Friday, July 30, 2010

Liam Neeson Drops Out of Spielberg's Lincoln Film

Many Hollywood Internet sites are reporting today that famed actor Liam Neeson has dropped out of the role of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biographical film. Well, shall we say "proposed film" because this project has been "planned" for at least five years with no progress on it whatsoever.

Neeson, according to the website Monsters And Critics.com, feels as though he's now too old to portray Lincoln. The actor is 58, while Lincoln was 56 when he was assassinated.

I disagree. Look at any recent photo of Neeson and compare it to the ravages of age on Lincoln's face towards the end of his life. Neeson looks far younger even today than Lincoln did at 50.

Other sites are speculating that Neeson simply tired of the lack of progress or even movement on this project by Spielberg. It's a shame, because I think Neeson would have been brilliant in the role.

Please don't confuse this proposed Lincoln film with the "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" film to be based on the book by the same title. This film would be serious while the vampire film will be classic camp.

At any rate, who knows if Spielberg will ever bring this project to the screen? He missed a golden opportunity last year during the bicentennial celebrations of Lincoln's birth. I wonder if it would even find an audience.

Update: Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Remains Closed

Nearly one year after renovations began on the building which enshrines Abraham Lincoln's symbolic birthplace cabin, it remains closed to visitors. I originally posted an article in August 2009 which discussed the repairs which have been taking place on the Memorial Building located in the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park, located near Hodgenville, KY.

Now the News-Enterprise (Hardin County, KY) reports that the Memorial Building may not open until Labor Day this year. Apparently the repairs to the century-old Memorial Building required much more work than first estimated by engineers. Plaster in the ceiling is being replaced, upgrades to the cooling and heating system have been required, and a new skylight is being added to permit natural light. The roof on the building is also being replaced. Original plans called for the Memorial Building to be re-opened this past April.

I wrote about this site in one of my first posts on The Abraham Lincoln Blog back in 2007. This cabin is certainly not the one in which Lincoln was born. At best, it might contain a log or two from the original one. The National Park Service does not hide the fact that this cabin is not really the actual birthplace of Lincoln. The story of this particular cabin is somewhat involved. You can read more about it in the book "Lies Across America." Still, the cabin does gives us an idea of how the original one probably appeared.

I'll post an update when the Memorial Building re-opens, hopefully in just a few more weeks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Desecration Of A Lincoln Artifact

I'm normally very good about keeping up with current news about anything to do with Abraham Lincoln, be it a new exhibit, book, or findings of new documents as my previous post describes. So I'm a bit upset with myself today that I did not realize that when Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) died last month, his remains lay in state in the U.S. Capitol on a very important artifact associated with Lincoln.

The Lincoln Catafalque, or bier, was constructed upon the death of President Lincoln. It was on this catafalque, draped in black mourning cloth, that Lincoln's casket was placed for the official laying in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on April 19-21, 1865. It has since been used for other U.S. Presidents in this capacity, including John F. Kennedy and most recently for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It has also been used for other distinguished Americans such as Hubert Humphrey, General Douglas MacArthur, and the Unknown Soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korean War, and Viet Nam. When the catafalque is not in use, it is on display in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

The motion to have Byrd's remains rest on this catafalque was made by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and was passed in the Senate with no opposition.

I am personally appalled that Robert Byrd was granted this honor which is normally reserved for only the most deserving of people. In his youth, Byrd not only was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; he recruited an estimated 150 people to join it. While a member of the U.S. Senate in 1964, Byrd organized the second-longest filibuster in that chamber's history in opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He voted against the U.S. Supreme Court appointments of both African-American justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. Though Byrd later apologized for the Klan membership and his Civil Rights Act filibuster, I wonder if he was truly as "rehabilitated" in his racial views as today's politicians such as Bill Clinton claim. Yes, people can change in their lifetime, but Byrd's actions on race outweigh his late-in-life apologies in my opinion.

As a student of Abraham Lincoln's life and especially as an American, I am reminded how Byrd's actions during his lifetime of opposing equal rights contrast with those of Lincoln. Lincoln fought against the spread of slavery and later helped to eradicate it from our soil. He fought for the 13th Amendment which abolished it completely. He believed in equal rights for everyone. Robert Byrd fought to withhold rights from people based purely on the color of their skin.

Robert Byrd is now the longest serving member of Congress in our nation's history. But he surely did not deserve to lay in state on the Lincoln catafalque.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lincoln Documents Found In Donner Party Papers

A couple of days ago, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPM) in Springfield, Illinois announced to various news sources that Abraham Lincoln's writing had been found on documents which were carried by a member of the infamous Donner Party.

The Donner Party was the ill-fated group of pioneers who tried to reach California in a wagon train in 1846. The party was delayed by unfortunate circumstances and ended up being snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the winter of 1846-1847. About half of the roughly 90 members of the party died and some survivors apparently resorted to cannibalism to remain live. Much more detailed information about the Donner Party may be found on this excellent website.

James Reed, pictured above, lived in Springfield, Illinois in the 1840's. He was one of the organizing members of the Donner Party (sometimes called Donner-Reed Party). He served with Abraham Lincoln during the Black Hawk War in Illinois in 1832. Lincoln and Reed both served as privates in their particular company, which saw no action in the war. (Lincoln later jokingly said the only battles he saw were those against the mosquitoes.)

On the muster rolls included in this James Frazier Reed Papers collection at the California State Library, Lincoln's name is plainly found. Reed's name is listed immediately below Lincoln's. Researchers from the ALPM found two lines written in Lincoln's hand, which helped to identify that he had a horse worth $85.00 and equipment worth another $15.00. I believe I've read in the Papers Of Abraham Lincoln that Lincoln's horse was later stolen upon his discharge on July 10, 1832.

As I earlier wrote, these muster rolls and other papers were carried by James Reed while the Donner Party tried to make its way to California. Researchers think that the papers were carried to California by Reed's wife, but Reed himself was kicked out of the party for killing a man during a fight while on the journey.

The entire report may be found at this website from CNN. It's always news when a "new" Lincoln document comes to light. This helps historians fill in another piece of Lincoln's military experience. And of course the association with the Donner Party makes these documents even more prized.

What an amazing story. Just goes to show that there is always something more to learn about Abraham Lincoln.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some New Features On The Abraham Lincoln Blog

The above photo shows results of the efforts of some unknown "artist" who tried to update Mr. Lincoln's "look" for today's modern era. I don't know if he would approve of the look or not, but he was never averse to change.

Since I've decided to continue The Abraham Lincoln Blog, I feel as though it needs a new feature to help keep up with rapid changes in technology and social networking. Beginning today, readers will be able to use "share buttons" at the end of every new post (or any previously existing one) to bring attention to anything they find worthy on this blog. The reader may email a post, use Blogger to include it in their own blog, or share it to Twitter, Facebook, and Googlebuzz. It will cut down on the time of copying and pasting a URL to another site.

Another new addition to the blog is a section titled "Upcoming Lincoln Events And Other Fun Stuff," which is located on the right side of the page below the Abraham Lincoln Blogs and Links section. This new section will include links to upcoming symposia, lectures, and exhibits associated with Lincoln. Other links will be for "fun" things related to Lincoln, such as websites selling Lincoln souvenirs and apparel. I'm not being paid by any site listed in this new section. It's simply a way to bring attention to things my readers might enjoy.

As always, thanks for taking time to read this blog about Abraham Lincoln.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Abraham Lincoln Blog Resumes

After weeks of thought about what the future holds for this blog about Abraham Lincoln, I have come to realize that it must continue. I had contemplated deleting the blog or ending it, but now I understand that it would be a mistake to do either.

The past few months have been discouraging for me in regards to the effort I put into writing about Lincoln. At the beginning of this year, I was contacted by a museum (the name of which will remain unmentioned) in the Midwestern United States which was interested in having me speak in conjunction with a Lincoln exhibition. In fact,the original plan was to have me speak at the museum on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond belief that this museum wanted me, an amateur historian, to give a lecture on an important anniversary associated with Lincoln. Months went by and the museum was still interested, perhaps even expanding my role into a second engagement.

I was informed in June that the museum directors had chosen to go in a different direction and the invitation was withdrawn. I understand the reasons given. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. It has made me doubt both my knowledge and efforts I put into this blog.

I've also been contacted by many other organizations requesting that I give their Lincoln event or website free publicity. I never ask to be paid for publicity, but it would be kind if a discount to the event would be offered in return. And many times, even a simple "thank you" in return would be welcome. Too often, I never hear again from the organization after giving it a "shout out" on the blog. That is also quite discouraging because I don't want this blog to become commercialized.

In spite of these disappointments in recent months, I've also been receiving a great deal of encouragement and support from readers I never knew I had. They've all been asking me to not end the blog and to continue writing, because they are interested in learning more about Mr. Lincoln. There has been a lot of response to my previous post and I'm grateful to everyone who has written.

I was still leaning toward no longer writing about Lincoln until yesterday. I went to see a small but excellent Lincoln exhibit in a tiny village in Northeastern Ohio. There was the typical Lincoln re-enactor to help answer questions of visitors. Then I heard that this little museum has been setting attendance records while the Lincoln exhibit has been on display. It seems that people simply cannot get enough of learning about Mr. Lincoln. People of all ages were there yesterday, children typically showing the most interest. Adults were asking to have their photo taken with "Mr. Lincoln," the re-enactor. Everyone present wanted to be in Lincoln's presence, whether through photos and artifacts, or "in person."

Then it dawned on me. It doesn't matter if I get to speak about Lincoln at a museum. Rude organizations wanting free publicity from me don't matter. What matters is that there is a thirst for knowledge about Abraham Lincoln. Helping people to obtain that knowledge is worth the efforts I put into my writing. That is the sole reason I'm continuing The Abraham Lincoln Blog. Thank you for dropping by.

 
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