Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lincoln Bible Will Be Used By Obama At Inaugural

President-Elect Barack Obama has been doing his best to "channel" Abraham Lincoln ever since he kicked off his campaign for the presidency. He began his campaign in Springfield, Illinois at the steps of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln served for eight years in the Illinois Legislature. He's referred to Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team Of Rivals" countless times both during and after the campaign. The President-Elect will partially re-trace the route taken by Lincoln to the nation's capital, departing from Philadelphia on a train. A welcoming ceremony will be held at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18. Just announced this morning is yet another move by Obama to honor the memory of his political hero, Abraham Lincoln.

According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee website, Mr. Obama will be sworn in as the nation's 44th president while he places his hand on the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861 during Lincoln's first inauguration. This will mark the first time that this particular Bible will be used at a presidential swearing-in since Lincoln himself used it. The Lincoln Bible is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, which was under no obligation to let it be used by Obama.

According to the site, Obama is "is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in. The President-elect is committed to holding an inauguration that celebrates the unity of America, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage."

This particular Bible was purchased specifically for Lincoln's inaugural by the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lincoln actually wanted to use his family Bible, but it was still en route to Washington and would not have arrived in time. The image I show here is the Bible Lincoln used at his inauguration.

Presidents are under no Constitutional requirement to use a Bible during the swearing-in ceremony. Theodore Roosevelt chose to not use one, the only president to date to have done so. Some presidents choose to use family Bibles, others have chosen to use the one used by George Washington.

The Lincoln Bible will be featured in an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition" from February 12, 2009 until May 9, 2009 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.. Some of the other items to be featured will include Lincoln's grammar book, notes he took in preparation for the debates with 'Stephen Douglas, and a scrapbook which Lincoln kept.

I admit that Obama's continued references to Lincoln can sometimes be a little over-the-top. But I think this simple act of using the Lincoln Bible is both justified and meaningful.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Abraham Lincoln Blog At 200

As Mr. Lincoln's 200th birthday rapidly approaches (surely everyone knows by now that it is February 12, 2009), I hope the reader of his blog will permit a little self-indulgence today. This post is the 200th entry on The Abraham Lincoln Blog.

I was new to blogging when I began this blog about Mr. Lincoln in October 2007. I began it for fairly selfish reasons. I needed something productive to occupy far too much spare time. A life of watching too much television and net surfing too frequently was not accomplishing anything worthwhile. Since I'm a computer professional, I thought I'd venturing into the world of blogging. And since my true passion in life is everything related to Abraham Lincoln, I decided to blog about him.

Had I known that there were other Lincoln blogs and sites in existence, I would not have had the "courage" to begin another one. It was after my first 20 posts or so that I learned about Dr. Brian Dirck's wonderful "A. Lincoln Blog," and the superb Abraham Lincoln Research Site, by R. J. Norton. At that point, I nearly stopped this blog for fear that it was superfluous and not in the "league" of the others.

But I realized that in my attempt to provide knowledge to others about Lincoln, I was learning a lot more about him, too. I hadn't known much about the Lincoln-Douglas debates or about his life as a circuit-riding lawyer, for example. So I decided to keep this new Lincoln blog going and I'm happy I did.

Along the way, I've "met" some interesting people who have commented about my postings and I was given the opportunity to review an advance copy of a children's book about Abe. Above all, I've become good friends with a couple of other history bloggers. I'm surprised at the "publicity" the blog has received, including a link to it from the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website. I'm even more surprised that it's received over 46,000 "hits" in the 14 months it's existed.

I thank everyone who has commented on posts, asked questions, offered suggestions, and gently corrected errors I've made. And I especially thank you for the continued interest in Abraham Lincoln.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mister Lincoln's White House

The cable channel C-SPAN is running a series of programs every night this week about The White House. Titled "White House Week" the shows will feature tours of the private quarters of the White House (hosted by Laura Bush), a never before shown 1968 tour with Lady Bird Johnson, the famous 1962 tour hosted by Jackie Kennedy, and the first ever televised tour with President Harry S Truman from 1952.

Of particular interest to Abraham Lincoln enthusiasts will be "The Lincoln White House," being shown this coming Thursday evening, December 18. This episode will be taking place in The Lincoln Bedroom and will feature an interview with Harold Holzer, the national co-chair of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and one of the leading Lincoln scholars. Also featured in this program will be Lincoln's "Summer White House," the old Soldier's Home in Washington, which has recently been restored.

The program begins at 9:00 p.m. and is scheduled to run for two hours.

Friday, December 12, 2008

UPDATE: Lincoln Collection To Remain In Indiana

Today's Indianapolis Star newspaper brings the happy news that the famed collection from the now-defunct Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana will apparently remain in Indiana after all. A news conference is scheduled to be held today at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis to make what's termed a "major announcement."

The consortium between the State Museum, the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library, and the Indiana Historical Society seems to have beat out major competitors such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

The Indiana consortium proposed that the three-dimensional objects (like the busts pictured above) would be housed in the State Museum, while documents and books go to the library. The Historical Society would preserve and maintain the rarest of the documents, including one of the 25 known copies of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln.

The Fort Wayne collection, previously owned by the Lincoln Financial Foundation, contains a massive amount of artifacts related to Abraham Lincoln. The collection contains at least 230,000 items, including 18,000 books and 340 documents signed by Lincoln. Countless other items include busts, photos, paintings, and other ephemera. The collection is considered to be priceless.

I've posted several times about the closure of the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne. This was the original announcement , while this post dealt with some of the ramifications of the closure. At the time of the closure, it was not known what would end up happening to the collection.

While the main competitors were indeed formidable, I think it's wonderful and just that the collection remains in Indiana, where Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years. Congratulations to the Hoosier State! Well done!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

President Lincoln At The Smithsonian

As the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth rapidly approaches, plans are in full swing across the country for exhibitions, lectures, concerts, plays, musicals, and countless other activities to celebrate his life. It would be nearly impossible to take in all of these events, so how can the average Lincoln fan get the most "bang for the buck" while participating in the national celebration?

The perfect place to begin, in my opinion, are the museums of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (My previous post discusses the rare exhibition of the Bliss Copy of the Gettysburg Address at the National Museum of American History. It's being shown for only 3 more weeks!) Five different exhibits at the various museums are either open now or will be open by January 2009. The "Lincoln At The Smithsonian" website describes all the exhibits, the dates they run, and the museums in which they are featured.

The most anticipated of these exhibits would have to be "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life" at the National Museum of American History. This exhibit will feature more than 60 items Lincoln owned, acquired or used. Included will be the top hat (pictured above) he wore to Ford's Theater the night he was assassinated. The exhibit opens on January 16, 2009 and will run until 2011.

Also opening on January 16 at the Museum of American History is "America's New Birth of Freedom: Documents from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum" which includes a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. This and nine other documents written by Lincoln are on loan from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. These documents are on display until April 2009.

The National Portrait Museum is currently showing "One Life: The Mask Of Lincoln" which features 33 photographs and portraits of Lincoln. The link I've provided is a video which shows some of the items, along with an interview of the curator. The show runs until July 5, 2009.

At the American Art Museum, visitors can learn about President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball at the exhibit "The Honor of Your Company Is Requested: President Lincoln's Inaugural Ball." The ball was held on March 6, 1865 just six weeks before Lincoln's death. This exhibit displays a menu from the ball, an invitation, and other items. It's open until January 2010.

Not to be left out is the National Postal Museum, which is showing various plate proofs of stamps honoring Lincoln. These certified plate proofs are the final proof of the plate (engravings) prior to printing the stamps themselves. The exhibit is on until October 2010.

Of course while in Washington, you can absorb even more about President Lincoln by visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the recently re-opened Soldiers' Home which was used by the Lincoln family as a summer retreat during his time in office. And don't miss Ford's Theater, which re-opens after an extensive remodeling in February 2009.

Obviously there are other Lincoln Bicentennial Events throughout the country. The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website found here is a great place to start. It contains a calendar of events for the bicentennial. The calendar is not all-encompassing, so be sure to search for events in your community.

As always, please continue to return to The Abraham Lincoln Blog for the latest news about Mr. Lincoln and his bicentennial. Thank you!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gettysburg Address On Display At The Smithsonian

From now until January 4, 2009 people fortunate enough to visit the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. have the opportunity to visit a rarely displayed copy of The Gettysburg Address written in Abraham Lincoln's hand.

This is the so-called "Bliss Copy" of the Address, which is the fifth and final copy known to exist in Lincoln's own writing. This copy was written by Lincoln at the request of Mr. Alexander Bliss, who along with Mr. John Pendleton Kennedy organized and published a book called "Autograph Leaves Of Our Country's Authors." The book was created to raise money for the U.S. Sanitary and U.S. Christian Commissions, which were the two major women's relief organizations in the North during the Civil War. It contained facsimile reproductions of writings and autographs of the most famous authors of the era, and included a facsimile of this copy of the Address. The two commissions were begun in 1861 in order to help promote clean and healthy conditions in Union army camps, set up field hospitals, and provide services and comfort to the soldiers.

The "Bliss Copy" is the source for most modern facsimile reproductions of the Address, primarily because it is the only copy which contains Lincoln's signature. The text is also slightly different from the earlier copies; for example, Lincoln removed the word "here" from the clause "for which they (here) gave their lives......" in this version.

This copy of the Address remained in the hands of the Bliss family until 1949, when it was purchased at auction by Mr. Oscar Cintas (a wealthy former Ambassador from Cuba to the United States) for the then-record sum of $54,000. Mr. Cintas willed the document to the people of the United States, but with the stipulation that it be displayed in the Lincoln Bedroom in The White House. It remains in The White House collection to this day, which is why it is seldom seen in public. Mrs. Laura Bush generously permitted the document to be displayed at the current exhibit at the museum.

The document is on display in the Albert H. Small documents gallery in the museum. Unfortunately, photography of the Bliss Copy is not permitted to the public, nor is photography permitted in the gallery. The image I've included showing the Bliss Copy and the gallery is from the Associated Press, which had the approval to take this photo.

I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of American History on the opening weekend and made sure I saw the Address. While the exhibit itself is small, it is highly informative and very well done. There are various signs to read which helps place this copy of the Address into context. A copy of the book "Autograph Leaves" is only display along with a brief history of the Sanitary Fair and commissions. There are two beautiful images of Lincoln in the gallery, including a painting of Lincoln which was donated to the museum by Lincoln's grandson (there are no living direct descendants of Lincoln). Finally, there is a recording of the actor Liam Neeson reciting the Address. Neeson is to portray Lincoln in Daniel Spielberg's biopic of Lincoln. I have to say, I've heard the actor Sam Waterston's recital of the Address, and found his recitation to be more moving and warmer than Neeson's.

If you have the opportunity to be in Washington, D.C. before January 4, 2009, don't miss the chance to see this copy of the Gettysburg Address. And by all means, also see the original Star-Spangled Banner once more on exhibit after a 10-year restoration. It's literally just a few feet away from the Address.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chillin' With Abe Takes On A New Meaning

My previous post was titled "Chillin' With Abe," informing my readers that I was heading to the beach for some much-needed relaxation and fun with my friends and their family. I certainly didn't mean "chillin'" as in "freezing."

The five of us ventured to Cape Hatteras, N.C., which is one of the best places on the Eastern seaboard for fishing, serenity, and beauty. Average temperature this time of the year is in the middle 60's. Unfortunately, we were met with chilly temps in the low to mid 40's and gale force winds (from 25-35 mph) nearly every day. It ruined fishing for the most part and the frigid conditions meant that we never needed any sunscreen.

But all was not lost. Even on the beach, I was never far from Lincoln history. We visited a small museum about shipwrecks along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One of the most famous shipwrecks is the U.S.S. Monitor, the Union ironclad ship which sank on December 31, 1862 about 17 miles off the North Carolina coast. It was rediscovered in 1973 and is now preserved as a federal Marine Sanctuary. The U.S. Navy approved construction of the ship in 1861.

The museum also has an exhibit about the hunt for the Alligator, which was the first U.S. Navy submarine. I had never heard of this submarine, which was never commissioned. It also was lost at sea off the coast of North Carolina. The Alligator was observed by Lincoln during a test of its capabilities on March 18, 1863. The hunt continues for the Alligator.

Our journey home took a couple of unexpected stops, one in Washington, D.C. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the original Star-Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History. This flag was the one which flew over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore during the British bombardment of Baltimore during the war of 1812. It has undergone a decade-long restoration and was put on display just last week at the remodeled museum.

We were also very fortunate in being able to see an original copy of The Gettysburg Address, which is on display through January 4, 2009. This is the "Bliss" copy of the Address and is rarely displayed to the public. It's current permanent home is the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House.

Finally, my travelling companions and I stopped in Sharpsburg, Maryland for a tour of the Antietam National Battlefield. It was, of course, the scene of the single bloodiest day of The Civil War, with nearly 20,000 deaths and other casualties on September 17, 1862. I'd never before visited Antietam and I found it just as moving as a visit to Gettysburg. It was at Antietam that Lincoln visited General George McClellan in an effort to prod him into action. Of course McClellan was eventually fired due to his continuous inaction and failure to destroy Lee's army.

I'll be posting more in-depth about the Alligator, the Gettysburg Address, and Antietam in coming days. I didn't expect that my vacation would be so heavily "Abe oriented" but I'm of course happy it was.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chillin' With Abe

Mr. Lincoln looks like he's "chillin'" a bit in this drawing, almost as if he's thinking about a week or so at the beach, catching some rays, doing a little fishing, maybe and try to unwind a little from all the pressure he's under as president.

Can't say as though I blame him. It's been an intense campaign season, corporate America is axing jobs faster than we count, the economy is weak, and life is stressful for almost all of us.

That's why I'm heading to the beautiful seashore of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina for a week of some (hopefully) relaxation and fun with some long-time friends who make me part of their family.

I'm a systems analyst in my "real life" and a fairly active blogger in my spare time. I interact with computers way too much. Therefore, the Abraham Lincoln Blog is going on a 10-day or so hiatus. I'm taking along a couple of history magazines, a couple of books, and hopefully will find some peace and quiet far from the stresses of daily life.

Thanks for reading this blog. I'm an unabashed history geek and I hope you enjoy my posts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Incredible Lincolnia Auction

From time to time, I stroll through the land of eBay and blog about some of the more interesting or unusual Abe items up for bid. I've also posted about Lincoln speeches and rare letters being offered by Sotheby's or other auction houses.

On November 20th, Heritage Auction Galleries (Dallas, Texas) is holding a very special auction of Lincoln items in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Some of the items to be offered at auction are Lincoln autographs, the veil Mary Lincoln wore on her fateful trip to Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth items (including the earliest known autograph of his), a ticket to Lincoln's second inauguration, mourning ribbons, Lincoln's bloody shirt collar and so on. The item I've pictured here are a pair of spectacles owned by Lincoln, complete with impeccable provenance: a letter from Mary Harlan Lincoln, Lincoln's daughter-in-law.

The prices to be realized aren't for the easily shocked. Opening bid on Old Abe's specs is a cool $26,000! Take some time to look through the auction items and be in envy of the eventual new owners. I sure will be! You can find the auction site here. Thanks to an anonymous commenter for bringing the auction to my attention.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Evening As A Fugitive Slave On The Underground Railroad

My previous two posts have discussed the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and a temporary exhibit about Abraham Lincoln and his interaction with the U.S. Constitution during the Civil War. I visited the exhibit and Freedom Center in preparation for my experience as a "fugitive slave" on the "Underground Railroad."

On two weekends a year, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (located between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad present an experiential program in which visitors experience an evening as "fugitive slaves" who are trying to escape to "Hope" (the codeword for Cleveland) and the final trip to freedom in Canada.

Groups of about 25 people are "immersed" in the role of slaves, with as much historical accuracy as possible. A National Park Service ranger told us that we were now in the year 1854 and we were a band of slaves who had escaped from their master in Tennessee. She pointed out that along our way (a two hour 2-mile hike) we would run into "slave catchers," "abolitionists," and other assorted characters. We would have real weapons pointed at us, but double and triple-checked to assure they were unloaded. Harsh language might be said, but we were in no way to talk back to the people, even if emotions were overwhelming. (At no time was the dreaded "N word" spoken by the actors due to modern-day sensitivities, but we were often called "Negroes").

The trip took place after dark and we were escorted by candle-lanterns for historical accuracy. No flashlights were used, thank goodness. We were asked to turn off our modern conveniences like cell phones and pagers.

We were greeted at first by a farmer's wife (all re-enactors, of course) who warned us of the dangers ahead, that she heard there were slave-catchers along the way. Although the re-enactors and park ranger never told us about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, we were constantly reminded in our role as "slaves" that we could be captured at any time along our journey to freedom and returned to our owners. The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the Compromise of 1850 and was an attempt to appease Southerners who demanded their "property" to be returned to them. Not more than 10 minutes into our journey, a group of slave-catchers descended upon us out of nowhere, and made us kneel on the ground. We were yelled at, told to keep our heads down and mouths shut, and no one would get hurt. The re-enactors were brandishing guns as we had been warned. After another 5 or 10 minutes, men jumped the slave-catchers and "freed" us.

The different re-enactors we encountered played historical roles of the times. For example, an African-American woman ran up to us and told us to hide because strangers were coming. She was a "freed" woman and had her papers with her to prove it. As we were "hiding" the men accosted her and tore up her papers while she screamed, thus meaning she was once again a slave. In real life in those times, this happened many times. Former slaves or even African-Americans who had never been held as slaves had to carry papers with them proving they were free. If slave-catchers or unscrupulous northerners would ignore or destroy their papers, the people could be returned to slavery.

We also met "Quakers" who sang "Follow The Drinking Gourd" which meant to follow the Big Dipper, pointing to the North Star. We also met "friends" who led us in a rendition of "Amazing Grace" which we were to use as part of our "disguise" as a travelling "minstrel group."

We encountered an "Irish" couple who were furious at us and other African-Americans, free or not, because they were afraid we'd take their jobs. In the 1850's, the newly arrived Irish were indeed the lowest people on the job ladder because Americans in those days detested Catholics. And it is in fact true that Irish were often "lower" than slaves and free blacks when it came to finding work. The "Irish" couple demanded we turn around and go back south. Of course, we didn't.

Along the way, we also had to hide a couple of more times as strangers were coming along. Other people we met were well-intentioned white people who belonged to "colonization societies," the purpose of which was to "deport" the slaves back to Africa, mainly Liberia, or Haiti. In fact, Abraham Lincoln for a while supported this idea as a possible answer to the slavery problem. While many abolitionists detested slavery, they didn't exactly want African-Americans living next door. Indeed, the American Colonization Society was mentioned to us "slaves" during the evening as the best solution. The ACS was a real organization which did in fact send freed slaves back to Africa, principally to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

We walked along the real Ohio-Erie Canal on part of our experience. The canal towpath was used by the real fugitive slaves as it crossed Ohio diagonally from Cincinnati to Cleveland. The towpath and canal still exist in many parts of Ohio, including in the National Park. To imagine that we were walking in the footsteps of the real slaves was a powerful emotion.

Finally, we were led into a barn (property of the National Park Service) where we were told we were safe and food would soon be brought to us. After a soft musical interlude on a folk guitar, there was a loud gunshot. Just then, another group of slave-catchers stormed in the barn and made us kneel once more. The leader of the group was the local "constable." This was also historically accurate. One would think that the local law would be sympathetic to the plight of escaping slaves. Not necessarily. The Fugitive Slave Act required local sheriffs and constables to capture fugitive slaves and return them to their owners. If the local law official didn't obey this law, that person could actually be arrested and fined the fair market value of each slave he didn't return. Of course, many sheriffs ignored the law, but others didn't. The "constable" in our performance got into a heart-wrenching argument with his "wife" but in the end, we were turned over to the slave-catchers.

That's how we as a group ended up: we remained "captured" and were "forced" to board the train car, which was supposedly going to return us south. As we boarded the car and found our seats, no one in our group of "slaves" talked. Not even a whisper. I think it was a combination of the thought-provoking program we'd just experienced (it took two hours as I wrote previously), and the constant yelling at us by the re-enactors which made everyone so quiet.

We of course didn't experience the true experiences of a fugitive slave. We weren't exposed to the elements (winter months actually saw the most attempts at escape) for more than two hours; we weren't in danger of being shot or hanged; we weren't starving; we didn't have bloodhounds tracking us; and we didn't have to decide if a person was a friend or an enemy.

After we left the train car, we met up with another Park Service ranger who related some current day horror stories of modern slaves in countries like Pakistan, where a person might sell his child for the equivalence of $12.00 because he has a debt he can't pay. The ranger asked us what we might have done in the 1850's if we were slaves. Would we leave our family behind so we could escape? It was easier for one to escape than for a family to escape. If we were not slaves, would we have helped them? And she asked us if we'd be willing today to research clothing companies before we buy a shirt, since some clothing manufacturers use slave labor.

I thought this program was truly outstanding. If you ever get a chance to come to northeastern Ohio in November or anywhere else in the country which offers an Underground Railroad experience, take the opportunity. I visited the National Underground Railroad and Freedom Center to learn something about this subject before I experienced my evening as a fugitive slave. I'm happy I did, because I feel as though I got even more out of my experience. I hope no one is offended by the image of the poster I've included. Unfortunately, it's part of history.

Our country has come a long way in the past 150 years. While slavery no longer exisits in our land, there are still 25 million people worldwide who are in bondage. The struggle must continue until all people, everywhere on Earth, are free.

A Visit To The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

In my previous post, I shared with my readers my review of an exhibit about Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Constitution. This temporary exhibit examines how Lincoln took extraordinary powers during the U.S. Civil War and exceeded some Constitutional protections along the way.

The exhibit is housed for now within the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. After I visited the Lincoln exhibit, I stayed a couple of hours longer in order to visit the Freedom Center. I'm gratified I did. I experienced powerful emotions during my visit, from overwhelming sadness to inspiration and many others in between.

Cincinnati was selected as the home of the Freedom Center primarily because of its importance to the slaves who valiantly struggled to escape to freedom. Ohio was always a "free" state, divided from the "slave" states of Kentucky and Virginia (now West Virginia) only by the Ohio River. For many of the escaped slaves making their way north, Cincinnati was their first "stop" on the Underground Railroad. Many abolitionists lived in Cincinnati and their story is told at the Freedom Center, too.

Of course, the Underground Railroad was not actually a railroad and the routes were not underground. Rather, it was a "network" with multiple lines running from the south through cities like Cincinnati and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "Conductors" ran safe houses, served as guides, and otherwise assisted the escaped slaves on their way to freedom. Historians estimate that more than 100,000 slaves sought their own freedom through escape and a "trip" along the "railroad." Even if they escaped to Cincinnati and cities further north, there was always the extreme danger of being captured and returned to bondage. This is why many slaves continued their journey until they reached Canada or even heading south to Mexico, those two countries having abolished slavery long before the United States.

The Freedom Center doesn't teach the visitor only about the Underground Railroad. It presents the entire history of slavery in North America, dating from even prior to 1492 when Columbus made his first landfall in the Americas. I was impressed that the Center is not politically correct. It frankly relates the story how Africans were sold to European slavers by other Africans, who had captured their rival tribesmen. This fact is not often mentioned in history, but Africans did practice slavery. A nice re-creation of the bowels of a slave ship shows just how horrible the journey was for these poor souls. In the very early days of European arrival, slavery did exist in the northern states, including in New Amsterdam (New York City). Of course, slavery eventually did die out in the northern states, but remained present in the south until after the Civil War.

Original artifacts are shown throughout the museum, including ankle irons, chains, whips, slave ID tags, and other instruments of brutality. The Center is not for the faint of heart. Items created by slaves, such as baskets, rare articles of clothing (most slave clothing is long gone), pottery, and wooden items are on display, too.

The story of the abolitionists who fought long and hard to end slavery is told as well. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth are represented through personal items, books, and wonderful displays. White abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe (who I am proud to call an ancestor) are represented as well.

A wing of the Freedom Center is dedicated to the history of the Underground Railroad. An excellent interactive exhibit is presented by an African-American man portraying a slave who wants to escape to freedom. He tells you you're coming along with him but asks you to answer various questions, such as when is the best time of year to try to escape (surprisingly enough, winter), if you should take your family or not (the fewer the people, the better the chance to escape), what paths to take (along rivers and streams) and so on.

Of course, Abraham Lincoln is represented. This is in addition to the temporary exhibit at the center. Lincoln's growth from being willing to leave slavery as is to wanting to eradicate it once and for all is told frankly and movingly.

The most incredible display in the Freedom Center is what I've included as the photo for this posting. It might look like a log cabin, not all that different from the so-called "Birth Cabin" of Abraham Lincoln. In actuality, it is an original slave pen from Kentucky. How the Freedom Center acquired it is quite a story. Just a few years ago, a landowner (a farmer) from Kentucky contacted the Freedom Center and told them he believed that a portion of his tobacco barn used to be a slave-holding pen. He wanted to donate it to the Center. Much research was done into land records in both Kentucky and Ohio, interviews held with long-time area residents, and finally the experts reached the conclusion: indeed, this was truly a slave-holding pen. The barn had been built around this structure, estimated to date to the 1830's. Expert conservationists went to the site, carefully removed the outer barn and delicately disassembled the pen. Some restoration work was required, but the structure you see in this photo is essentially original. Visitors are permitted to walk into the pen and imagine the horrors that those wretched souls must have experienced.

Unfortunately, slavery exists in our world even today. A section of the Freedom Center deals with this subject as well. It is estimated that 25 million people currently are held in bondage in our supposedly "civilized" world.

The Freedom Center has an excellent gift shop with a wide range of books and other items about U.S. slavery, the Underground Railroad, and current day struggles for freedom throughout the world.

I've read that the Freedom Center has struggled financially since its opening. That is a shame, because we as a people need to learn about this stain on our nation's history.

I was engrossed by my visit. If you ever find yourself in Cincinnati, it's worth a few hours of your time . Hopefully, you'll have a better appreciation for the struggles of the slaves and the efforts of those who fought to free them. I know I do.

Exhibit Review - Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War

Back on October 17, 2008 I wrote a post about an exhibit which had just opened at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Titled "Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War, the exhibit examines Lincoln's role in conjunction with the U.S. Constitution during the American Civil War.

A couple of Fridays ago, I took the day off and drove the 500 mile round-trip between my home in northeastern Ohio and Cincinnati so I could experience the exhibit. The exhibit is open only until January 11, 2009 and it was imperative to make the trip prior to the snowstorms hitting the Ohio highways.

The exhibit is in one room of the Freedom Center, and does not cost extra for admission. That's a nice feature, since many museums charge extra fees to see special exhibits. The exhibit takes the visitor from Lincoln's election, tells the story of secession, examines Lincoln's actions, discusses the Emancipation Proclamation, and finally ends with the 13th Amendment, which at last banned slavery in the United States.

"Lincoln" is quite well done. Originally assembled by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the exhibit is different in that it is not the usual "putting Lincoln on a pedestal" that so many museums and other exhibitions have done in previous years. The facts are laid out quite clearly: Lincoln did take extraordinary measures in fighting to preserve the Union. He suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, thus denying some prisoners the right to trial; ordered the closure of newspapers which opposed his actions; ordered the arrest of people for writing against or speaking against his actions; and essentially had members of the state legislature in Maryland arrested so they could not vote for secession (Maryland never seceded from the Union). The exhibit offers "pro and con" arguments for the actions Lincoln took in his fight for the Union. An interactive display permits visitors to register their opinion or "vote" about whether they think the actions went too far or not. Overwhelmingly, visitors supported Lincoln's actions.

There are some nice interactive displays in the exhibit. For example, case histories of six real-life people are presented. Each of the people was arrested during the Civil War for opposing the war in some manner. The visitor can find out what happened by using a touch screen. The most famous person the visitor learns about is Congressman Clement Vallandigham from Ohio. He was a leading anti-war figure who was a general pain in Lincoln's side. Lincoln had him arrested, then finally ordered his "deportation" to the Confederacy. Other people presented to the visitor are newspaper editors and other anti-war activists.

A very moving video shows footage of the Gettysburg battlefield as the voice of actor Sam Waterston recites the Gettysburg Address. While we can't hear Lincoln's voice, records do tell us that his voice was high-pitched and thin. I suspect that Waterston's voice is a close approximation.

For me, the best part of the exhibit is the collection of very rare and priceless artifacts on display. The visitor can see the original South Carolina ordinance for secession plus a printed copy of it. A top hat attributed to Lincoln is on display. Lincoln campaign items, including a campaign ribbon and a "Wide Awake" hat are shown. A newspaper clipping and original print of Lincoln's First Inaugural address are present. Lincoln's original order (in his handwriting) to resupply Fort Sumter is on loan. An original hand-written copy of the 13th Amendment is on display as well (in Secretary of State Seward's penmanship). An early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation may be seen.

Some disappointments, though. The original article I found about this exhibit stated that there were "100 artifacts" on display. If so, I certainly didn't see any beyond the 20 or 30 in the room. The exhibit itself is quite small. Even reading all the text of the displays, watching the video, and trying my hand at the interactive displays, it took me no more than an hour to get through it. Finally, the lighting was so darkened (in order to preserve the precious items, no doubt) , it would be difficult for someone with weak eyesight to read anything. I've been to other exhibits, including the wonderful touring exhibit of the National Archives documents a few years ago, and the rooms were not nearly as dark.

Disappointments aside, the exhibit is worthwhile for helping the visitor to understand the complexities of Lincoln, the Constitution, and the Civil War. We today are facing many of the same issues as our government tries to balance our safety and our liberties. In my opinion, the government has overstepped its bounds with warrantless wiretapping and the rest of the Patriot Act. It was surprising to me to see on an interactive display in the Lincoln exhibit that over 75% of the visitors think our safety is more important than our freedom. I'm not sure I would agree.

I wouldn't make a trip to Cincinnati *only* for the exhibit, but the Freedom Center is an excellent museum. Cincinnati is also home to a world-class zoo, art museums, a top-notch botanical garden, and of course the beautiful Ohio river waterfront. Just across the river in Newport, Kentucky, there is an outstanding aquarium. It's definitely worth a visit.

My rating of Lincoln: The Constitution And The Civil War?

Four Lincoln log cabins out of five. Had the exhibit been larger, I would have given it a perfect rating.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

'A New Birth Of Freedom' Is Obama Inaugural Theme

The Joint Congressional Committee On Inaugural Ceremonies has announced that the theme for President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration will be "A New Birth Of Freedom." The theme, borrowed from the closing phrase in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, was selected by the committee, made up of Democrats and Republicans alike.

Inaugural themes are traditionally chosen to reflect a major anniversary in America, and this year's theme was selected primarily because Obama's inauguration will occur less than a month prior to the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the committee,

"At a time when our country faces major challenges at home and abroad, it is appropriate to revisit the words of President Lincoln, who strived to bring the nation together by appealing to 'the better angels of our nature.' It is especially fitting to celebrate the words of Lincoln as we prepare to inaugurate the first African-American president of the United States."

I think the theme is highly appropriate. First and foremost, it is an honor to the memory of the greatest president in our nation's history and not only because of the bicentennial of his birth. In my opinion, at least, the most important phrase in the Gettysburg Address is when Lincoln wrote ".....that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..." At the onset of the Civil War, Lincoln's main goal was to preserve the Union, with slavery a lower concern of his, if at all. But as the war evolved into the national horror it was, Lincoln gradually came to believe that slavery must be eradicated from the landscape once and for all. Thus his reference to a new birth of freedom, the first being when the U.S. declared its independence in 1776.

Of course, giving freedom to the slaves was just the beginning of the long Civil Rights struggles in our country. The ex-slaves might have been technically "free," but the struggle for "true freedom" has been a long and arduous journey. "Jim Crow" laws placed on the books during the post-Civil War era kept African-Americans segregated, suppressed their right to vote, and were used to terrorize them into submission. The 1960's saw sit-ins, protest marches, and further fights in the battle for not just freedom, but for equality and justice for African-Americans.

This is why Obama's inaugural theme of "A New Birth Of Freedom" is so "fitting and proper." After more than 400 years of slavery, inequality, and injustice for African-Americans in our land, we are about to witness the inauguration of the first African-American president. Of course, that doesn't mean the struggle is finished. But we will be closer, at least, to the finish line.

As a history blogger, I really do try to keep The Abraham Lincoln Blog from being too political. I've commented during this presidential campaign on the various candidates from both major political parties, but only as they pertained to Mr. Lincoln. Candidates compared themselves to Lincoln ("I'll put rivals in my cabinet just like Abe did") or were compared to Lincoln by others. I criticized Ron Paul once for his bizarre statements about Lincoln.

But I do have to admit that I've become a strong supporter of President-elect Obama. No, I don't think he's the Messiah, as some right-wingers accuse Obama voters of believing. While I do think it's too early to call Obama "Lincoln-esque," the parallels are striking. Both Lincoln and Obama exploded onto the national scene, both served approximately the same amount of time in the Illinois Legislature, both had limited experience in national politics. More importantly, Obama's call for unity and his words of hope are so similar to Lincoln's.

I wrote a post back on the evening of Obama's acceptance speech at the Democrat convention which might have cost me a friendship of more than twenty years. That post was written because I was thrilled that history was occurring before our very eyes and I wanted to recognize that in my blog. This friend of mine, who was a groomsman in my wedding, called my post "drivel" and told me it was not "fair and balanced." This is an example of the divisiveness and attacks launched by both sides of the political spectrum for far too long.

If this friendship is lost over an election, I will mourn it. But I rejoice that a message of hope and inspiration won over a message of hate and fear.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Using Lincoln To Help Inspire The Nation

Barack Obama has been elected to serve as the nation's 44th president. His unlikely journey to the highest elected office in the country began, of course, in Springfield, Illinois on the steps of the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served in the state legislature.

Many people have pointed out the similarities between Lincoln and Obama, including some who have gone so far as to call Obama "Lincoln-esque." That's an exaggeration at this point, because we can't know just what kind of leader Obama will be.

I watched Obama's acceptance speech last night along with millions of others across the country and around the world. As always, Obama's speech was eloquent and, at times, even moving. I was particularly struck by his paraphrases of Abraham Lincoln's words and his use of Lincoln's example to inspire the nation.

When discussing the beginnings of his campaign, Obama admitted his wasn't the likeliest to succeed, thanks to little money and few endorsements. He said that his army of volunteers, young and old, who worked around the country tirelessly for him is proof that "government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from this Earth." This paraphrase of the last line of the Gettysburg Address hammers home his point that together, people can achieve the unexpected.

Obama went on to ask for unity and an end to the bitter divide between people on the right and on the left, between Democrats and Republicans, between people of different color and different ideas. He again spoke of Lincoln, saying: " Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.'" Of course that line was from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address.

John McCain also gave a moving speech last night as he conceded the election. He offered his support to Obama, thanked his millions of supporters, and said he still loves and believes in his country. It was the finest concession speech I've ever heard and it speaks to the honor and character of a man who so badly wanted to win. I think our country did a great disservice to him when it did not elect him in the 2000 presidential primary season, because I believe he would have led the nation with a steadier hand than what we have experienced since.

Only time will tell what Barack Obama will deal with during his presidency. I pray that Democrats and Republicans alike can find a way to reach across the aisle to help solve the many problems this nation is facing at this moment in history. And it wouldn't hurt to look back across some 150 years of that history and ask: "What Would Lincoln Do?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today marks the end of a long and grueling presidential campaign season. Our nation will make history today, no matter who wins the presidential election. We will end up with either the first African-American president, the oldest elected president, or the first woman vice-president. Indeed, a momentous occasion in America.

I've included an image of a rare 1860 campaign poster. Like 1860, our nation seems to be at a cross-roads in 2008. Of course, no states are threatening to secede right now, but there are critical issues facing us. If you are reading this post, I assume you have at least a passing interest in history. Don't just read about history: make history. Exercise your right to vote!

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Lincoln Cookbook

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

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

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

Presidential Art Exhibition In Cooperstown New York

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

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

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

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

The exhibition closes December 31, 2008.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lincoln And The Constitution In The Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lincoln Celebration At The Kennedy Center

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flatboat Journey Ends

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Darker Side of Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lincoln Christmas Ornaments Benefit Easter Seals

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Bacon As John Wilkes Booth

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

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Of Lincoln And His Speeches

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lincoln Scholar's Collection On Display

In July of 1952, a 14-year-old boy named Ronald Rietveld made the discovery of a lifetime. While searching through papers of Abraham Lincoln's secretaries (John Hay and John Nicolay), he stumbled upon a photo of Abraham Lincoln in death. Lincoln's family felt that any photos of Lincoln in death were in poor taste and ordered them destroyed. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton agreed, but inexplicably kept this one photo, taken in New York City on April 24, 1865. The photo was a sensation when it was first published in Life magazine. It is the only known photo of Lincoln in death. Rietveld was granted special access to the papers thanks to his unusual interest and depth of knowledge of Lincoln. He was known to Lincoln scholars thanks to his writing numerous letters inquiring about the president and his life. A more detailed recounting of his find is located here.

Mr. Rietveld is still living and is now 71 years old. Along the way he achieved his doctorate in History. He has continued his lifelong fascination with everything Lincoln (I can certainly relate) and has collected various Lincoln items through the years. His collection is going on public display for the first time, in his hometown of Pella, Iowa. Some of the items Rietveld has collected include a log cabin lapel pin which Lincoln is said to have worn; a pile of dirt from Lincoln's birthplace; and a piece of a wreath which was on Lincoln's coffin.

The Des Moines (Iowa) Register has a nice article about Rietveld and the exhibit. He's providing a great service by sharing his Lincoln items. The photo below is of Mr. Rietveld with one of his items.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Abraham Lincoln Maze

People have long accused me of getting lost in all things related to Mr. Lincoln, be it in my books, stories, studies, or in my blogging. Now here is everyone's chance to *literally* become lost with Lincoln, or should I say, lost IN Lincoln?

Every year at this time, a farmer in Lexington, Kentucky sets up a maze in his cornfield. This year, John Kelley chose to do his maze with the image of the nation's 16th president. With the publicity associated with the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth next year, Mr. Kelley thought this would be an obvious choice, especially since Lincoln was born in the Bluegrass State.

The maze was professionally designed by a company from Utah, but Mr. Kelley did the work with a large mower. The maze covers an amazing 8.7 acres! In fact, it's so big that the only way to see the entire image is from the air. Note the houses at the top of the photo for some perspective. Very impressive. Visitors are welcome to wind their way through the maze for a small fee. And yes, some folks do get lost and have to be "rescued."

To read more about the maze, you may click here, which is an article from the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader newspaper.

Lincoln Bicentennial Cents Unveiled

Earlier this week, the United States Mint unveiled the final designs for the new one cent coins being released next year to celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln. There will be a total of four newly designed coins, the reverse of each showing a different stage of Lincoln's life. The first depicts the famous log cabin of his birth. The second shows a young Lincoln taking a break from log splitting in order to read. The third coin is a representation of Lincoln as an Illinois legislator, showing him standing in front of the State Capitol Building (which still stands) in Springfield, Illinois. The last coin in the series depicts the U.S. Capitol building with an unfinished dome, which is as it appeared during Lincoln's presidency. The obverse (i.e. "front") of each cent will remain the current design of Lincoln's profile.

I'd like to thank my friend, Christy, for alerting me to the news. Christy is also a blogger, and I'd highly recommend her "Mystic Chords Of Memory" blog which may be found here. It's an outstanding first-person account of her travels of historical sites around the U.S. The site also includes reviews and wonderful photos.

Christy also found another design for the new Lincoln cent series. Unfortunately, it didn't make the final cut. Too bad, because I think Lincoln would've made an excellent surfing dude.

History Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory