Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Jersey School Project Added To Lincoln Museum

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.

Lincoln and Yosemite National Park

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Philadelphia Celebrates Lincoln Independence Day Weekend

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!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Great Source For Lincoln Commemoratives

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.

James Earl Jones Performs "A Lincoln Portrait"

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.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Abraham Lincoln and West Virginia


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!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lincoln Assassination Exhibit At The Newseum

Currently on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an exhibit about Lincoln's assassination and the ensuing hunt for his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. "Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln's Killer" opened a few months ago and will be featured at the Newseum until February 28, 2010.

The exhibit is a joint product of the Newseum and James L. Swanson, the author of "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer," a former best-seller. If you've not read the book, do yourself a favor and do so. The narrative is gripping and expertly captures the national drama surrounding the assassination and the desperate efforts to capture Booth and the conspirators.

Unlike previous exhibits about the assassination, this one presents how the media reported the tragedy and the search for Booth. Featured are reproduction and original newspapers, mourning posters and photos, and other artifacts depicting how the public was kept informed. Photos of Lincoln, Booth, his co-conspirators are shown to tell the story. Reproduction casts of Lincoln's face and hands are also on display in the exhibit.

The exhibit has proven to be a popular one at the Newseum, the only such museum dedicated to the history of modern news reporting. Ironically, it's located in Washington, D.C. at the site of the National Hotel, used by Booth for lodging in the days leading up to the assassination.

The link I listed in the opening paragraph contains more information about the exhibit, including video of Mr. Swanson explaining more about the events of April 1865. Also featured are interactive maps showing the various places which factored in the assassination.

There are of course numerous resources available for learning more about Lincoln's assassination. PBS ran a special back in February about it on American Experience. My review of the show may be found here. It was basically a film version of Swanson's book. The History Channel had a two-hour documentary about 18 months ago titled "The Hunt For John Wilkes Booth." You can read more about that documentary here. Finally, a more detailed story about this exhibit in Washington may be found here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"House Divided Speech" Anniversary


Today marks the 151st anniversary of one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous speeches. His "House Divided" speech was given on this date in 1858 upon his nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

His speech in which he proclaimed that a "house divided against itself cannot stand" over the issue of slavery electrified his audience and thrust him onto the national stage. Although Lincoln eventually lost the election to the Senate to Stephen A. Douglas, the scene was set for his election to the presidency in 1860. The image above is of an original newspaper report of the speech.

For a more thorough recounting of the "House Divided" speech, please click here to read my posting about it from this past January.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Liam Neeson At Work On Lincoln Film

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

Abraham Lincoln Blog Now On Twitter

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

Rare Lincoln Document Found in Hawaii


A very rare and priceless document signed by Abraham Lincoln has been found in the Hawaii State Archives. Scholars are thrilled with the find, but are puzzled how it ended up in Hawaii.

What makes this letter so unique is its association with The Emancipation Proclamation. Although Lincoln signed the Emancipation on January 1, 1863, he had issued a Preliminary Proclamation on September 22, 1862 which basically gave notice of his intended actions concerning slavery in the Confederacy if the states were still in rebellion on the first day of 1863.

This letter found in Hawaii was also issued on September 22, 1862 and is a directive to Lincoln's Secretary of State, William H. Seward, to affix the Seal Of The United States to the Preliminary Proclamation in order to make it official. The Preliminary Proclamation itself is in the New York State Library.

An expert from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum traveled to Hawaii to verify the letter's authenticity. While it will remain in the Hawaii archives, there is a possibly that it will be loaned to the museum in Springfield, Illinois. The image in this post is of the letter.

The mystery is just how did this document end up in Hawaii in the first place? Speculation thus far has settled on a collector named Bruce Cartwright, who is known to have come to Hawaii in 1935 and donated numerous documents to the archives. The truth may never be known.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interviewed About Abraham Lincoln

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.

New Lincoln Exhibition In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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.

 
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