cold-hearted with her. But Mr. Emerson strongly believes that Robert did so in order to save his mother from herself. While she was in the asylum, Mary had privileges to come and go as she pleased for shopping and other excursions. She was apparently treated very well in the hospital. However, it's also true that for at least five years, Mary refused to have any relationship at all with her only surviving child.

He has come to the conclusion, along with the professional opinion of a psychiatrist, that Mrs. Lincoln suffered from bipolar disorder, formerly called "manic depression." He pointed out to the audience that almost anyone would be derailed by the deaths of 3 children plus being present when your spouse is murdered in cold blood. Emerson also told how his research indicated that at least 11 of Mrs. Lincoln's relatives suffered from some form of mental illness. And it seems that Abraham was the only person who could keep Mary relatively calm and "sane" throughout her life.

The lecture was very enjoyable and quite informative. I found Mr. Emerson to be engaging, witty, and open to questions and discussion about the topic at hand. The lecture was well worth the admission price of only $5.00. His next books are about Abraham Lincoln's invention for flatboats (for which Lincoln held a patent, the only president to do so), and a biography of Robert Todd Lincoln.

The Madness Of Mary Lincoln has won the 2007 Book Of The Year award from the Illinois State Historical Society. It has also been named to the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop's (Chicago) list of essential Lincoln books. You may find more information about Jason Emerson at his website. An excerpt of the Madness may be found here, courtesy of the Cleveland (Ohio) Civil War Roundtable.

I've not yet had the chance to read this book thanks to my recent vacation, but I look forward to doing so soon.

The Abraham Lincoln Blog Returns!



After a much-needed vacation, The Abraham Lincoln Blog is resuming posting. I've included this photo of the nation's greatest president because it shows him with a rare smile and I have such a smile after my week in South Carolina and Georgia. I'll be posting about my visit to Charleston, Fort Sumter, and Savannah (Georgia) later in the week.

It should be noted that many people still believe that this photo is the last photo ever taken of Lincoln. It was traditionally thought that this photo by Alexander Gardner was taken on April 10, 1865, only four days prior to Lincoln's assassination. That's not the case.

The above photo was actually taken in February 1865, as clearly stated in John Hay and John Nicolay's Complete Works Of Abraham Lincoln, a 10-volume biography. The final photo of Lincoln taken in life was shot in March 1865 on the White House south portico and is shown below.



For more information about these two photos, please click here at the wonderful Abraham Lincoln Research Site.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Abraham Lincoln Blog Takes A Vacation

Abe looks a bit frazzled and in need of a vacation in the above photo. I can relate and I'm heading on vacation beginning Sunday 6/15.

My destination is the hotbed of the former Confederacy, South Carolina. I'm going to visit an old high school friend of mine. She lives just outside of Charleston, which I've not visited, and my itinerary is to include a visit to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. We're also going to visit Charleston itself as well as Savannah, Georgia. I will definitely need to keep my pro-Lincoln views to myself while in Rebel territory. I'll post some photos and impressions of my trip.

Upon my return, I'm going to post a review of an outstanding lecture I attended today presented by the author of "The Madness Of Mary Lincoln." The author describes Mary's outbursts, symptoms, institutionalization, and suggests that she suffered from bipolar disorder. The lecture was presented at the National First Ladies' Library, right here in my home town of Canton, Ohio. I of course could not miss it!

The blog will take a one week hiatus, but I'll be posting again next weekend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hartford Connecticut Dedicating Lincoln Sculpture Garden

Hartford, Connecticut is in the process of installing a series of 15 sculptures and statues dedicated to Abraham Lincoln along its riverfront. The above statue of Abe greeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (and a native of Hartford) is one of those statues which represent various events in Lincoln's life.

The sculptures are meant to attract visitors to the riverfront in Hartford. Just a few years ago, the riverfront was run down and ridden with crime. But the area has seen a rebirth and is today visited by more than 900,000 people annually.

Just two of the pieces of art actually depict Lincoln. The others are abstract sculptures representing Lincoln's support of the Transcontinental Railroad, his openness in meeting with people, and so on. The link I provided in the first paragraph contains a link to photos of the various works.

The sculpture walk would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the Lincoln Financial Group, the same company closing the famous Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Lincoln Financial donated $500,000 to the walk, to be not-so coincidentally called the Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk at Riverfront. Why the company has chosen to support this project in Hartford while closing the museum in Indiana is anyone's guess.

The walk is to be dedicated on June 18, 2008. Eventually, the city hopes to install another 30-40 sculptures along the waterfront.

Update About Lincoln Museum Collection

In March of this year Lincoln Financial Group announced it is closing the famous Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The museum houses an extraordinary collection of Lincoln memorabilia, including books, manuscripts, photos, and other unique pieces associated with the nation's 16th president. It's served as a invaluable repository of information for Lincoln scholars, researchers, and fans. Unfortunately, the museum has suffered from declining attendance and a company which values the financial bottom line over corporate good will.

According to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the state of Indiana and Allen County (where Fort Wayne is located) have put together a strong proposal to keep the collection in Indiana. A group headed by retired Lincoln Financial CEO Ian Rolland spearheaded the package presented to the company.

While the group feels it has made a strong case, it's up against formidable competition. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois are it's chief rivals to take over the collection.

However it turns out, it appears that the general public will be able to get access to the collection and in the final analysis, that's what really counts. Let's hope it stays in Indiana, where it has resided for decades.

To access my other postings about this continuing story, click here and here.

Idaho Lincoln Statue Moving To State Capitol


From the Spokane (Washington) Spokesman-Review comes an interesting story about how a statue of Abraham Lincoln might be the oldest such statue of Lincoln in the American west. The statue, dating from 1915, is going to be moved from the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise to a much more prominent location on the grounds of the state capitol there. The statue will be re-dedicated at the capitol on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, February 12, 2009.

The statue is life-sized (6 feet 4 inches) and was dedicated on February 12, 1915. It is one of seven Lincoln statues sculpted by a fellow Ohioan, Alphonso Pelzer, and was presented to the state of Idaho by the Ladies of the Grand Army Of The Republic of Idaho.

The statue has long suffered from neglect, primarily affecting the sandstone pedestal. A penny drive is going to be held in Idaho public schools in order to raise money to pay for the restoration and move of the statue. Once restored and moved, the statue will be featured along a prominent lane by the state capitol building.

According to several books dedicated to documenting public statues and monuments to Lincoln, this statue is the oldest one in the American west. A statue of Lincoln had been erected in San Francisco in 1866, but it was destroyed in the great earthquake and fire of 1906.

Lincoln signed the bill creating the Idaho territory in 1863 and also helped to choose the name of the territory. In addition, he appointed the first governor of the territory.

Congratulations to the state of Idaho for taking the steps in honoring Old Abe's memory.

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Intriguing Fictional Book About Lincoln


While perusing the Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) paper today, I stumbled upon a brief review of a new, self-published fictional account of the kidnapping of Abraham Lincoln. Titled "Notes On My Recent Abduction", it is the recounting by Lincoln of his being taken and held hostage by John Wilkes Booth in 1864.

As I stated, this is obviously a work of fiction. But it is based on the fact that John Wilkes Booth did indeed at first plot to kidnap Lincoln in 1864, with the hopes that Lincoln could be held hostage long enough to end the war, grant the Confederacy victory, and free Confederate soldiers being held in Union prisons and camps.

The book explains describes the dangers Lincoln encounters while being held hostage, including being shot, nearly drowning, and almost being killed by an angry lynch mob. Finally, Lincoln is ordered to be set free by Robert E. Lee after Lee realizes that Booth is insane.

I normally don't enjoy alternate history books, but this might be too intriguing for me to pass up. It sounds fascinating to consider what might really have happened had Booth indeed kidnapped Lincoln instead of assassinating him on April 14, 1865.

An excerpt of the book can be found here. Written by V.A. Herbert, it is $11.90 in paperback and $16.30 in hardback with dust jacket. It may be ordered at the link I provided. I'm not associated with the author in any way.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering Bobby Kennedy


Forty years ago today on June 5, 1968, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Kennedy had just finished giving his victory speech for the California Democratic primary, which had ended a few hours before. Kennedy died early the next day on June 6th.

Bobby had electrified the nation's young people with his message of hope that working together people could solve the many problems facing the nation in those days. Not unlike a certain other young politician, Barack Obama, who is energizing the young people of today's America into believing in hope and that "yes we can" solve the problems of today.

With Kennedy's death coming so close after those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, hope seemed to disappear from America for generations. Viet Nam, Watergate, corporate greed, social injustices, economic doldrums, and a needless (in my opinion, anyway) Iraq War have made cynics out of too many of us. For many Americans and for many nations around the world, America is no longer the "last best hope on Earth" that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was eulogized by his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, in a brilliant speech, closing by saying: "My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

For those ideals, Bobby and his fellow liberals were (and are) pilloried by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, George W. Bush, and Senator John McCain, who represent the worst of American politics. They stand for the politics of greed, divisiveness, and hate, where a politician can be branded "unpatriotic" if he or she doesn't wear an American flag lapel pin or simply forgets to hold his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

This country of ours still needs the hopes and dreams that Bobby Kennedy stood for. We need someone who will see wrong and try to right it, see suffering and try to heal it, and see war and try to stop it. I think all of us, liberal and conservative, can reach agreement about those points, at least. We'll never know what our country would be like today had Bobby lived. Would he have been elected president? Would our government be once again "government of the people, by the people, for the people"?

We'll never know. And that, to me, is the greatest tragedy resulting from Bobby Kennedy's death.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Great Resource For Lincoln Historic Sites

I just "discovered" a very nice website devoted to historic sites and tours associated with Abraham Lincoln. The website Looking For Lincoln is operated by the "Looking For Lincoln Heritage Coalition" which is based in Springfield, Illinois. The organization is a consortium of central Illinois communities which have banded together to encourage visitation to the other lesser-known sites in the area associated with Lincoln.

Obviously, the Coalition is trying to drum up tourism, but it's doing a very commendable job in placing these small communities in context with Lincoln's life and career. Some of the sites shown and discussed on the website include the David Davis (a close friend and colleague of Lincoln's) mansion; the Mt. Pulaski courthouse (one of two surviving 8th Circuit courts where Lincoln practiced); and the Lincoln-Douglas debate museum in Charleston.

The website is well-organized and provides suggestions for "hub tours" starting out from various locations in Illinois. I'd highly recommend it as a starting point for anyone who would like to take a "Lincoln Pilgrimage" trip to Illinois. Indeed, I will use it as a reference the next time I take my own pilgrimage. The "Land Of Lincoln" encompasses far more than Springfield, and Looking For Lincoln is an outstanding starting place to find out why.

Abe Is Hot!


Interest in Abraham Lincoln is getting hot now that the bicentennial of his birth is approaching next February 12. One might say that Abe himself is "hot," thanks to all the presidential contenders and wannabes are comparing themselves to him.

Here's a cool photo from the Associated Press showing some renovation work being done on an 1871 statue of Lincoln in Philadelphia. I'd say Abe is hotter than ever. Note the blowtorch in the worker's hand.

Lincoln Statue Decapitated For Fifth Time

Today's Mail Tribune from Medford, Oregon brings the sad news that for the fifth time, the Abe Lincoln statue in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon has had its head cut off. Local officials are distressed, because the statue had only recently been repaired and rededicated after the 2005 decapitation. Other such acts of vandalism occurred in 1958, 1967, and 1973.


Damage is estimated now to be at $1,200. Park officials do have a spare Abe head, but have no idea if they will restore the statue now or not. A local merchant is suggesting that a security camera be focused on the statue from now on. Police in Oregon currently have no suspects. Sorry for the lack of photos.

 
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