On this Christmas Eve 2009, I simply want to take a few moments and wish my readers a very Merry Christmas! To those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very blessed Holiday Season and Happy New Year.
I am grateful to those of you who take time from your schedule to drop by The Abraham Lincoln Blog, whether you're a repeat visitor, or those of you who visit just once. It is because of you that I continue what is for me a labor of love. I have been fascinated by the story of Abraham Lincoln for as long as I can remember, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge of him with others.
Thank you for your comments, corrections, and continued visits. I look forward to more posts in the coming year.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
On this Christmas Eve 2009, I simply want to take a few moments and wish my readers a very Merry Christmas! To those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very blessed Holiday Season and Happy New Year.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:48 AM
This week marks the 145th anniversary of the capture of Savannah, Georgia by Union troops under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. It completed his "March To The Sea" which had begun just a few weeks earlier in Atlanta. The march cut a large swath through the Georgia landscape and did much to destroy the will of the Confederacy.
After the fall of Savannah, Sherman sent a now-famous telegram to President Lincoln in which he presented the city as a "gift" to the president. The original War Department transcription of the telegram is shown above. Sherman stated: "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton."
Lincoln of course was overcome with joy at the news, for he recognized that it was the beginning of the end of the Civil War. On December 26, 1864 Lincoln sent an eloquent letter of thanks to Sherman, reading: "Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift - the capture of Savannah. When you were leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that 'nothing risked, nothing gained' I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honour is all yours; for I believe that none of us went farther to acquiesce." Lincoln went on to mention other actions by other troops and wondered what was next for Sherman and Grant. Lincoln concluded: "Please make my grateful acknowledgements to your whole army - officers and men."
Savannah suffered almost no damage during its capture by Sherman's troops. It remains much the same in appearance as it did 145 years this week. It is a beautiful southern city. If you ever have a chance to visit, take the opportunity to do so. I had the pleasure of seeing it for the first time in 2008, and was struck by the charm and history of the city.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:14 AM
Friday, December 18, 2009
The bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln's birth is drawing to a close. The year has seen many ceremonies, museum exhibits, television specials, concerts, artwork, books, articles, and celebrations to commemorate Lincoln throughout the country. One of the more intriguing ways that Lincoln has been honored this year is through a new work by famed American choreographer, Bill T. Jones.
Jones created the full-length work titled Fondly Do We Hope....Fervently Do We Pray which was commissioned by the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. Through this work, Jones interprets many aspects of Lincoln's life and what might have been had Lincoln been permitted to live through Reconstruction. To learn more about this work, please click here for photos and video.
Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray will be featured on next week's episode (December 25) of the acclaimed PBS show "Bill Moyers Journal." Mr. Moyers has long been one of this country's greatest journalists. He served as President Lyndon Johnson's press secretary in the 1960's; has worked for many of the major networks; and has been awarded the prestigious Peabody Award for journalism. I was contacted by the Director of Communications for "Bill Moyers Journal" asking if I would be interested in informing my readers of this unique way of honoring Lincoln. I am pleased to do so.
According to the email I received, "In a ground breaking work of choreography called Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray, Jones reimagines a young Lincoln in his formative years through dance. Bill Moyers speaks with Jones about his creative process, his insights into Lincoln, and how dance can give us fresh perspective on America's most-studied president. "This piece,ultimately, is not a biopic... It is supposed to be, 'How can we use Lincoln and his time as a mirror through which we look darkly at ourselves?'" says Jones."
This link is an excerpt of the upcoming episode. Christmas is of course a very busy day for most of us. I'll record it so I can watch it at a later date. Check your local listings for the time of the show in your area.
Bill Moyers Journal was also the setting for this year's best televised tribute to Abraham Lincoln. Back on April 10, the show featured "Lincoln's Legend and Legacy." The format featured the wonderful actor Sam Waterston reading excerpts of writings about Lincoln across the years, with interpretation provided by the leading Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. It was an incredibly moving performance. You may still view that show by clicking here.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:43 PM
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Every post from Rebecca is informative, entertaining, and beautifully written. Like me, she is not a trained historian. She simply has a love of history which she wants to share with her readers.
I encourage my own readers to drop by "My Adventures In History" and see for yourself why it is truly one of the finest American history blogs around.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:15 PM
Friday, October 30, 2009
One of the nation's newest memorials to Abraham Lincoln is located in Lincoln State Park, Indiana, almost immediately across the state highway from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza was dedicated on June 12, 2009. I had the pleasure of visiting this new memorial during my trip last month to Spencer County, Indiana, where Lincoln spent 14 years living from the age of 7 until he reached adulthood at 21.
The plaza is really a bisected circle, each half representing different stages of Lincoln's life. The front part of the memorial is in honor of Lincoln's youth spent here in this area, while the part facing away from the entrance to the plaza honors his presidency. Here is an artist's sketch of the plaza, which will hopefully give you a better idea of what the layout is.
As the visitor enters the plaza, one can see various granite pedestals which contain quotes either from Lincoln himself or from those who knew him. An example of one such pedestal is shown below:
Others feature quotes from friends such as Nathaniel Grigsby (a neighbor of Lincoln's in Indiana), and Lincoln's secretary John Nicolay. One of these markers has the quote attributed to Lincoln in which he refers to his "angel mother."
The main focus of the plaza is the center semi-circular structure depicted below. Each of the stone slabs with the dates over them represent the approximate height of Lincoln in that year as he grew to a final height of 6'4" by 1830, when the Lincoln family relocated to Illinois.
The other side of this structure contains the beautiful larger-than-life bust of Lincoln along with along with the text to his two most famous speeches, The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address.
According to the description under the bust of Lincoln, his closed left hand represents his desire to hold onto the Union, to prevent one nation from becoming two. His open right hand represents his desire to "bind up the nation's wounds" and extend "charity to all" once the Civil War was over. The photo below is a wider shot of the bust and the text of his speeches.
The artists who came up with this design are Mr. George Morrison and Mr. Will Clark. The bronze figure of Lincoln, twice life-size, weighs 400 pounds. There are over 90 pieces of stone in the memorial, quarried in Indiana. The single largest slab of stone weighs more than 3,400 pounds.
I was struck by both the beauty and uniqueness of the plaza. While it certainly lacks the majesty of other memorials to Lincoln, it is very striking and far more interesting than a simple statue would have been. The quotes featured on the pedestals around the plaza help the visitor to understand Lincoln a bit better, and to get a feel for how people felt about him. I'm pleased that the portion representing his presidency includes the text of his speeches. The plaza sits in the woods which Lincoln knew so well. It's a moving experience to visit the plaza.
Lincoln State Park is named not for Abraham, but rather his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. The park includes the Little Pigeon Church where the Lincoln family worshipped and the cemetery where his sister, Sarah, is buried. More about that in the next post.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 6:04 PM
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I hope the readers of The Abraham Lincoln Blog will forgive me another post about The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. There's simply too much to cover about the park in only one or two postings. I visited the park for the first time in September and have enjoyed sharing my visit with my readers. I've previously written about the history of the park itself, about Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and about the Memorial Building. This post will conclude my descriptions of the Boyhood Memorial.
Pictured above is a replica log cabin intended to give park visitors an idea of what the real Lincoln cabin was like while Abe and his family lived here from 1816-1830. The National Service Park ranger who was portraying a pioneer woman that day told me that the true cabin was just 3 square feet larger than the replica. I don't know the dimensions, but it must have been very cramped with Thomas and Nancy Lincoln plus two children living in it. And when Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, she brought her own three children to live with the remaining three Lincolns. The replica cabin is part of the "Living Historical Farm" which shows how the family farmed, raising crops and livestock. It occupies four of the original 160 acres of the Lincoln farm. A short trail leads the visitor to the original spring on the farm, which I've pictured below. Obviously, it's not much too look at. Since it's closed off, I don't know if the spring is still flowing.
Located just a short distance from the replica cabin and farm is the preserved location of a cabin which the family began constructing in 1829. Archaeological excavations revealed the location in 1917. The dig found some hearth stones and the original sandstone foundation of the cabin. Obviously, the logs have disappeared long ago. Today the cabin site is marked by bronze replica logs and a hearth. This is pictured below. As you can see, the site of the cabin is blocked by the stone wall so visitors don't destroy what's left.
Finally, there is the Trail Of Twelve Stones, a 1/2 mile path through the woods which displays stones taken from sites which are closely related to Abraham Lincoln. It's more interesting than one would think. Each stone is marked with a plaque, explaining where it came from and why it's associated with Lincoln. They are spaced evenly along the trail through the woods in order to hold the visitor's interest. The first stone you come to was taken from Sinking Spring farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln's birthplace. Others are from the foundation of a store where Lincoln worked in the area; a newspaper building where he visited; from the home of Mary Todd in Lexington, Kentucky; from The White House; from Gettysburg; from the U.S. Capitol building; and from the Peterson House in Washington, D.C. where Lincoln died. The rock and plaque pictured below tell part of Lincoln's story.
I hope my series of posts about The Lincoln Boyhood Memorial has given the reader a good understanding of both the park itself and of Lincoln's 14 years he spent living in this part of Indiana. It was my first visit here and I enjoyed it very much. I liked it far more than I do the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial, and in some ways, I enjoyed it as much as I do Springfield. To be sure, it's a low-key place. You can't visit an original home he lived in here, he wasn't born here, he's not entombed here. Yet, there's a simplicity about the park which appealed to me greatly. The forests and land which make up the park still appear much as they did nearly 200 years ago when Lincoln grew up in the area. The museum in the Memorial Building, while small, is blessedly free of the "Disney-like" displays in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. It tells his story without sound effects, cheesy statues, and other flashy attractions, which to me are a huge distraction from the history of the real man.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 5:28 PM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The centerpiece of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana is the Memorial Building. Completed in 1944, it also serves as the Visitor Center at the park. Constructed of a type of limestone, the building houses a small theater which shows a 15-20 minute interpretive film (narrated by Leonard Nimoy) depicting Lincoln's boyhood in Indiana; a small but tasteful museum about Lincoln's youth featuring artifacts; a selection of artwork and prints of Lincoln; and a small chapel and hall where frequent weddings are held.
The most impressive feature of the Memorial Building by far are the five bas-reliefs (carvings) which represent major periods of Lincoln's life. Each carving was made from a solid block of limestone measuring 8 feet tall by 13 1/2 feet wide, weighing at 10 tons! The sculptor was Mr. E.H. Daniels. I cannot describe their beauty adequately.
The Kentucky panel shows the years that Lincoln spent living in Kentucky from the time of his birth in 1809 until 1816, when the family moved to Indiana. Lincoln is shown as a 7-year-old in the center of the carving. Others featured include his father, Thomas, (second from left); Dr. Christopher Columbus Graham (seated) a scientist who visited Lincoln's home and fascinated Abe with wonderful stories; his mother Nancy; his sister Sarah; and his first school teacher.
The Indiana panel represents the years Lincoln spent living in Indiana (1816-1830), and features him standing in the center as a 21-year-old man. The others shown include his friend Allen Gentry (second from left) whom Lincoln traveled with on a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans; his father Thomas; and his step-mother Sarah Bush Lincoln.
The Illinois panel of course represents the years Lincoln spent living in Illinois, from 1830 until 1861 when he left for his inauguration as the 16th president. Here, Lincoln is shown receiving congratulations from friends upon his election the U.S. Congress in 1846. Represented from left to right are John Stuart, his first law partner; Stephen Logan, another law partner; his good friend Joshua Speed (shaking Lincoln's hand); newspaper editor Simon Francis; Mary Todd Lincoln; and Orville Browning, a Lincoln friend and future U.S. Senator.
The Washington panel represents Abraham Lincoln as president during the Civil War, meeting General Ulysses S. Grant in Petersburg, Virginia near the end of the war. Grant is shown to Lincoln's right. The other figures represent the hundreds of thousands of men who made the Union victory possible.
"Now He Belongs To The Ages" Panel
The central panel of the Memorial Building is representative of the final legacy left by Lincoln to the nation upon his assassination. The words "Now he belongs to the ages" were spoken by Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, upon Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865. (Yes, some historians claim that Stanton said "angels" and not "ages", but that is a discussion for another time). Lincoln is shown in this panel ascending to Heaven after his death. The other figures are symbolic of the various groups of people to whom Lincoln belongs: laborer; farmer; mother and child; and freed slave. To his right are Columbia (a national symbol); and the Muse of History, Cleo.
The descriptions of these panels came from an explanatory handout given by the National Park Service to visitors. Interestingly, these panels are not described anywhere on the official website of The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. The photos I've included are ones I took and others I found on the Internet.
In my opinion, at least, the Memorial Building is beautiful and meaningful. Should you ever have a chance to visit The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, be sure to take some extra time and look at the carvings. They are truly works of art.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 6:24 PM
Monday, October 5, 2009
Today marks the 191st anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln's biological mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. She died on October 5, 1818, when her two children, Sarah and Abraham, were just 11 and 9 years old respectively. Born in 1784, Nancy Hanks Lincoln was only 35 years old when she died of what the pioneers called "milk sickness."
Within a year, Thomas Lincoln returned to Kentucky where he married Sarah Bush Johnston, who had children of her own. They returned to Indiana to the Lincoln children. From all accounts, Lincoln's step-mother treated him and his sister Sarah as her own children, and was exceedingly kind to them.
Unfortunately, we don't know what Nancy Hanks Lincoln looked like. There are no known portraits of her done while she was alive, and she died more than two decades prior to the invention of photography.
A painting of Nancy Hanks Lincoln was completed in 1963 by Mr. Lloyd Ostendorf, the famous collector and organizer of photographs of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Ostendorf read brief descriptions of her appearance and also studied photographs of other Hanks family members in order to come up with what he felt was a reasonable guess of her appearance. The painting is on display inside the building at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, but I cannot show it to you because it would violate a copyright that the Ostendorf family holds on it.
We in the Lincoln community of enthusiasts owe Mr. Ostendorf a great deal of gratitude for his lifelong research into the photographic history of Abraham Lincoln. Thanks to his studies, we know the exact (or approximate) dates and photographers of most of the images which exist of Lincoln. He came up with the very system we use today to identify these photographs: the "O" system, in which the photos are numbered from earliest to last as "O-1" and so on. Mr. Ostendorf was also an accomplished artist.
Visitors to the Lincoln Boyhood Memorial near Lincoln City, Indiana can visit a small pioneer cemetery located on the grounds which contains the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. If we know little of her from life, we know even less about her in death. The exact location of her gravesite is not known, except it's either in this old cemetery or close by. According to the National Park Service, an admirer of Abraham Lincoln visited the cemetery in 1868 and was greatly upset about the overgrown condition of it. He wrote a poem which was published in a local paper, one of the first accounts of the condition of the gravesite. After a marker which was installed in 1874 had disappeared within 5 years, a local businessman had the gravestone pictured above installed in the cemetery. The inscription reads "Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Mother of President Lincoln, died October 5 A.D. 1818, age 35 years." I took the above photo during my visit to the Boyhood Memorial in September.
The Milk Sickness
In my opening paragraph, I mentioned that Abraham Lincoln's mother died of "milk sickness," which the pioneers knew nothing, other than it apparently came from drinking poisoned milk. Today we know what killed Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and many other of her neighbors in the autumn of 1818. It was caused by cattle eating the innocuous-looking plant pictured above.It's called "white snakeroot," which contains a poison called "tremetol." When cattle ingest the plant while grazing, it will poison their meat and milk. When humans drink the milk or eat the tainted beef, nausea and vomiting or even coma and death can occur. This poisonous feature of this woodland plant wasn't discovered until the 20th century. It's rarely a problem today for humans, but it still kills an occasional cow if the animal eats the plant. In Nancy Lincoln's time, though, it caused many deaths of the Indiana pioneers and brought terror to everyone, who didn't understand what was making the milk turn to poison.
As luck would have it, I was at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial when the white snakeroot plants were in bloom. I took the above photo of one such plant, which is literally growing next to the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln's mother is buried. It was touching to see these plants growing in abundance around the cemetery and throughout the woods on the grounds of the Memorial. Their predecessors were directly responsible for the first of many tragedies Abraham Lincoln suffered throughout his life.
We don't know much about Nancy Hanks Lincoln, where she's actually buried, or even what she looked like. But we do know that she gave birth to Abraham Lincoln, who rose from obscurity to become our nation's greatest president. And that fact alone makes it important that we still honor her memory, which I hope I've done with this post.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 5:00 PM
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Abraham Lincoln was, of course, born in Kentucky in 1809. He spent most of his adult life in Springfield, Illinois prior to his election to the presidency and is entombed there as well. And he lived the final years of his life in Washington, D.C. where he was assassinated and died. In this year of Lincoln's birth bicentennial, much attention has been focused on the aforementioned locations.
The official bicentennial celebration kicked off last year in Hodgenville, Kentucky, near Lincoln's birthplace. A gala birthday celebration took place this year on February 12 in Springfield, with President Obama in attendance. And Washington, D.C. has been the setting for major exhibitions, the re-dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, and various artistic performances throughout the city to celebrate Lincoln.
Not to be overlooked during this or any year is the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Located in southern Indiana near the small town of Lincoln City, the Memorial encompasses the area where Abraham Lincoln lived from the time he was a young boy until he grew to adulthood.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Boyhood Memorial for the first time just two weekends ago, on September 19, 2009. I've been to the Birthplace Memorial in Kentucky twice, Springfield twice, and to Washington, D.C. more times than I can remember. So I thought I should visit where Lincoln grew up during this bicentennial year. I'd like to share about my trip with my readers. But first some background.
In 1816, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved from Kentucky to Indiana along with their two children, Sarah (9) and little Abraham (7). Various reasons are given for the move away from Kentucky, but the most likely reasons are slavery and problems with land deeds. Lincoln's parents were Baptists and opposed slavery, which was legal in Kentucky, but not in Indiana. And Kentucky used irregular "meets and bounds" for land boundaries, which led to constant disputes and uncertainty whether the land a person inhabited was clearly owned by that person. Indiana used a more regular method of defining boundaries and a land owner could be reasonably sure that deeds were accurate.
Lincoln spent the next 14 years of his life living in this area of Indiana, until 1830 when his father decided that Illinois offered better opportunities for farming. It was in Indiana, though, where Abraham learned many of the values which served him so well as he matured into adulthood and as he ascended to the presidency.
After Lincoln's death in 1865, this area of Indiana became revered both for Lincoln and his mother, Nancy, who died there in 1818. At first the area was known as the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Park and was operated by the state of Indiana. The memorial building pictured above was constructed in the 1940's. Gradually, supporters of the park pushed for national status and in 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation which created the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Since then it has been run as a unit of the National Park Service.
The park totals about 200 acres and contains the memorial building, a small graveyard which is the burial site of Lincoln's mother, a "living farm" depicting what frontier life was like in Lincoln's time, a small memorial to the cabin the Lincoln family began building in 1829, and a trail featuring twelve stones which came from various sites related to Lincoln.
I'll cover the major highlights of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in individual entries rather than have one post with a lot of information so as to not lose the attention of my readers. I'll be posting in the coming days about the Memorial Building, Lincoln's mother Nancy, and other Lincoln sites I visited within the park and the surrounding area.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Boyhood Memorial. First of all, it's heavily forested and it's a lovely setting. More importantly, I enjoyed this park far more than I ever have the Birthplace Memorial in Kentucky and, perhaps, even Springfield. Lincoln seemed to me to be more "accessible" at the Boyhood Memorial in some ways than he did at the Birthplace site. While it lacks the sheer historical setting of Springfield as it relates to Lincoln, the Boyhood Memorial also is simpler and helps us to understand the foundations of Lincoln's greatness.
The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is open every day of the year, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January 1. The admission fee is $3.00 per person.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 6:49 PM
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
My apologies to my regular (and new) readers for the lack of postings this past month. Job, home, and some other issues have been working against me in recent weeks and I've simply not been up to the task of putting out new stories about Mr. Lincoln.
This is about to change. I have some news about the trip I took this past weekend to southern Indiana for my first visit ever to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln State Park, and a highly interesting archaeological dig at a home associated with Lincoln. I also will be sharing a personal story about my being quoted in a Civil War magazine in an article about Lincoln.
Thanks for your continued support and patience during this extended absence. I'm gratified by the hundreds of hits I receive on the blog every day.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:54 PM
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 10:49 AM
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I found an article online here from the Chicago Sun-Times which tells about a limited edition poster issued by the Ravinia Festival in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. The creator of the poster is multiple Grammy winning singer Tony Bennett, who is also a notable artist. The poster is shown in this photo.
The poster will be sold at the Ravinia gift shop. Proceeds will be divided equally between the festival and a charitable organization ("Exploring The Arts") founded by Bennett and his wife, which supports arts education in the New York City schools.
The artwork was previously featured on Harold Holzer's book "Why Lincoln Matters."
I'm not an artist or art critic by any means, but I think this is beautiful and wanted to share it with my readers.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 1:26 PM
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Hodgenville, Kentucky is of course close to the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. That community is the site of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Building, which houses a "symbolic" log cabin representing the structure in which Lincoln was born.
According to this article from The News-Enterprise newspaper (Hardin County, Kentucky), the memorial building is going to temporarily close on September 14, 2009 for renovations and will not re-open until Memorial Day 2010. The building is approximately 100 years old and age has taken its toll. Plaster needs replaced and the skylight and windows will be refurbished as well.
The visitors center at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park will remain open.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:07 AM
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Abraham Lincoln Blog is taking a bit of a break over the next couple of weeks. I'm heading to the country of Turkey tomorrow morning so my wife and I can attend the celebration of her father's 90th birthday on Thursday. My wife is originally from that country and her parents still live there.
The image in the photo is taken on the beach where they live on the western coast of Turkey. Yes, it's every bit that beautiful. It will be my 10th trip to the country and I never tire of it, its people, and the amazing history everywhere you look. There are remnants of ancient Rome and Greece, the Hittites, the Byzantines, the Ottoman Empire, and other peoples mentioned in the Bible. It is a fascinating land.
Of course, this being a blog about Abraham Lincoln, I had to find an article about his administration's interaction with the Ottoman Empire, which is here. The U.S. and the Ottoman Empire had very cordial relationships in those days. Today, Turkey remains a staunch and important ally of the U.S. in the unstable Middle East.
The other snippet I know about Lincoln's interaction with the Ottomans is that he sent General Lew Wallace (author of the famous Ben-Hur) as ambassador to Constantinople (now Istanbul). He hoped that the ancient city would inspire Wallace to write another Biblical novel.
Thank you for your patience if I don't update the blog over the next couple of weeks. If major "Abe News" breaks, I'll blog about it as soon as possible. I return in early August after, it is to be hoped, a very relaxing vacation.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:49 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Perhaps no American in history is surrounded by more mythology than Abraham Lincoln. The "Great Emancipator" who freed the slaves actually freed not a single one. The man who supposedly put himself above politics to serve the good of the country was in reality a masterful politician who was not above playing hardball to get what and where he wanted. The most lingering and powerful myth of all for most Americans might be the belief that Lincoln was adored while he was alive, seen as the savior of the Union. Nothing could be further from the truth.
An important new book has been released in the past few months which reveals just how despised Abraham Lincoln was by his opponents, the press, the intelligentsia, and abolitionists. The book, written by Larry Tagg, is titled "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" with the subtitle of "The Story of America's Most Reviled President." I've had the great pleasure to read the book and have decided to post a review of it here in my blog.
(Before I begin the review, I want to make it clear that Larry Tagg is a Lincoln enthusiast. The book discusses the hatred felt for Lincoln by people in the 1860's. It is not a revisionist history or modern-day "hatchet job" on Lincoln.)
Lincoln was obviously the target of fanatical hatred throughout the South, where he received not a single electoral vote in the election of 1860. He was branded an usurper, a tyrant, a bigot, a king, and a gorilla. He was called ugly, foolish, stupid, and other names not fit to print even by today's standards.
What is more surprising, though, is how much Lincoln was detested by many in the North. The rival Democrat press savaged him from the moment he was nominated. Most Northerners felt this backwoods country lawyer from what was then the frontier was not up to the challenge of leading the country at the most critical point in its history. Abolitionists hated him because of his foot-dragging about slavery. His political rivals targeted him from the beginning as well, his new Secretary of State William Seward attempting a bit of a "coup" against him. The intelligentsia laughed at his appearance, mocked his lack of formal education, and were repulsed by his accent. "Proper society" was shocked by the stories of his crass, even vulgar jokes (at least by the standards of the day), and his awkward manners. Even George B. McClellan, the commanding general of the Army Of The Potomac detested Lincoln, was insubordinate to him, and called him an "idiot" in writing.
"The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" goes into great depth relating how much Lincoln was assailed from the time of his nomination, during the election campaign, and throughout his presidency. The author relates how Lincoln was mocked throughout the country when he was sneaked into Washington in the dead of night prior to his inauguration, thanks to credible threats of violence against him during his journey from Springfield.
Where "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" excels is when the author presents the reasons *why* Lincoln was so hated. It wasn't simply because he was a Republican, for members of his own party detested him. Tagg describes clearly the various reasons, including an inherent distrust of leaders by Americans; a series of weak presidents who preceded Lincoln; the party system which had produced those weak presidents; the spoils system which had caused a serious corruption of politicians (sound familiar?); and of course the great debate over slavery. This analysis over the course of a few chapters is outstanding and helps the reader to understand what Lincoln faced as soon as he was nominated.
In the book's epilogue, Tagg discusses the almost instant deification of Abraham Lincoln after the assassination. Newspaper editors who had hurled the most vile of invectives against Lincoln for the previous 4 1/2 years now sang his praises in print. They followed the theme of "Just when Lincoln was finally getting this thing right, he was killed." Preachers who had attacked him for either not being enough of a Christian or being too slow about slavery, now compared him to Christ, for Lincoln was of course shot on Good Friday just as he was leading his country to the "Promised Land." Even papers in the defeated Confederacy now felt compelled to offer him the kind words in death that he was denied in life. Of course, the Union Armies might have something to do with "winning over" the Southern Press. The epilogue to this book is poignant and even moving.
"The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" is beautifully written, with an almost rhythmic cadence at times. Even though it totals 473 pages, it does not seem overly long, because the story and the writing hold the reader's attention. There is generous use of reprinted cartoons and sketches of the era vilifying Lincoln, including many I had never before seen.
Mr. Tagg obviously did an incredible amount of research for this book, much of it from the original sources. It is thoroughly footnoted and Tagg provides a helpful bibliography for the reader who wishes to learn more about the subject matter.
I would have liked to have seen a little more about the press reactions to The Gettysburg Address, because many editors thought it was undignified, too short, and some didn't bother to even reprint it in entirety. The book discusses this in just a couple of pages. But this observation is only a personal opinion and it is the only quibble I had while reading the book.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln." Along the way, I learned a great deal more about this under-represented area of Lincoln history than I previously knew.
The best books on Lincoln (David Donald's "Lincoln" and recent biographies by Michael Burlingame and Ronald White) help us understand the real Lincoln, the man behind the myths, the man who was not universally loved as we all seem to want to believe. And I am very happy to report that "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" fits that description perfectly. This book is important and it deserves a lofty place in the pantheon of Lincoln literature. Well done, Mr. Tagg.
("The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" was published in early 2009 by Savas Beattie LLC. It is available on Amazon.com and at LarryTagg.com plus bookstores nationwide. If you don't see it at your local store, ask them to order it for you. You will not be sorry you did.)
5.0 Log Cabins out of 5.0 - An outstanding and important Lincoln work
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:04 PM
Thursday, July 9, 2009
By now it's fairly old news that the environmentalist group Greenpeace staged a protest yesterday about global warming at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Members of the organization used rappelling anchors (already in place for the National Park Service to use when cleaning the sculptures) and unfurled a banner which read "America Honors Leaders, Not Politicians. Stop Global Warming."
I have mixed emotions about the protest that Greenpeace staged yesterday. Certainly, the members of the group broke the law by trespassing on National Park Service (NPS) land. They could have damaged the carvings. Most seriously of all, they endangered their lives and the lives of the NPS rangers who escorted them back to safety. And of course since I blog about Abraham Lincoln, I was at first angry that Greenpeace protested next to Mr. Lincoln's "head."
On the other hand, I care deeply about the environment and I practice environmentalism on an personal basis. I currently own a 2009 Toyota Prius, which is the third Prius I've owned since 2001. My wife and I recycle virtually everything we use. I believe global warming is real, although the causes of it are debatable. Looking at Greenpeace's banner in another way, it could be taken to mean that this country is in desperate need of leadership, the kind which Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and yes, Abraham Lincoln provided to our nation. In fact, I rather think these four men, especially Roosevelt (who championed conservation), would take action to help combat the effects of global warming.
The New York Daily News had a laughable headline it its edition today, claiming that Greenpeace "defaced" the face of Lincoln at the mountain. Well, no. It unfurled a temporary banner. It did not deface Lincoln's carving or any of the others. And looking at it from the viewpoint of the Native Americans, this mountain (which is spiritual to them) was defaced when Gutzon Borglum, the carver, created these faces in the 1920s. The NPS website states that Mount Rushmore was created to honor American History. True from one point of view. But it does not honor Native American history.
In the end, the Greenpeace protesters were arrested yesterday and face heavy fines and possible jail sentences. That is as it should be, because they did break the law. At the same time, they brought attention to an important issue. Above all, they demanded leadership from our president and the rest of the politicians. And that is not a bad thing.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:26 PM
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The museum at Ford's Theater is at long last scheduled to re-open to the public on July 15, 2009 after a $50 million renovation of it and the theater which took nearly two years. From accounts I've been reading in various sources, it sounds as if the long wait will be worth it.
In the July 3rd edition of The Washington Post, an article describes in detail about how carefully museum curators dressed a mannequin with the original clothes that Lincoln wore to the theater on April 14, 1865. Lincoln's dried blood is still on the trousers and oil still leaks from his boots even after 144 years. Curators were surprised to find that the fly in the trousers is missing a button and the remaining buttons are mismatched. Completing the mannequin and putting it into its glass display case were among the final preparations before the museum re-opens.
As I reported in January, the beautiful overcoat Lincoln wore that night has been deemed too fragile for permanent display, even in controlled lighting and climate conditions. It will be displayed on special occasions only.
The newly renovated museum will strive to tell more about the assassination and put that event into context of Lincoln's time in Washington. It will display the derringer used to kill Lincoln, the knife Booth used to slash Major Henry Rathbone (the Lincolns' companion that night, along with Clara Harris), a toy sword used by Tad Lincoln, opera glasses used by Mary Lincoln, and the actual door to the president's box from that night.
The "new" Ford's Theater and Museum will be a must-see attraction for people who wish to learn more about Abraham Lincoln and one of the greatest tragedies of American history.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:09 PM
Sunday, July 5, 2009
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois was visited on Independence Day by its 2 millionth visitor. The lucky person, pictured above being greeted by a Lincoln re-enactor, is Julie Domantay, who moved to Illinois from the Philippines just last year. Ms. Domantay confessed to not knowing much about Lincoln and wanted to visit the museum on Independence Day. Highly appropriate, considering the reverence that Lincoln held for the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence.
According to the article in today's State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.) newspaper, the Lincoln Museum achieved this milestone faster than any other presidential library or museum. That's not surprising to me, considering Lincoln's continued popularity and the fascination he holds for so many, including this blogger.
If you've never visited the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, I urge you to do so. It is full of outstanding information about the man. I personally wish it wouldn't be so Disney-like, but today's crowds apparently need entertainment while they're learning. I suppose there's not much harm in that.
The Museum features both permanent and temporary exhibits, plus a very good museum store.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 2:23 PM
Abraham Lincoln was the "Big Cheese" in the U.S. for the most tumultuous period of our history. Now Honest Abe literally became the big cheese a couple of days ago in Washington, D.C.
Pictured above is a life-sized "statue" of Lincoln created entirely from a 1,000 pound block of cheddar cheese. According to this report from Fox News, the Cheez-It Cracker company has commissioned sculptor Troy Landwehr to create cheese sculptures in Washington, D.C. over the 4th of July weekend for the past three years. This year it was an obvious choice to do Lincoln in honor of his 200th birthday. The link contains a video of the carving as well.
Mr. Landwehr took five days to complete the work. I hope people don't find it to be too tacky, or dare I say, "cheesy."
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 11:24 AM
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Here's a nice little story about two New Jersey 3rd grade classes which have been hard at work on a special project about Abraham Lincoln for the past few months.
In honor of Honest Abe's 200th birthday, teachers from a school in Madison and another in South Hackensack had their third grade students study, learn, and research the life of Lincoln. Students at one school focused on his early years, while the other school's students learned more about his later years up to his assassination. Along the way, the kids from each school wrote each other letters detailing what they had learned. The end result was a multi-media project (with some assistance from high-tech adults) which lasts about 15 minutes, with the narration provided by the students themselves.
The best thing? Well, the teachers sent the project along with some documentation to the Abraham Lincoln Illinois Bicentennial Commission for its review. And the Commission was so pleased and impressed, that it added the project to none other than the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. It's also being considered for entry into the Library of Congress!
Congratulations to the teachers, Beverly DeFabiis and Rita Liggio, for encouraging your students to learn about Mr. Lincoln. As a result of this project, perhaps at least one of your students will grow up to become the next great Lincoln scholar.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:47 PM
Today marks the 145th anniversary of the signing of legislation by Abraham Lincoln which gave the Yosemite Valley in California (and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove) to the state of California. It was done with the requirement that the valley be preserved for public recreation and use.
It marked the first time that the Federal government set aside land for recreational use. This action in turn helped lead to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the nation's first such park, in 1872. Yosemite remained a California preserve until 1890, when it reverted back to the Federal government and became a national park. The Big Tree Grove and surrounding lands went back under the control of the Federal government in 1903.
The original sponsor of the legislation in Congress was Republican Senator John Conness of California. He foresaw the damage which could occur to the pristine wilderness if it was not protected from overuse. (No comment about how most of today's Republicans view wilderness).
Yosemite encompasses about 1,200 square miles of alpine ecosystems, famous mountains and rock formations, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. It remains one of the nation's most visited national parks.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:53 AM
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is getting ready to celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday this Independence Day weekend, July 2 through 5, 2009. Lincoln 200 just might be the biggest of all the celebrations for our nation's 16th president this year. There will be parades, concerts, exhibits, art work, living history, and other events all weekend throughout the city. The link is to the official website with a complete schedule of events.
Why Philadelphia? Lincoln felt a deep passion for the history of our country and of course no other city in the United States means as much in our history as Philadelphia. It was the scene of the creation and signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It was also the nation's capital from 1790 to 1800 while Washington, D.C. was being constructed.
Lincoln stopped in Philadelphia in 1861 during his journey to Washington for his first inauguration. On February 22, 1861 (George Washington's birthday), Lincoln gave a speech at Independence Hall. In that speech, Lincoln stated that "I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence." (This is why he dated the founding of our country back to 1776 instead of 1787 when the Constitution was put into effect). In that same speech, Lincoln also referred to the dangers that our nation's founders faced by declaring independence from England. He spoke of the equality of all men declared in the Declaration. Finally, he told his listeners that "If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle - I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it…. I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, in the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.” The photo in this post shows Lincoln that day at Independence Hall.
Philadelphia also hosted the body of Abraham Lincoln on April 22, 1865. Lincoln's remains were shown in state at Independence Hall, where just a little more than four years before, he gave his eloquent and moving speech.
Yes, Lincoln's ties to Philadelphia are strong. The festival sounds like it will be very interesting. Go celebrate Mr. Lincoln's legacy!
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 12:19 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
Many readers of this blog have been asking me for a few months now where they can buy quality Abraham Lincoln commemoratives at prices which aren't too expensive. I mostly direct them to eBay, but prices can be high and the purchaser always takes a risk in dealing with an unknown seller. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is another source with a good variety of Lincoln items, but the variety of the things it sells is a bit ordinary.
That's why I'm pleased to have found the online store of The New York Times newspaper. It has high quality and unusual Lincoln commemoratives for sale, including reprints of Times news coverage about Lincoln; reproduction photos of Lincoln; and even some original newspapers and a document signed by Lincoln himself. There are photographic reprints of the Lincoln Memorial under construction as well.
The store has an entire section dedicated to the Lincoln commemoratives. The main "entrance" to the Lincoln items may be found here. Some of the more interesting items, in my opinion, include:
- A Lincoln commemorative newspaper with introductions by the late David Herbert Donald and the leading Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. This is the item I've pictured above.
- A beautifully framed bicentennial item, featuring a reprint photo, newspaper headlines, original stamps, a first day cover, and an original 1909 VDB Lincoln cent.
- A heart-shaped pendant with the words "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." These words were attributed to Lincoln after his death by his early biographer and law partner William Herndon. Yes, there are female Lincoln buffs out there! I know many of them.
- Cuff links for the classy guy, featuring Lincoln's facsimile signature. Slides open to reveal a photo of Lincoln, too.
- Also for the gentleman who is a Lincoln buff, ties featuring the text of The Emancipation Proclamation.
- A nice reprint of the 1917 Times photo section featuring one of the most famous Lincoln photos.
- Finally, an original (and *very* expensive) officer's commission signed by both Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Very cool. Anyone have $13,500 for me so I can buy it?
These items and more are available at the New York Times online store. I don't want The Abraham Lincoln Blog to become commercial, but I thought I'd pass on the news to readers who might be interested.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 5:44 PM
I came across a nice little story here about the famous actor James Earl Jones' performance last weekend in "A Lincoln Portrait" in Gettysburg. "A Lincoln Portrait" is of course the famous musical work written by composer Aaron Copland in 1942 as both a tribute to Lincoln and as a way of comforting the nation during WWII.
If you've never heard a performance of "A Lincoln Portrait" do yourself a favor and attend one. The music is stirring and quite lovely, but the narration which accompanies the music is powerful, especially if read by a good dramatic voice. I've attended two such performances in recent months and will do so again.
While he's best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, he is a brilliant actor who has been in films such as Matewan, Field of Dreams, and some of the "Dr Jack Ryan" movies by Tom Clancy. He is also behind the resonant voice of "This is CNN."
I'm sorry I didn't know about this performance in Gettysburg ahead of time. I'm sure it was magnificent.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 5:21 PM
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Today is the 146th birthday of the state of West Virginia. I thought I'd mark the anniversary by recounting a brief history of the state, explain Abraham Lincoln's involvement with it, and discuss the statue pictured here.
The vast majority of the citizens of what was then western Virginia did not approve of secession from the U.S in 1861. They were culturally, politically, and even economically different from the rest of Virginians. The western counties did not depend nearly as heavily on slavery as did the rest of the state, thanks primarily to topography. Western (West) Virginia is mountainous and rugged, and there were no plantations or even huge scale farms as there were in the central and eastern regions of Virginia. As part of the agreement to enter the Union as a new state, this breakaway region of Virginia had to agree to abolish slavery, which it did at a state convention in the town of Wheeling.
It was Abraham Lincoln who signed on December 31, 1862 the Statehood Bill granting approval to western Virginians to seek admission to the Union. Less than six months later on June 20, 1863, the new state of West Virginia became the 35th admitted to the Union.
There were Civil War encounters in western (West) Virginia, including the site of the first land battle of the war in 1861, in the small town of Philippi. Union General George B. McClellan and Confederate General Robert E. Lee both saw action in western Virginia at the outset of the war. And what is now Harpers Ferry, West Virginia was the scene of the infamous John Brown raid on the Federal Arsenal on October 16, 1859. Even with fairly numerous battles and skirmishes throughout the Civil War, western (West) Virginia suffered much less throughout the war than did the heart of the Confederacy. For more information about the history of West Virginia, you may click on this article.
In 1974, the citizens (primarily children who collected pennies) of West Virginia erected the statue of Lincoln (pictured above) on the grounds of the state capitol in Charleston. West Virginia artist Bernie Wiepper based the statue on a famous poem "Abraham Lincoln Walks At Midnight", written by poet Vachel Lindsay. The Charleston (W.Va) Gazette-Mail newspaper contains more information about the statue here.
The poem on which the statue is based is very moving. It was originally published in 1914 at the onset of World War I, then known as The Great War. It depicts a melancholy Lincoln arisen from his eternal sleep, roaming Springfield, disturbed by yet another time of war in the world. The text of the poem may be found here.
p.s. - if you like what you read here or anywhere else on The Abraham Lincoln Blog, follow it on Twitter. I'll post other news about Lincoln there when I don't have the time for in-depth blog posts. Click here to begin following today!
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:50 PM
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:12 AM
Monday, June 15, 2009
Liam Neeson has at long last begun work on Stephen Spielberg's upcoming movie about Abraham Lincoln. Post-production efforts on another Spielberg film have finished, permitting work on the Lincoln film to resume. No date has been set for the release of the Lincoln film. Unfortunately, it will not be this year during the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
Neeson has the physical appearance to portray Lincoln. Like Lincoln, Neeson is 6'4" in height and has a slender build. In order to prepare for the role, Neeson prepared by reading 22 Lincoln books and even viewed various Lincoln documents while in Washington, D.C. It's obvious that Neeson is taking his role seriously, which is very encouraging.
Playing the role of Mary Todd Lincoln will be Sally Field, who vaguely resembles Mrs. Lincoln, at least in Mary's youth.
Both Field and Neeson are extraordinary actors and of course Spielberg is in a class of his own. Let's hope that the quality of the film, whenever it's released, reflects the brilliance of the people who will craft it.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
This bicentennial year of Mr. Lincoln's birth has been a busy one for celebrating all things Lincoln. Exhibits are continuing to open across the country almost weekly. Concerts and plays are being performed throughout the year. New coins have or will be issued. Discoveries of Lincoln documents or photos seemingly are announced monthly. Magazine articles about Lincoln have been printed in numerous publications. And of course, more Lincoln books are on the horizon all the time.
Like other Lincoln bloggers, it's been difficult for me to keep up. I always strive to report what I think are worthwhile Lincoln "events" but it's just not possible to report everything in a detailed blog post. That combined with a two-month illness in my family has really hindered my ability to post as frequently as I'd like as well as with the quality I demand of myself
I'm going to use Twitter in a couple of ways. First, I'll issue a "tweet" whenever I post a new article on the blog. That way, people can more rapidly find out that a new article is available for reading. Second, I'll use "tweets" for briefer announcements concerning Lincoln news or updates about the blog.
My Twitter user id for this blog is "Mr_Lincoln". Whether you're a longtime reader of this blog, or have found it only recently, please "follow" it on Twitter as together we learn more about Abraham Lincoln.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I thought I'd finally share with my readers an interview I gave to my local paper, The Canton (Ohio) Repository, about Abraham Lincoln. A few days before Lincoln's 200th birthday back in February, a reporter found this blog on the web. When she noticed that I'm from the local area, she contacted me to find out if I'd be interested in offering some insight about Lincoln, especially his trip through our community while he was en route to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. I agreed and had a great time talking to her about Honest Abe.
The reporter, Ms. Charita Goshay, was delightful as she asked me about Lincoln and why Ohio was such a critical state for him in the elections of 1860 and 1864. Especially in those days, Ohio was a "king maker," with many nationally prominent political leaders hailing from the state. It still remains very difficult to win the presidency without winning the Ohio vote, and the adage that "As Ohio goes, so goes the nation" remains relevant today.
I was honored that she asked me for some of my insight, especially when I read the article and discovered that the other main interviewee was a local historian and professor who has authored many books about the presidents. I'm not a professional historian, as I clearly point out in my profile on the blog. In fact, many trained historians consider people like me to be "hacks" and not really worthy of recognition for the work we do in helping people learn more about history and the people who made it. So I was delighted that Ms. Goshay asked me for some input. It was the first (and so far only) time that I've been interviewed or asked to share my Lincoln knowledge with the public.
I debated a long time with myself whether or not I should even post about the interview. I try to avoid interjecting myself as much as possible into the blog posts (with the exception of reviews of books, exhibitions, and documentaries about Lincoln). After all, this is "The Abraham Lincoln Blog" and not the "Abraham Lincoln and Geoff Elliott Blog". Just this once, I hope it's OK to share with my readers a little publicity I've received as a result of my lifelong fascination with Abraham Lincoln. Thank you.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 6:09 PM
An exhibition about Abraham Lincoln has opened this past weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Senator John Heinz History Center. Titled "Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War and Lincoln Slept Here," the exhibition is a collaborative effort between the Heinz History Center and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA.
"Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War" has been shown previously in other U.S. cities, including at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is an outstanding exhibit. If you missed it in Cincinnati, now is your opportunity to visit it in Pittsburgh. The purpose of this exhibit is to examine Lincoln's actions during the Civil War as they pertained to the U.S. Constitution. It features rare Lincoln artifacts, including a top hat; original copies of The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment (outlawing slavery); campaign ribbons; etc. My review of the exhibit may be found here .
The Heinz Center has added something new to the exhibit, though. "Lincoln Slept Here" is the new addition and features an original bed and bedroom set from the Monongahela House, the hotel where Lincoln stayed overnight in Pittsburgh (February 14, 1861) during his journey to Washington for his inauguration. The room he stayed in has been recreated in the museum and also contains the original washstand, dressing mirror, chairs, and even the chamber pot. Photos of other famous Lincoln-used beds are shown in this portion of the exhibit, including his birth bed; White House bed; and his death bed. "Lincoln Slept Here" explores Lincoln's visit to Pittsburgh, including his speech in which he tried to calm an anxious nation's fears.
The link I provided above to the Heinz History Center exhibition contains a video sneak preview. Check it out. The exhibition runs until 2010, so there is plenty of time yet to visit it. I plan on it myself, as I've never visited the History Center. It's associated with The Smithsonian Institution, so it must be excellent.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
For those collectors of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia with unlimited income, the item pictured above is sure to garner much interest when it is sold at auction next week in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a pitcher (more properly called a ewer) presented to President Lincoln upon his first inauguration.
This ewer is no ordinary pitcher. It's maker was Tiffany and Company in New York. Yes, *that* Tiffany. It is sterling silver with gold wash. Inscribed "To The President Of The United States From His Washington Friends March 4, 1861." Engraved on the body of the ewer is the Great Seal Of The United States complete with 33 stars, one for every state in the Union at the time it was commissioned. Since Kansas was admitted as a state on January 29, 1861, this ewer had to have been made sometime between November 1860 and January 1861.
No one knows just who gave this item to Lincoln. Research has never been able to find who Lincoln's "Washington Friends" were. Records of presidential gifts were not recorded at the time by The White House. Speculation about the presenters has fallen upon potential lobbyists, for example. Another possibility includes job seekers (in those days, the "spoils" system was still in play and every new president was besieged by job seekers). Obviously, the givers were people of means for even in those days, items from Tiffany and Company were something only the wealthiest people could afford.
The ewer has been on loan to The Smithsonian Institution since 1969 by the anonymous Midwestern family who owns it. The family purchased it from a dealer in Boston, who acquired it from a woman to whom it had been willed by a dealer in Russian antiques. It is not known how that particular dealer acquired it and there is no record of the ewer from the time it was presented to Lincoln until the early 20th Century. An interesting story to be sure.
The auction estimate? A cool $300,000 to $400,000! It is being auctioned by Cowan's Historic Americana in Cincinnati on June 6. Cowan's is one of the more prestigious auction houses in the country, especially when it comes to historic items from the nation's history. You can read more about the item on Cowan's website here. There are also better images of the ewer on that site.
It would look fantastic on my sideboard in my dining room. Alas, I believe someone else will end up with it.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:42 PM