Monday, October 20, 2008

New Lincoln Cookbook


Back on September 3, 2008 I posted a little story about how Lexington (Kentucky) restaurants were serving up some of Mr. Lincoln's favorite recipes. This was being done in honor of Lincoln and the approaching bicentennial of his birth. They got the recipes from "Lincoln's Table," a collection of vintage dishes.

Now comes the release of another new cookbook featuring many historic and modern recipes, including more of Lincoln's favorite meals. Titled "A. Lincoln Cookbook: A Cookbook of Epic Portions," the collection of recipes went on sale this past Friday at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Featuring over 600 recipes, photos of Lincoln dishes and utensils, and a CD of areas of the museum off limits to visitors, the 316 page book is being sold as a fundraiser for the museum/library's Volunteer Services Department. Some of the tidbits includes the fact that Lincoln liked steak barely cooked, lots of coffee, chicken fricassee, and all sorts of sweets.

It can be ordered by calling (800) 610-2094. I didn't notice it online yet at the museum website at http://www.presidentlincoln.org/, but it is supposed to be available there as well. The book retails at $39.95.

Presidential Art Exhibition In Cooperstown New York


In addition to being fascinated by Abraham Lincoln, I'm also keenly interested in the rest of the presidents of the United States and their life stories. An exhibition being held in Cooperstown, New York at the Fenimore Art Museum has caught my attention.

Titled "Of, By and For the People: The Art Of Presidential Elections", the exhibition opened last month at the museum. The exhibit features rare folk art from 19th century presidential campaigns. The artwork comes from other museums and private collections from around the country, and includes pottery, needlework, paintings, and other items.

The image I've posted here is obviously of Abraham Lincoln from the 1864 election when Andrew Johnson was his running mate. It was painted by Issac Weatherby of Iowa City, Iowa and is part of the Putnam Museum. The banner is one of the centerpieces of the exhibition in Cooperstown.

I'm a bit disappointed in the Fenimore Art Museum webpage about the exhibition. It would have been nice if it would show more than this banner and one other piece of art. No mention is made just how many artifacts are on display, so I don't know if it's worth seeing or not. I just thought this banner of Lincoln is beautiful and I wanted to share.

The exhibition closes December 31, 2008.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lincoln And The Constitution In The Civil War


Today's Cincinnati Enquirer (Ohio) brings the news of yet another new exhibit about Abraham Lincoln. Opening today is "Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War" at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

The exhibit aims to examine how Lincoln dealt with the major constitutional issues he faced while president. Secession had already begun before he was even inaugurated. Barely a month into his presidency, the Civil War ignited at Fort Sumter, S.C. Finally, civil liberties were a major issue during the war itself.

A spokesman for the museum points out that the exhibition is not the typical homage to Lincoln. It critically examines his role in the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which caused prisoners to be held without trial. Lincoln also didn't hesitate to halt publication of newspapers which were critical of his policies and administration. His crackdown on civil liberties during the war became a huge controversy. In fact, it was a significant issue in the election of 1864, which for a time Lincoln was not at all assured of winning. Democrats and other war opponents hammered him hard about the freedoms being lost during the war.

The exhibit will feature more than 100 artifacts on loan from the now closed Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana and other national institutions. Photos, documents signed by Lincoln, and other items will be on display. Visitors will be able to hear Lincoln's "voice" as recorded by the actor Sam Waterston as "Lincoln" reads from some of his speeches and letters. Other parts of the exhibit include recreated jail cells, a re-creation of Lincoln's inaugural speech, and an opportunity to "vote" in the 1864 election.

All in all, the exhibit seems as if it will be fascinating to those of us who study Lincoln. I think it's important that we examine the interaction of Lincoln and the Constitution, not just to learn more about Lincoln, but because there are lessons we can still learn today. Government of our own time is struggling to balance our civil rights with the need to protect our nation against terrorism while fighting two wars. Personally, I am angered that the government can now listen in on our phone conversations without search warrant and even demand from libraries a list of books we have borrowed. By viewing this exhibit, I hope to learn more about Lincoln and his own balancing act between civil liberties and preserving the union.

Originally created in 2005 by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the exhibit runs at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati until January 11, 2009.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lincoln Celebration At The Kennedy Center


A celebration of Abraham Lincoln's life is going to be staged at the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on February 2, 2009. "Our Lincoln" will be a joint production of the Kentucky Humanities Council and the University of Kentucky Opera Theater.

First performed earlier this year in Kentucky, "Our Lincoln" features a wide variety of performances, with the goal of celebrating Lincoln's "heart, soul, and legacy." A 150-voice choir will perform "River Of Time," a new "folk opera" about Lincoln as a young man. The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to present "A Lincoln Portrait," the classic Aaron Copeland piece, featuring Mark O' Connor, who played the haunting "Ashokan Farewell" in Ken Burn's "The Civil War." Other acts in this program include narration by former National Public Radio host Bob Edwards; a performance by Metropolitan Opera Star Angela Brown; poetry readings; and a host of others.

Click here for more information about this performance. The official "Our Lincoln" website is here. Finally, the Kennedy Center official site may be found here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flatboat Journey Ends

The Lincoln Journey of Remembrance has come to an end. The final stop of the replica flatboat used to re-enact Lincoln's trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers took place on Saturday October 4, 2008 in New Orleans. Most of the trip was fortunately uneventful, but the crew did encounter 7-foot waves in the remnants of Hurricane Ike which necessitated repairs to the boat.

The trip was re-created by a team from Spencer County, Indiana in order to both commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, as well as to publicize his youth in Indiana. Now that the journey is finished, the replica flatboat will be trucked back to Indiana. The intentions are to put it on display in Rockport, Indiana at Lincoln Pioneer Village.

I've previously posted about this journey both here and here. The official site for the Journey of Remembrance may be found at this location.

The Journey of Remembrance was an officially sanctioned event by the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

Today's USA Today contains an informative and entertaining article, asking what lessons, if any, we can learn from Abraham Lincoln's leadership as our nation is experiencing economic turmoil, war, social and political divisiveness, and fear that we are on the wrong track. The paper consulted a few historians, primarily James M. McPherson, for help in realizing how Lincoln's example(s) might mean for us today.

Mr. McPherson is of course an historian and author of many books relating to both Lincoln and the Civil War. Retired from Princeton University, McPherson won the Pulitzer Prize for history for his Battle Cry Of Freedom, considered by many to be a definitive narrative of the Civil War. His new book, Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln As Commander In Chief, comes at a time when our country must decide who will lead us in time of both financial crisis as well as in two wars.

McPherson details in the book how Lincoln was the most "hands on" commander in chief in our history. Lincoln spent amazingly long hours in the War Department, reading telegrams detailing the outcome of battles, most of them Union losses in the first year of the war. He was so involved primarily due to the lack of good generals, such as George McClellan, who was always so to engage the enemy, or George Mead who failed to destroy Lee's army after Gettysburg.

In McPherson's opinion, Lincoln was so effective as a leader because he "never made a snap decision. He would mull over every aspect of a situation, examine all sides of a controversy, before he came to a decision." At the same time, McPherson suggests it is a mistake for us today to forget that Lincoln was not "above politics" and was in fact a brilliant politician.

The article also has a couple of brief quotes from Harold Holzer, the nation's eminent Lincoln scholar. Holzer states that America has often turned to Lincoln and his legacy in times of trouble, including World War II. We look to his leadership as an example of what represents the best of America. Holzer astutely points out that not only did Lincoln preside over the bloodiest conflict in our nation's history, but he also led the country through a time of great financial upheaval (the Union had a very difficult time financing the war effort), similar to what we face today.

So what do the historians think Lincoln would advise to the next president? In McPherson's opinion, it would be "Don't panic, don't make snap decisions, and keep your cool." Wise advice to our leaders. Indeed, wise advice to us all.

The Darker Side of Lincoln

History can often be a confusing jumble of dates, places, and events. We learn the "facts" of history, but rarely understand the personal side of historical figures, especially people like Abraham Lincoln, who take on almost mythical status through the years. We forget that these people experienced the same raw emotions that we do: contentment and longing; joy and sorrow; anger and happiness.

Lincoln was no different from anyone else. Though he appears to us through the lens of history as a kind and understanding man, he could show flashes of anger with political opponents and the occasional personal enemy. A newly discovered letter written by Lincoln reveals his darker side. This letter, written on February 13, 1864, to a "Mrs. Neagle" came to light recently as part of an auction of presidential manuscripts to be held by Sotheby's.

Some of the letter reads: "As I understand it your husband … knowingly and willingly helped a rebel to get out of our lines to the enemy to join in fighting and killing our people … You protest, nevertheless, that you and he are loyal, and you may really think so, but this is a view of loyalty which it is difficult to conceive that any sane person could take, and on which the government cannot tolerate and hope to live …"

Although more research is necessary, it is suspected that "Mrs. Neagle's" husband must have been imprisoned for treason, a subject which Lincoln took very seriously. The letter must have been written in reply to a request for her husband's parole.

On the other side of this letter, however, Lincoln wrote another few lines stating that Senator Harlan of Iowa knew the Neagle family and that they were "diligent friends." Following Lincoln's handwriting, the note was signed by General Edward Canby. So Mrs. Neagle may very well have ended up obtaining her husband's release.

The letter is estimated to be worth a cool $250,000 to $350,000. Given the abundant interest in Abraham Lincoln these days thanks to the upcoming bicentennial of his birth, I wouldn't be surprised if the letter fetches far more than the estimate.

This article from MSNBC contains more information about the letter and the story behind it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lincoln Christmas Ornaments Benefit Easter Seals

The Easter Seals organization of Central Illinois has issued two Christmas ornaments this year depicting Abraham Lincoln. Part of the Ornament of Hope series, the sale of these ornaments will be used to fund programs that Easter Seals sponsors for helping families who have loved ones with special needs and disabilities.

The ornament at the top of this posting is issued in commemoration of the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate, which was held in Charleston, Illinois. The top of the ornament reads: "Lincoln-Douglas Debates Sesquicentennial 1858-2008." It shows both Lincoln and Douglas, along with the debate museum located in Charleston. This link has a better illustration of the ornament, along with order information. You'll need a PDF viewer to see the order form.

The ornament at the bottom of the posting is issued for Decatur, Illinois and depicts a statue of Lincoln which is in that town. The caption reads: "At Twenty-One I Came To Illinois," a quotation from Lincoln. This link shows the ornament and order form. Again, you'll need a PDF viewer to see the form.

Each ornament is 24-karat gold-plated and costs just $15.00. All proceeds go to the Easter Seals organization of Central Illinois. It's a very worthy cause and how can you pass up such great Lincoln items?

Special thanks once more to my friend Christy for bringing these to my attention. Christy is the blogger behind "Mystic Chords Of Memory," a rich source of excellent information and great photos of historical sites from the around the country. Please drop by her site, too!


Kevin Bacon As John Wilkes Booth


Today's Variety carries the news that the actor Kevin Bacon has signed to portray John Wilkes Booth in a new series titled The Booths on the Showtime cable network. According to the article, the series will focus on the dysfunctional relationship between Booth and his siblings, including his brother Edwin in the years leading up to Lincoln's assassination.

Bacon is a powerful actor who plays an excellent "bad guy" role. If The Booths is even half as good as Showtime's The Tudors, it will be worthwhile viewing. Production has yet to begin.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Of Lincoln And His Speeches


To write that Abraham Lincoln had a way with words would be the mother of all understatements. His speeches speak to us today, especially his First and Second Inaugural Addresses and of course, the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln employed no speechwriter; he wrote his own. His writing had a simple, rhythmic style which conveyed majesty and righteousness in some of America's darkest days. Writers of his time and since have considered him to be one of the greatest wordsmiths in the English language.

The October 2008 issue of Smithsonian contains an insightful article about what made Lincoln's speeches so memorable. The article was written by Ted Sorenson, who was the main speech writer for President John F. Kennedy. He was the author of Kennedy's inaugural address, which contained the famous words "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

In the article, Sorenson makes the claim that Lincoln was also the greatest presidential speechwriter. He examines what made Lincoln's words so special, such as alliteration, repetition, rhythm, and timeless ideas. He also states that Lincoln was a much better speechwriter than orator, making comparisons to other presidents such as Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. In Sorenson's opinion, it was the power and majesty of Lincoln's words which have made his speeches immortal. He closes his article by stating that "The presidents greatest in speechcraft are almost all the greatest in statecraft also—because speeches are not just words. They present ideas, directions and values, and the best speeches are those that get those right. As Lincoln did."

Coming from such an outstanding speechwriter in his own right, the praise from Sorenson is meaningful. Take some time to read the article. You won't be sorry you did.

 
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