Friday, February 29, 2008

The Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln

Memoirs of Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln, 1864

I have been following the reviews of a one man play called The Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln. For the most part, they have been very positive throughout the play's month-long run at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California.

If you are currently in the Burbank area, I encourage you to check out the play. Here is a link for ticket information, as well as a number of interesting photographs of the production.

However, I understand that the rest of us will not make it to California in time to see the final show, which will take place this Sunday. I thought I'd pass along a few highlights from the various reviews, as well as a few things to think about.

Playwright Peter King Beach wanted to give the nation's sixteenth president a chance to "tell his side of the story." It is 1865 and the audience has called on the president in the White House and finds him in a talkative, relfective mood at the end of a long and stressful day. He spins stories from his childhood in southern Indiana, as well as his travels on the law circuit and stump in Illinois. And then there is the war. His generals are frustrating and he does not hesitate to tell you about it.

The actor who plays Lincoln, Granville Van Dusen, has received good reviews. Portraying Lincoln is not an easy, nor is performing an entire play without the help of any other actors. Though this is a one-man show, reviewers praise Van Dusen for making it seem like he is working with a strong supporting cast.

The only knock I've seen on Van Dusen comes from a Los Angeles Theatre Review in which mention is made that he is "not a spot-on look-alike." I included a picture of Van Dusen in costume, alongside another photograph of Lincoln in 1864. You can judge for yourself, but I don't think he looks too bad.

But, of course, one can look the part and still fail in his task. For the audience to suspend their disbelief and step back into the nineteenth century, the actor must be able to temporarily resurrect the dead. Reviewers credit Van Dusen for having done just that. As one might expect, for example, he delivers a solemn rendition of "The Gettysburg Address," but reviewers note that it does not sound like a speech that was written nearly a century and a half ago, nor does it sound like the same speech you read as a child. By placing it into the context of the other stories he has to tell, Van Duesen breathes new life into this literary masterpiece.

Moreover, both Beach and Van Dusen have captured something of the living, breathing Lincoln that I think is too often overlooked. Remember, this is a one-man play, but the audience is not invisible. The audience is not listening to Lincoln's inner-dialogue. No, this is a conversation between the audience and the president.

But notice the audience's role. Though they are in the White House with Lincoln, they do not actively participate in the discussion. They listen, but they do not respond. I find that terribly intriguing. I have read dozens of accounts from people who met Lincoln and I am continually struck by how often the conversation turned into a monologue.

Office seekers, disgruntled politicians, and old friends often called on the president. Lincoln listened to what they had to say. He heard their request, but it often reminded him of a story. For instance, there was an old politician in Illinois named John Moore who enjoyed a stiff drink. Well, Moore went to Bloomington one day to get some supplies. After he made his purchases and loaded them into his cart, which was pulled by two red steers, he decided to have a few drinks. Before long, he was not feeling any pain. As he was heading home for the evening, he fell asleep at the wheel. His cart abruptly hit a tree stump, the steers broke loose and ran away, but old Moore didn't even wake up! The next morning, Moore opened his eyes and was amazed at the scene. "If my name is John Moore," he exclaimed, "I've lost a pair of red steers; if it is not John Moore, I've found a cart!"

The story disarmed Lincoln's visitor, changed the trajectory of the conversation, and usually served as a transition to another one. Never mind what the visitor came to talk about. What was it anyway? If his visitor was a member of Congress or a General, perhaps he had called on the president to discuss the best way to treat the Rebel leaders after the war. The president had been thinking about that for quite some time and, oddly enough, it reminded him of another fellow in Illinois who drank too much. His last run had ended so badly he had taken a temperance pledge in which he swore he would never drink again. Well, after a few days he wandered into a saloon and asked the bartender for a glass of lemonade. As the bartender reached for a glass, the old drunkard whispered to him, "Couldn't you put just a drop of whiskey in it unbeknownst to me?" Lincoln understood what the old drunkard meant. If Jefferson Davis and the other Rebel leaders would just flee the country "unbeknownst to him," it would save him a great deal of trouble.

The visitor might have laughed at the story, but he usually saw the president's larger point. Hanging fellow Americans would be unpleasant. It would get ugly. Ugly? Now, that reminded him of another story. He was once on a train when a stranger walked up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which rightfully belongs to you." The stranger promptly handed him a jack-knife. Lincoln looked at the knife, he had never seen it before. "How is that?" Lincoln asked the stranger. "This knife was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to it."

You get the point. Conversations with Lincoln could be terribly one-sided. I don't know how many people who called on him actually walked away with what they wanted, but I suspect it wasn't as many as you might think. Meeting Lincoln could be a frustrating and confusing, yet hilarious experience.

I hope the one-man play, The Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln, conveys some of that experience.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Allen Guelzo on the Daily Show!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I am a big fan of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. If you saw the show last night, you already know what I'm about to post...Lincoln author Allen Guelzo was a guest on the show last night!

Professor Guelzo was there to promote his new book on the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The topic is especially timely. Not only is 2008 the 150th anniversary of the most celebrated debates in American history, but we are currently in high-debate season for the upcoming presidential election.

I have not yet read Guelzo's new book, but I will get to it very soon. I expect it to be very good. As you might know, Professor Guelzo is a two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize, the highest honor in the field. His book on the Emancipation Proclamation is fantastic, as is his earlier offering, titled Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

If you did not catch Professor Guelzo's appearance on the Daily Show last night, you can watch it right here!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"He's the Greatest Man Since St. Paul!"

It was 148 years ago today: February 27, 1860.

Abraham Lincoln was in New York City. He would deliver the most important speech of his career to date.

Cooper Union was the venue. It had a remarkable history. Founded just a year earlier by wealthy industrialist Peter Cooper, the Cooper Union began as an institute for adult education. Everyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion, was invited to take free courses on diverse topics such as applied sciences, architecture, photography, typewriting, and shorthand. The school’s Great Hall was even large enough to host a public lecture.

His celebrated debates with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 had led to the invitation. New York wanted to see the man who had taken on the “Little Giant” for themselves. They offered Lincoln $200 to come to the east. He could even speak about anything he wanted.

When Lincoln took the podium, the audience was not sure what to expect. George Haven Putnam was in the crowd. He had a good view of the speaker and recorded his initial thoughts:

The first impression of the man from the West did nothing to contradict the expectation of something weird, rough, and uncultivated. The long, ungainly figure upon which hung clothes that, while new for this trip, were evidently the work of an unskillful tailor; the large feet, and clumsy hands of which, at the outset, at least, the orator seemed to be unduly conscious; the long, gaunt head, capped by a shock of hair that seemed not to have been thoroughly brushed out, made a picture which did not fit in with New York's conception of a finished statesman.

When he started to speak, Putnam thought his voice “was not pleasant to the ear, the tone being harsh and the key, too high.”

A reporter for the New York Herald echoed his assessment:

Mr. Lincoln is a tall, thin man, dark complexioned and apparently quick in his perceptions. He is rather unsteady on his feet, and there is an involuntary comical awkwardness which marks his movements while speaking. His voice, though sharp and powerful at times, has a frequent tendency to dwindle into a shrill and unpleasant sound. His enunciation is slow and emphatic and a peculiar characteristic of his delivery was a remarkable mobility of his features, the frequent contortion of which excited the merriment which his words alone could not well have produced.

But as Lincoln’s speech progressed, the awkwardness gradually washed away. He had captured their attention; he knew what to do with it.

This was no tired stump speech. He had crafted a very special address.

Using the memory of the founding fathers, a wide assortment of documents from the Constitution to the Northwest Ordinance, as well as a surprisingly effective assortment of statistics, Lincoln demonstrated that the upstart Republican Party was not a radical or revolutionary party intent on destroying the institution of slavery. Instead, its policies were perfectly consistent with those of the founding fathers.

It was not simply a well-argued, logical, or sensible speech, but it was surprisingly eloquent.

The New York Tribune reported on Lincoln’s transformation throughout the speech, as well as his effect on the audience:

He was tall, tall — oh, how tall, and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man. His clothes were black and ill-fitting, badly wrinkled — as if they had been jammed carelessly into a small trunk. His bushy head, with the stiff black hair thrown back, was balanced on a long and lean stock, and when he raised his hands in an opening gesture I noticed that they were very large.

He began in a very low tone of voice as if he were used to speaking out of doors and was afraid of speaking too loud. He said, 'Mr. Cheerman" instead of 'Mr. Chairman,' and employed many other words with an old-fashioned pronunciation. I said to myself: "Old fellow, you won't do. It is all very well for the wild west, but this will never go down in New York."

But pretty soon, he began to get into his subject: he straightened up and made regular and graceful gestures. His face lighted as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet with the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man. In the close [sic] parts of his arguments, you could hear the gentle sizzing of the gas burners. When he reached a climax, the thunders of applause were terrific.

It was a great speech. When I came out of the hall, my face glowing with excitement and my frame all aquiver, a friend, with his eyes aglow, asked me what I thought of Abe Lincoln, the rail-splitter. I said, 'He's the greatest man since St. Paul!' And I think so yet.

You can read the entire text of the Cooper Union speech here.

If you would like to learn more about the speech that made Lincoln president, I highly recommend Harold Holzer’s book. I have included a link to the book from at the top of this post. Not only is it a good read, but it is also very reasonably priced.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Abraham Lincoln Enloe?

Tom Melton

Abraham Lincoln is in the newspaper every day.

He is, really. Not in every newspaper, of course, but if you scan enough papers you will find him.

Today, a story in The Star in Cleveland County, North Carolina caught my eye.

Tom Melton (pictured above) passed away on Sunday at the age of 88. The paper praised his efforts in establishing a new non-profit museum near Bostic, NC called The Lincoln Center.

I wanted to know more about the Lincoln Center in North Carolina, so I visited their website. I was very interested in what I found.

If you believe that Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, the Lincoln Center says you are mistaken.

"There is substantial evidence that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th prsident of the United States, was born not in Kentucky, but on Puzzle Creek near Bostic, North Carolina, in Rutherford County," claims the website.

I admit, I was skeptical. I decided to examine the "substantial evidence." I encourage you to read it for yourself and form your own interpretation, but I'll share my impressions with you.

First, a synopsis. The ideological godfather of the Lincoln Center appears to be James H. Cathey, who in 1899, authored a book called The Genesis of Lincoln. He argued that the sixteenth president's father was not Thomas Lincoln, but a fellow named Abraham Enloe.

Sometime in the 1890s, Cathey tracked down Enloe's last surviving child, an 88 year old man named Wesley, who apparently knew how to tell a good story.

Wesley explained that Nancy Hanks had worked as a servant girl on the Enloe farm when she became pregnant. When Wesley's mother found out that her husband was the father of Nancy's unborn child, she was understandably outraged. She fired Nancy and banished her from the Enloe farm.

Enloe reportedly hired a family to take care of her. They soon sent word that Nancy had delivered a baby boy in North Carolina. She named him after his father, Abraham.

Though Wesley was born after all of this occured, he claimed he had "a vivid recollection of hearing the name Nancy Hanks frequently mentioned when I was a boy." Though he had never heard his father talk about the episode, Wesley had "no doubt" that he had fathered her child.

Cathey found another source named Joseph A. Collins who claimed he met a man named Judge Gilmore in 1867. Gilmore reportedly told Collins that he knew Nancy Hanks while she lived in North Carolina. He claimed that she had a young child, a boy named Abraham, before she moved to Kentucky.

So, as the story goes, on June 12, 1806 in Kentucky, Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks, the mother of a two or three year old baby boy.

Where do I begin with this one?

I suppose the sources are a good place to start. Wesley was not even born when his father's supposed infidelity took place. He had heard stories and somehow connected the name of Nancy Hanks to the episode. Even if he was correct, what evidence do we have that the girl named Nancy Hanks was indeed the same Nancy Hanks that gave birth to the future president? Moreover, if the interview took place in 1899, then that means Wesley was telling us about something that happend more than 90 years ago!

Similarly, the Collins-Gilmore testimony is problematic. To accept it in full, we must believe some really fantastic details. First, we must believe that Collins is accurately describing what Judge Gilmore told him during a brief encounter more than 30 years ago.

Second, if we accept the accuracy of Collins' memory, then we must also accept the power of Judge Gilmore's memory: he was able to recall a woman he knew in North Carolina some 60 years ago.

Third, if we accept both of those details, then we must also believe that the woman Gilmore knew was indeed Nancy Hanks, the same woman who was the future president's mother. However, we know there were other women with the same name. In fact, the president's mother was related to at least one other woman named Nancy Hanks! Needless to say, Lincoln genealogy is very confusing; yet, we must accept that the Nancy Hanks Gilmore met was the future president's mother.

Fourth, we must also believe that Nancy Hanks' child, Abraham, was the future president. This means Lincoln's traditional birth date, February 12, 1809, is simply wrong. Either he never knew when he was born or he was being dishonest when he cited it. At any rate, Gilmore says Nancy had her son, Abraham, before she married Thomas Lincoln on June 12, 1806. Sorry bicentennial folks, the big event already happened!

Fifth, and to me most incredibly, we must totally deny the existence of Lincoln's older sister, Sarah! How does she fit into this story? Advocates of the Enloe theory do not mention her, yet Lincoln, as well as dozens of eye-witnesses throughout Herndon's Informants, absolutely document her existence! If Nancy gave birth to Abraham out of wedlock, was Enloe also Sarah's father or was it some other North Carolinian? Moreover, why doesn't anyone mention the existence of a little girl with Nancy and young Abraham in North Carolina?

For a full examination of the Enloe theory, I encourage you to read William E. Barton's The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln. Though it was written in 1920, I think it does a fine job of chronicling, as well as debunking, the many theories about Lincoln's parents.

Though I don't believe that Lincoln was born in North Carolina, I sincerely wish the folks at the Bostic Lincoln Center the best of luck. It is not easy to get a museum off the ground and I admire their hard work and determination.

While the Lincoln Center advocates for a North Carolinian Lincoln birthplace, it may indeed evolve in the future. A museum in a former Confederate state, for instance, devoted to Lincoln's parents: Nancy, Thomas, and Sarah Bush Johnston (Lincoln's step mother) would be interesting to say the least!

The Lincoln Center will hold an open house on March 12 from 10:30 am to 3 pm. The museum dedication is April 12. For more information, send them an email.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On the Road: The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

John Lupton and Erika Nunamaker

I want to pass along an article that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

I was so pleased to see such a well-written and interesting piece about one of the most important documentary editing projects in the country, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln.

The article gives us a small peak into the arduous task that the researchers in Springfield have fearlessly undertaken.

Kudos to both the Times and PAL!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lincoln and his Circle

Francis Carpenter Painting

I am happy to pass along a new research link, featuring primary documents related to Abraham Lincoln.

According to the Campus Times at the University of Rochester in New York, the Rare Books Web site has put its significant collection of Lincoln related manuscripts online. The project, called "Lincoln and his Circle," features 287 letters, including 72 written by Lincoln himself. The rest of the letters were written by members of Lincoln's cabinet and close advisors.

Many researchers are not aware of the collection. The letters came from the family of Lincoln's Secretary of State, William H. Seward.

About two years ago, I discovered this collection and sent away for copies of about two dozen letters written by a pair of Lincoln advisors. My research benefitted tremendously.

I am thrilled to see that the collection is now online. This seems to be the direction many archives are heading in. In my view, digitizing is a good thing. It makes the material immediately accessible to researchers around the world. Moreover, digitization furthers the archive's mission of preserving these documents. If a physical document is ever damaged to the point that it becomes illegible, or if, God forbid, it is ever destroyed, lost, or stolen, researchers will at least have a digital copy to consult.

I have added "Lincoln and his Circle" to the Links section. I encourage you to take it for a spin and see what you find.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Tools of War Remain Dangerous

Civil War Reenactors

A very sad story today out of Richmond, Virginia. A man who sold Civil War relics, including artillery shells, cannonballs, and bullets, was killed in his backyard yesterday, apparently while trying to disarm Civil War era ordnance.

Police say Samuel H. White was the victim. He was the owner of Sam White Relics, which according to his website, promised to "disarm, clean, and preserve your Civil War period and earlier military ordnance" for the small sum of $35.

Neighbors reported hearing a small explosion. A fifteen pound chunk of metal landed on the roof of a house nearly a quarter mile away. Fortunately, no one was injured from the shrapnel.

This is an extremelly unfortunate accident. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. White's family.

I suppose this story may serve as a reminder to us all. Though these tools of war were produced nearly a century and a half ago, they remain extremelly dangerous.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lincoln and Farmington: An Enduring Friendship

Lincoln and Farmington: An Enduring Friendship

Joshua Speed was Abraham Lincoln's closest friend. They were roomates in Springfield for four years. When Speed moved two were roomates in Springfield for four years. In early1841, Speed moved back to his parent's plantation, known as Farmington, located just outisde Louisville, Kentucky. Later that year, Lincoln visited the Speeds and stayed for about three weeks at Farmington.

You can visit the Speed family plantation is a historic site. In fact, they have just unveiled a new exhibit, titled "Lincoln and Farmington: An Enduring Friendship."

There are a number of other events scheduled.

For example, this Saturday (February 23, 2008) Farmington will host a program called "Faces of Slavery." At 10 am there will be a moderated Panel Discussion on Slavery. The audience and speakers will have a discuss the nearly 60 enslaved African Americans who lived at Farmington, nineteenth century hemp farming, and the institution of slavery in Kentucky.

At 11 am, the Ketnucky Chautauqua will present "Erma Bush as Margaret Garner: Death Before Slavery." This will be a dramatic presentation of a Kentucky slave who was caught after fleeing to Ohio with her children.

The event is free, but you are encouraged to make reservations. Call 502.452.9920 for more information.

Click here to read more about Farmington.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Abraham Lincoln in Song"

Chris Vallillo

A big thank you to Emily and Itchy over on the Discussion Board for bringing the following story to my attention:

Chris Vallillo, a Central Illinois musician who has performed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, has released a record called “Abraham Lincoln in Song.”

Inspired by the period music in such films as Ken Burns’ Civil War and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (a particular favorite of mine), Valillo has recorded such classics as “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Hard Times Come Again No More,” “Aura Lee,” and “Dixie.”

The record is intended for “lovers of acoustic music, history buffs, and especially the educational audience.”

I will give Vallillo’s record a listen. I am always looking for new period music to use in my classes. Not only is it a fun way to begin a lecture, but it allows students to experience a small piece of life in the nineteenth century. I will often project the song lyrics onto the screen as the music plays. When the song finishes, I ask students to interpret what they've heard. What does the song mean? More importantly, what does the song tell us about the society from which it came?

This semester I am assisting in a Reconstruction course in which students read an abridged version of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution and viewed various scenes from the classic D. W. Griffith film The Birth of a Nation. At several points during the semester, I’ve been reminded of an old "unreconstructed" Confederate tune. I’m not sure if you’ve come across this one, but it is a great song to use in a Reconstruction course. Give the lyrics a read and then ask yourself, “What does this tell us about life in the former Confederate States of America during Reconstruction?”

“Good Ol’ Rebel Soldier”
By Major Innes Randolph, CSA

Oh, I'm a good old Rebel soldier, now that's just what I am;
For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn!
I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won,
And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.

I hates the Constitution, this "Great Republic," too!
I hates the Freedman's Bureau and uniforms of blue!
I hates the nasty eagle with all its brags and fuss,
And the lying, thieving Yankees, I hates 'em wuss and wuss!

I hates the Yankee nation and everything they do,
I hates the Declaration of Independence, too!
I hates the "Glorious Union" -- 'tis dripping with our blood,
And I hates their striped banner, and I fit it all I could.

I followed old Marse Robert for four years, near about,
Got wounded in three places, and starved at Point Lookout.
I cotched the "roomatism" a'campin' in the snow,
But I killed a chance o' Yankees, and I'd like to kill some mo'!

Three hundred thousand Yankees is stiff in Southern dust!
We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us.
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
But I wish we'd got three million instead of what we got!

I can't take up my musket and fight 'em now no more,
But I ain't a'gonna love 'em, now that's for sartain sure!
I do not want no pardon for what I was and am,
And I won't be reconstructed, and I do not care a damn!

Friday, February 15, 2008

2008 Lincoln Prize...A Split Decision

The results are in. The winner of this year's coveted Lincoln Prize, the most prestigious (and generous) award in the field of Lincoln Studies, is...

Wait a minute...we have a split decision!

The award goes to two different books: The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes and Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters by Elizabeth Brown Pryor.

Both Oakes and Pryor will receive $20,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens life-size bust, "Lincoln the Man."

In addition, Chandra Manning has been awarded an honorable mention and $10,000 for her excellent book What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War.

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute, as well as Gettysburg College, did an excellent job in selecting this year's winner(s).

If you have not yet read these books, check them out. I've been a big fan of Oakes' work and his comparative study of Lincoln and Douglass is excellent. I plan to use his book in my survey course on early American history.

Though I have not yet read Pryor's book, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about it. Kevin Levin, whose Civil War Memory blog is a must-read, has called the book "the single best volume on Lee ever published." I will be reading it soon.

I recall reading a couple of articles by Chandra Manning that appeared in North and South Magazine in 2004. I believe both articles were adaptations of chapters in her dissertation. I liked the articles very much. Her dissertation is now an award-winning book. I look forward to reading it.

Congratulations to the winners of the Lincoln Prize. They are now part of a distinguished fraternity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lincoln's Stories

Lincoln Stories

Lately I've been thinking about Abraham Lincoln's sense of humor. Everyone who knew him well commented on his story-telling ability. In fact, many of his friends recorded his jokes and stories, but much of the humor got lost in translation. "His stories may be literally retold," wrote fellow circuit-riding lawyer Henry Clay Whitney, "every word, period and comma, but the real humor perished with Lincoln" because "he provoked as much laughter by the grotesque expression of his homely face as by the abstract fun of his stories."

Whitney's point is well-taken. Oftentimes I don't see the humor in many of Lincoln's jokes. WHile good humor is often timeless, it is true that nearly two centuries separate us from Lincoln. That may account for some of the problem. Moreover, Lincoln's humor seems dependant on the situation. So many of his jokes began with, "That reminds me of the time..." The present conversation often reminded Lincoln of a pertinent joke; in other words, to see the humor "you just had to be there."

I was particularly pleased to see this announcement in the Santa Paula Times. It seems a professional story-teller is going to recreate some of Lincoln's finest yarns:

Several popular stories about Abraham Lincoln will be told by storyteller Jim Woodard during the Presidents’ Day program at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Monday, February 18. The program will include true and legendary stories about the famed 16th president, ranging from Lincoln’s boyhood adventures while living in his one-room log cabin to his experiences as president during the Civil War.

Woodard, a Ventura resident, will present two storytelling programs – beginning at 11 a.m. on the Library’s Courtyard Stage, and at 1 p.m. in the Presidential Learning Center. Other special Presidents’ Day activities, keyed to the interest of all ages, are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Woodard has been the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Library since 1995. He received the George Washington Award for Excellence in Public Communications from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for his historic and patriotic storytelling programs.

For more information about the programs, call Woodard at 658-6697, or email or information about other Presidents’ Day activities at the Ronald Reagan Library, phone 800-410-8354. The library is located at 40 Presidential Dr. in Simi Valley.

If anyone attends the event, send me an email and let me know how it went.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congratulations Brian Dirck!

Congratulations to Brian Dirck! His book, Lincoln the Lawyer, has received the Benjamin Barondess Award from the Civil War Round Table of New York.

Past winners include historians Garry Wills and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I have read Dirck's award-winning book and enjoyed it very much. If you are interested in Lincoln's law career, specifically its connection to his political career, give it a look.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lincoln turns 199, turns 1

Abraham Lincoln in the Snow

I planned on being in Springfield yesterday and today for the annual Lincoln Symposium at the Old State Capitol, but Mother Nature had other plans. Southern Illinois had enjoyed an exceptionally mild winter, but everything changed for us yesterday.

It started snowing about noon on Monday, but as the day progressed, the snow turned to freezing rain. I woke up this morning without power and spent the rest of the morning scraping a thick coat of ice off my car. The university is shut down, as is the majority of Carbondale.

Nonetheless, today is the big day!

It is Abraham Lincoln's 199th birthday and the countdown to the bicentennial has officially begun.

I am also pleased to announce that today is the 1-year anniversary of! I want to thank all of you out there for reading the site, contributing to the Discussion Board, and for passing the word along to your friends. A big thank you to everyone who has sent me email messages throughout the year. Your kind messages have meant a great deal to me.

The year went by incredibly fast. I began this project without knowing anything about web design. I've enjoyed learning and thank you for your patience. I have a lot of new ideas for the coming year and will keep you updated on how they progress.

The front page blog at featured 240 unique posts for the year. I hope the following year will be just as productive!

Thanks again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tomorrow is a Big Day

Abraham Lincoln painting

Hello everyone,

My apologies for the unexpected week-long break. A day turned into two and before I knew it, I was lost inside my dissertation for a week!

It turns out I am back just in time for the big celebration. Yes, tomorrow is Abraham Lincoln’s 199th birthday, but wait there’s more… turns a year old tomorrow! I am very excited about it, but more on that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to pass along this Lincoln reminder: C-SPAN will be at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site tomorrow in Hodgenville, Kentucky. If you get the chance, check out their broadcast, which will begin around 6:30 am (central time). Viewers will hear from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is serving as the Co-Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, as well as site interpreters and visitors to the Lincoln Birthplace. At 9:30 am (central) C-SPAN will provide live coverage of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Inaugural Ceremony, which will feature a speech by First Lady Laura Bush. The ceremony will officially begin the countdown to next year’s highly anticipated 200th birthday celebration!

Again, my apologies for going AWOL. It feels good to be back!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lincoln Look-Alike Contest in Coldwater, Michigan

Lincoln Presenters, Ohio, 2006

Do you know someone who looks like Abraham Lincoln? If so, Coldwater, Michigan wants to meet them!

Anyone who looks like Lincoln is encouraged to put on their favorite Lincoln costume and stop by the Branch District Library between February 4 and February 9.

Participants will have their picture taken and a panel of judges will choose the winners. There will be three age-specific categories: children to age 12, teens 13-17, and adults 18 and over.

The age categories are interesting. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that distinction in previous contests. I am most curious about the first two categories. Are children encouraged to depict Lincoln during his childhood? Or are they expecting to see a 9 year old in a black suit, fake beard, and stovepipe hat? I suppose the participants will have some artistic freedom to depict Lincoln as they see fit. It looks like fun!