This week's issue of Newsweek contains an op-ed piece from resident writer Anna Quindlen about the need (in her opinion) for our nation's president to be technologically literate. In other words, a techie.
She first discusses in her editorial how Abraham Lincoln was a techie himself, at least as much as possible in the 1860's. Quindlen explains how Lincoln made use of that era's "Internet," the telegraph, as a means to communicate with his generals, thus having an advantage over Confederate forces who didn't have as much access to telegraphy. She refers to the recent book "Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails" by Tom Wheeler, in which the author describes how Lincoln pushed for the spread of the new technology across the country in order to achieve much better communication.
Then Ms. Quindlen contrasts Lincoln with John McCain, who freely admits that he's technologically illiterate and has never been online. She equates this with being out of touch and behind the curve in today's world. She makes a point how Al Qaeda is technology savvy and how our next president must be as well. Her arguments are compelling.
However, I'm not so sure I agree, even though I'm a professional techie myself. I don't know that it's necessary for our president to be at ease with computers and other modern technological marvels. It's critical that our spy agencies and defense services use all the technology possible for the nation's homeland defense. And it's crucial that our chief executive be willing to listen to advice from people who are technical experts.
But must a person know how to use email or build a website in order to be our commander-in-chief? An interesting question, but I think the answer is no. What is your opinion?
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This week's issue of Newsweek contains an op-ed piece from resident writer Anna Quindlen about the need (in her opinion) for our nation's president to be technologically literate. In other words, a techie.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 12:01 PM
Monday, July 28, 2008
While scanning the news earlier today for articles about Abe, I came across this wonderful story about an Atlantic, Iowa, Abraham Lincoln portrayer. According to the article published in the Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa), the gentleman in the photo, Lee Williams, is one of the most renowned Lincoln re-enactors.
Mr. Williams performs his show "Lincoln Live" on a part-time basis and has been at it for more than 20 years. He approximates the genuine article's physical characteristics, coming in a couple of inches shorter and a few pounds heavier, but it's close enough for approximation. He's presented his show all around the United States as well as in Russia and Dubai. Mr. Williams found the children of those two countries to be more knowledgeable about Lincoln than most kids in our country. Sad, but not surprising!
In his long career portraying Abe, Williams has won several competitions for his skills and appearance. He has more than 3 hours of materials he can draw from. I did note that he now has a graying beard, so he should probably being dyeing his so he can more accurately resemble Abe.
I like the photo I've included here. It's obviously taken in a way to simulate an antique photo of the real deal, including some blurriness. Clever.
I have to admit, I've never before seen a Lincoln portrayer in person, but it seems to me that Lee Williams would be a great bet for an entertaining event.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:20 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Back on June 13, I published a post about Hartford, Connecticut dedicating a sculpture garden to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. Now the entire state is going to join in for the celebrations for the bicentennial of his birth.
According to the July 26th edition of the Norwich Bulletin, a 14-member panel has been formed to help Connecticut plan its celebrations. The article describes a visit Lincoln made to Norwich back in March of 1860 to campaign for a friend, William Buckingham, who was running for governor of the state. Lincoln had made previous stops in Hartford and New Haven before arriving in Norwich. Thanks in part to Lincoln's campaigning, his friend won the governorship by 700 votes.
The image I've included in this posting shows a banner which was made in advance of Lincoln's visit. It still exists and is on display in Norwich City Hall. An interesting story from the article details how this banner was long thought to have been lost, until it showed up for auction in 1997 at a New York City auction house. A local Norwich group raised more than $35,000 to buy the banner, bring it back home, and restore it. A good story. The banner is lovely.
The other items in the image are of course the famous 1863 photo of Lincoln. The other small photo is of the hotel where Lincoln gave a speech while in Norwich.
Friday, July 25, 2008
It's time for another stroll through eBay, looking for Lincolnania. As always, there are currently thousands of items related to Mr. Lincoln on eBay, ranging from the cheap to phenomenally expensive; from the tacky to the items which could be considered American treasures. Let's see what's out there right now.
- The above image shows one of the items which could be an American treasure. This item is one of the more famous and lovely Lincoln photos, taken in approximately 1858, by an unknown photographer. It happens to be an original albumen print and is signed by the man himself. This is how Lincoln appeared at the time of the famous debates with Stephen Douglas. From time to time, Lincoln would autograph these prints for friends or VIP's. Starting price on this item is a cool $150,000! Don't think I'll be selling my house in order to buy it.
- A unique 2008 Topps Allen and Ginter baseball card featuring a single strand of Abe's hair. This item is from the "World's Champions" baseball card collection put out by Topps to commemorate famous people. Comes with a letter of authenticity and the like. Check it out. Current bid is already $5,100!
- For you ventriloquists out there, this Abe Lincoln dummy could be yours for just $299.99 in a Buy It Now auction. Looks pretty cool, actually, but I can't imagine "Little Abe" reciting the Gettysburg Address. Hand-crafted by the seller.
- A more affordable item is this great-looking motivational poster featuring a portrait of Lincoln, along with a long list of his failures leading up to the presidency. The point is perseverance through life. Current bid is only $10.00.
- An 1860 edition of a Lincoln biography may be found here. This is a fairly scarce title called "Life and Speeches of Lincoln and Hamlin Wide Awake Edition." There are numerous 1860's bios of Lincoln, but this "Wide Awake" edition is uncommon. This was issued shortly after the Republican convention of 1860, but prior to the election itself. Please note that this is NOT the same as the true first Lincoln biography, the quite rare "Wigwam Edition" in which Lincoln's name is listed as "Abram." Bidding here opens at only $24.99 and there are no bids.
- For the female Lincoln buff in your life, here are some funky Abe earrings. Each earring is a "bust" of Lincoln, complete with a top hat. No bids and a steal at only $2.99 at this point.
- A carte-de-visite depicting a scene of what life in the Lincoln home might have looked like. The scene is an artist's rendering. The Lincoln figure reading to his son Tad is based on a famous photo by Matthew Brady. The figure of Robert Lincoln is also based on a photo. But the Mary Todd Lincoln and Willie figures seem to be from imagination. No bids and begins under $10.
- A fairly rare political ribbon from the election of 1856, when Lincoln was the vice-presidential candidate of the newly-formed Republican party. John C. Fremont was the first presidential candidate of the party. The ribbon simply says "Fremont and Lincoln" but is still kind of interesting. I've not seen one of these before.
- Finally, Lincoln centennial items from 1909 are coming out of the woodwork right now. You can find postcards, books, presidential medals and so on with 1809-1909 on them. Here's a Harper's Weekly from February 1909, a postcard, and a beautiful medal struck for the Grand Army Of The Republic (the Union Veteran's organization) to celebrate the Lincoln centennial.
As always, happy hunting!
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:50 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Back on July 7, I posted a story about an auction coming up in southeastern Ohio in which 62 acres of land plus various statues of U.S. presidents and military leaders were going to be sold.
The auction was held on Saturday July 19, in Frazeysburg, Ohio. The sandstone statue of Abraham Lincoln brought an impressive $9,000, but the most expensive statue (of U.S. Grant) went for a cool $35,000! The same gentleman purchased those two statutes, plus a statue of James B. McPherson (a Union Civil War general) for another $8,500. They are destined for the purchasers' property in Oxford, Ohio.
This article from the Coshocton Tribune (Ohio) contains more details about the auction turnout and results.
Friday, July 18, 2008
A couple of posts ago, I discussed the fact that the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in Illinois had its budget cut by the governor of that state due to financial problems in that state. Now this article discusses some of the ways the state of Illinois will celebrate the 200th birthday of its most famous son.
The Commission is going to have schoolchildren across Illinois simultaneously read The Gettysburg Address. Good idea, but hopefully teachers will take the time to explain the meaning of the address, the importance of it in American history, and emphasize the fact that it's one of the finest speeches ever written. Without context, the point of having kids read it aloud will be lost.
The next idea is to have churches across Illinois toll their bells on February 12, 2009. That could be moving and help people remember Lincoln. But when you think about it, this idea doesn't make a lot of sense. Lincoln never officially joined any church and he most likely was never baptized. He did attend services on occasion, but he was not a "Christian" in the traditional meaning of the word.
Finally, the Commission is going to ask businesses to put "Happy Birthday, Abe" on their signs, boards, marquees, etc. This strikes me as a little ridiculous.
Even with budgetary restrictions, surely the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in Illinois could come up with better ideas to celebrate and remember Lincoln. For example, it could pay for a re-enactment of the celebrations held in Springfield upon Lincoln's election to the presidency. A special book commemorating Lincoln could be written and sold through the state. It could organize a special "Lincoln Festival" in Springfield.
Anyway, this is only my opinion. I just think that the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln requires more dignified celebrations than asking businesses to display the words "Happy Birthday, Abe" out front.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 10:20 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
For months now, Barack Obama has been criticized for his refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin. He has been branded unpatriotic and called un-American by right-wing bloggers, media, and other pseudo-patriots who equate wearing an American flag pin (made in China, of course!) with patriotism. Unfortunately, Obama has now begun wearing one in recent weeks, thus pandering to critics who don't know what true patriotism is.
The ironic thing about all of this brouhaha over a cheap metal pin being equated to patriotism is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the two major politicians who wear their American flags proudly in their lapels. George W. Bush of course was placed into the National Guard courtesy of his family during the Vietnam War and then disappeared from his unit for a long time. Dick Cheney is really patrotic for wearing his pin, but obtained an unprecedented five deferrments from serving in the military while thousands of his generation died in battle.
Contrast this "patriotism" with both Obama and John McCain. Obama hasn't served in the military, but has dedicated his career to serving the poor and helping to better their lives. McCain was in the military and was held as a prisoner of war for years.
UPDATE: 09/10/2008: Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for President Of The United States on September 4, 2008. McCain is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served his country honorably in Viet Nam, and was of course held captive by the Viet Cong for over 5 years. No one would ever question his love of country. However, Senator McCain didn't wear an American flag lapel pin during his acceptance speech. Does this make him unpatriotic? I think not, just as Obama was not unpatriotic when he didn't wear one.
A lapel pin doesn't make a person a patriot. Serving one's country with dignity, grace, and honor does.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:13 AM
Monday, July 14, 2008
Mr. Lincoln appears to be slightly sad as depicted by this bust located in Burbank, California. If planned budget cuts become reality next year in Illinois, Abe's 200th birthday celebrations might be a little less happy than expected.
Let's hope that the money can be restored along the way. While the state of Illinois is planning it's own celebrations, it would be a shame if there is no money for smaller communities to honor our nation's 16th president.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:44 AM
Thursday, July 10, 2008
- The capacity to listen to differing points of view - this was the concept behind Lincoln appointing former political rivals to his cabinet.
- Ability to learn on the job - Lincoln learned as he grew into the job. Experience doesn't mean everything as my previous post explains
- Willingness to share credit for success - Lincoln shared credit for successes with his cabinet and generals.
- Willingness to share blame for failures - like Harry Truman, Lincoln took equal credit for failures when necessary. Compare this to recent presidents who hang their cabinet members out to dry.
- Awareness of own weaknesses - Lincoln realized he gave people too many chances. Think how much better we'd be off in our country today if Bill Clinton and George W. Bush would admit their weaknesses.
- Ability to control emotions - Lincoln often would write a letter to someone who had aggrieved him, but then would never send it.
- Know how to relax - Lincoln's sense of humor saw him through some of the darkest days of the Civil War. Not that he found the war to be funny, but he tried to combat his grief over it through funny stories.
- Manage directly by "walking around" - Lincoln often visited with soldiers and tried to meet with ordinary people to get a handle on public opinion.
- Strength to adhere to goals - Lincoln never wavered in his goals to see the Union restored.
- Ability to communicate goals and vision - the one quality which escapes nearly every politician of our time.
This list was found at HR.BLR.com, a Human Resources website. It reported on Ms. Goodwin's lecture at the 2008 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) convention in Chicago, where she identified these ten qualities of a great leader.
Back on January 11, 2008 I published a post about how much discussion occurs during every presidential election cycle about the various candidates' experience or lack thereof. Each candidate positions himself or herself as having the best experience. If the candidate happens to be inexperienced, then the person runs as an "outsider."
So just because Obama had only 143 days of experience as a senator, does this mean he is not a leader? If my memory serves me well, Abraham Lincoln had just one term, only two years, of experience as a U.S. Congressman. He lost a senate race in 1858 to Stephen Douglas, was involved in failed businesses (just like George W. Bush, by the way), and had very limited time in the Illinois state government. Yet he went on to become a brilliant leader who saw our nation through its greatest crisis.
As I posted back in January, political experience is no predictor of presidential success or failure. Some of our most experienced politicians have been failures as presidents (John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan) while some of the least experienced have gone on to greatness.
Don't fall for false arguments!
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:40 AM
Monday, July 7, 2008
Would you like to buy your own statue of Old Abe? Here is your chance. On July 19, 2008, an auction of statues of presidents and other Americans is being held in the hamlet of Frazeysburg, Ohio in the southeastern portion of the state.
According to the Coshocton Tribune (Ohio), the statues are part of the Baughman Memorial Park, which will also be auctioned off (about 62 acres). The statues, including that of Mr. Lincoln, were sculpted by a Mr. Brice Baughman between the late 1800's and 1930. Mr. Baughman's hobby was carving in sandstone, the bulk of which came from the property.
The statues are in various states of repair. This link provides more information about the auction, including photos and a map of the property, along with photos of the other statues up for auction. Other presidents represented by the statues include William McKinley, Warren Harding, and George Washington. Famous military figures carved in stone include Grant and Sherman.
I cannot begin to imagine what these statues might bring at auction. I especially cannot imagine what it would take to haul one of these statues and install it on your own property.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
The rarest Abraham Lincoln signature of them all is to be displayed for the next decade at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The only known signature of Lincoln he made in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863 is a national treasure.
The autograph of Lincoln is in a book which contains the signatures of other dignitaries who were gathered in Gettysburg that day for the dedication of the national cemetery, the scene of Lincoln's immortal Gettysburg Address.
According to this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the autograph book was purchased for a staggering $937,000 at a Sotheby's (New York) auction by Lewis Katz, a philanthropist who is part owner of the New York Yankees and New York Nets. He in turn decided to loan it to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Among the other signatures in the book are those of William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State who was nearly killed on the night of Lincoln's assassination; and Abner Doubleday, credited by some experts as the inventor of modern baseball.
I want to let my readers know that I just deleted some vile comments posted by a racist to my blog. If any of you read this comment and were offended, I extend my deep apologies.
I welcome comments from my readers, even comments which disagree with my opinion, and especially those which point out my mistakes. But I and this blog will NEVER tolerate racist and hateful remarks about any person, living or dead. Such comments are cowardly and will immediately be deleted upon their discovery.
For the vast majority of my readership, I offer my gratitude for your positive comments and compliments about this blog. And please note that I will continue sharing news, facts, stories, and opinion concerning Abraham Lincoln. Thank you!
Friday, July 4, 2008
Today marks the 145th anniversary of the Fall of Vicksburg (Mississippi), a critical victory for U.S. Grant and the Union Army. After a siege which had begun in May, the final surrender of the city to Grant marked the fall of the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. With the Union victory, the Confederacy was essentially divided into two and the major transportation route for the rebels fell into the North's hands.
The days of July 1-4, 1863 marked the major turning point of the war for the Union. Only July 1-3, the Union won a critical victory in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and then the jubliant news came a day later from Vicksburg when that city finally surrendered.
Abraham Lincoln is famous for his brilliant speeches at Gettysburg, and his two inaugural addresses. But his single sentence statement after the hard-fought seige of Vicksburg is perhaps the most stunning line he ever wrote: "The Father Of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."
To learn more about the Siege and Fall of Vicksburg, here is a great link. Another article from the National Park Service provides further background.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:56 PM
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Here is a clay and plaster model of a new statue which will be installed at President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. This model is 3 percent larger than life to allow for settling in the bronze-casting process for the actual statue.
The sculptors are Stuart Williamson and Jiwoong Cheh, working for the design shop StudioIES in Brooklyn, New York. The statue differs from so many others of Abe in that this one actually shows him with a slight smile, as if Lincoln is greeting a valued friend or relative upon arrival at his summer home. It looks like it's going to be beautiful.
The story of the statue may be found here in The New York Times. President Lincoln's Cottage, the former Soldiers' Home, in Washington, D.C. has recently reopened after an extensive restoration. It is thought by historians that this mansion was where Lincoln wrote The Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln used it as a refuge from the oppressive heat of the city and to escape the burdens of the White House. It was the Camp David of the day. An interesting article here, also from the Times, discusses the history and restoration efforts of the Cottage.
A person named "Maria" just contacted me through this blog to let me know about some incredible "new" photos of Abraham Lincoln her company has created. Her firm, Studio Macbeth, has been in existence since 1979 and has the goal of " realism while retaining a painterly sensibility to light and form" in its digital photography.
I would not insult her company or violate copyrights by posting these images of Lincoln in this post, but you may view them for yourself here. One photo shows "Lincoln" receiving a field briefing by a Union officer, while the other photo shows "Lincoln" sitting at a dining room table. Please remember that these are created photos of a digitized Lincoln. I was struck by how realistic looking these pictures are. Do yourself a favor and take a look.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 1:51 PM
This Lincoln bear is located in the small city of Boyertown, Pennsylvania (in Berks County, in the Reading area). The local high school team is the Bears. A few years ago, some folks in the town started "Bear Fever," a collaborative public arts project. The goal of the effort is to decorate the town and surrounding communities with 40-60 fiberglass bears as a way to develop school and town spirit. Local businesses in town "sponsor" a bear, all of which are uniquely designed and painted. The townspeople got the idea after learning about other cities in the U.S. decorating with cows (Chicago) and pandas (Washington, D.C.)
Searching for all things related to Abraham Lincoln this morning on the web (while I should be working...can you tell I'm bored?), I stumbled upon this adorable life-sized fiberglass bear made to look like Old Abe himself. Intrigued and laughing out loud, I had to research this bear a little further.
Abe-Bear-Ham (as he's affectionately called) has a top hat, a beard, and a coat resembling the frock that Lincoln wore. Note the "5 dollar bills" serving as a hat band. Too cute. The story of the Lincoln bear, additional photos, and an interview with the artist may be found here.
The real Lincoln had to "bear" much in his life, so what better animal to represent him?
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:30 AM