Happy Star Wars Day to our history loving, science fiction friends!
4th Grader as Abraham Lincoln, Grand Central Station, New York, NY, 2013. View more at The New York Times Magazine Blog
A wonderful tribute to Abraham Lincoln on his birthday
Abraham Lincoln is getting a birthday present that everyone can enjoy: his own smartphone application.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, along with AT&T, officially launched its free “Abe App” today – Lincoln’s 204th birthday. The app lets everyone explore Lincoln facts, quiz themselves about his life, peruse pictures of his presidential museum and more.
“President Lincoln was, for the most part, a self-taught man who loved to learn. He had an insatiable curiosity and wide-ranging interests. The Abe App gives users a fun, interesting and meaningful way to learn about our 16th president using today’s technology,” said Carla Knorowski, chief executive officer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. “Through the Abe App, we share every aspect of the man from his boyhood to the presidency –from little known facts like his favorite meal to the well-known like his views on slavery.”
The free app’s sound effects are the very same sounds Lincoln and his family heard in daily life. The quiz timer is a recording of Lincoln’s office clock ticking. A wrong answer triggers the clock’s gong. A right answer is greeted by Robert Lincoln’s dinner bell.
“I’m especially excited about the app’s daily Lincoln facts – what we’re calling the ‘Abe-a-day’ feature. Everyone can use a daily reminder of all that Abraham Lincoln accomplished for the nation,” said Amy Martin, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which operates the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The app has quietly been available on iTunes and Google Play, attracting interest from Lincoln fans around the world. It has been downloaded by people in China, Romania, Thailand, Russia and more.
“The power of wireless broadband technology is changing the world. The ‘Abe App’ is where history meets technology to spread the story of Abraham Lincoln. Now people of all ages can use a smartphone or tablet to access this free app to learn more about President Lincoln and his important life,” said Paul La Schiazza, President, AT&T Illinois.
The Abe App was developed by EDA-Soft Mobile Solutions. In addition to the fact of the day and the Lincoln quiz, it includes pictures of the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, a link to the museum’s gift shop, information on contributing to the foundation and contact information.
The private, non-profit Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation supports programming at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It fosters Lincoln scholarship through the acquisition and publication of documents and promotes historical literacy through a wide range of activities. To learn more, visit www.presidentlincoln.org.
(This article by Bryon Andreason, Historian, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, originally appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of “Four Score and Seven” the newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.)
Everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln had “Love is Eternal” inscribed on the inside of the wedding band he presented to Mary Todd when they were married on November 4, 1842. But how do we know?
No one can see the ring. It was reportedly buried with Mary. There are no photographs showing the inscription. There are no contemporary accounts about it. There is no mention of it in the surviving writings of Abraham or Mary Lincoln. Nor is it mentioned in the contemporary correspondence of any family members or friends. The historical record is silent for 40 years.
The first evidence of such an inscription did not surface until Mary’s death in 1882. An anonymous newspaper article stated that “friends” found the ring and discovered its inscription. The Rev. J.A. Reed quoted it in his sermon at Mary’s funeral—without disclosing whether he had actually seen the ring. A decade later, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth Todd Grimsley reminisced that she had seen the ring “bearing the motto” at Mary’s wedding 50 years earlier. Could the Rev. Reed’s romantic and sentimental funeral sermon have planted a seed that subtly altered Elizabeth’s ancient memories? In 1916 Henry B. Rankin repeated the ring inscription in his Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, as did Mary’s niece, Katherine Helm, in her 1928 book Mary, Wife of Lincoln. In 1954, novelist Irving Stone used the inscription as the title of his popular work of historical fiction. The ring inscription story had become gospel.
The “chain of provenance” for the inscription story reaches back only to 1882. Do we accept the reported words of “friends” in a newspaper account, a minister’s sermon, and the 50-year-old memory of a family member who may have been influenced by them? Most historians have.
Whether evaluating the provenance of a physical artifact or an intangible story, it is the same exercise—a historian must ultimately discern historical truth through faith in someone’s testimony.
(This article by Dr. James Cornelius, Lincoln Curator, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, originally appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of “Four Score and Seven” the newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation it has only been updated to reflect artifacts currently on display)
Nothing is more satisfying to a historian or any investigator than to come upon new evidence about an unknown or controverted fact. If the new knowledge adds to the provenance of a particular artifact, the consequences can have a financial impact. By provenance the museum world means ‘history of ownership’ of both physical items and written interpretations.
At the ALPLM, a small handful of us have the good fortune to be able to pursue some Lincoln mysteries as part of normal duties. And because members of the public—including ALPLF members—know that such activity goes on here, they sometimes tell us about their discoveries, too. “We celebrate the inquiry,” said ALPLF board member Kevin Callis.
Over the last year alone, here are a small number of the new finds about the Lincolns, on both artifacts and interpretations.
1. Willie’s teacher, and a portrait: A Mary Lincoln letter of May 1862, revealed in March 2012, tells us two things: that one Hester Watson had been Willie Lincoln’s teacher in late 1850s Springfield; and that the watercolor portrait of Willie (shown above), gifted to the ALPLM by the last Lincoln descendant in 1976, was probably painted in Washington right after Willie died in Feb. 1862. We had thought that Mary commissioned it in Europe a decade later. Now we turn our attention to seeking an American artist for it, not a European one.
2. Mary’s portrait, and a bogus endorsement: As revealed on page 1 of the Sunday New York Times on Feb. 12, 2012, paintings conservator Barry Bauman discovered that our oil portrait of Mary was in fact someone else altogether—painted over by a fraudster in 1929. The testimonial given to the Lincolns’ great-grandson when he bought the painting that year was thus an entire fiction. It remains a good painting, but now we are set upon finding a possible European artist for it, not an American.
3. Lincoln’s letter and lithograph: Lincoln wrote to a Chicago printmaker, Edward Mendel, in June 1860. For the last 60 years it was suspected that Mendel had invented the short Lincoln note to him for purposes of advertising his business. Now a descendant of Mendel has allowed the ALPLM to see the original letter and scan it (in late 2011), proving that Lincoln actually felt that Mendel’s was a “truthful Lithograph Portrait of myself.”
4. Billy the Barber: A previously unknown and lengthy legal document of 1852 has appeared in Japan, showing still further that Lincoln knew and did legal work for William de Florville, a.k.a. Billy the Barber, his oldest black friend. In this instance Lincoln arranged for him to buy four lots in central Bloomington—further proof of their long friendship.
5. Robert’s eyesight: Lincoln’s name (along with 33 others) appears in type on a printed endorsement of 1851 for a Peoria doctor who fixed children’s crossed eyes. Does this mean that Robert Lincoln’s crossed left eye was surgically straightened at about the age of 7? It was fixed somehow; and Robert went blind in that eye late in life. Still, the endorsement, discovered in late 2011, does not prove that Robert got that treatment.
And still to come! An amateur researcher has just published her findings (Wisconsin Magazine of History, Summer 2012) on Mary Lincoln’s heretofore unknown trip in Wisconsin and Michigan in August 1867. Might some old hotel desk or table there now have an association with her?
The italicized words above—seeking, finding, proving, further proof, association—are the meat of research and collecting, and can spell ‘cold cash.’ Before Louise Taper’s collection, probably the greatest assemblage of Lincolniana had been that of attorney Oliver Barrett (of Kenilworth, Ill.), sold in 1952 after his death. The 842 lots brought a total of $273,632, including, e.g., Mary’s bloodstained fan from Ford’s Theatre, and the Thomas Edison letter about Lincoln that have been displayed previously in the ALPLM’s Treasures Gallery —both via the Taper Collection. Fifty years after Barrett, in 2002, the heirs of Malcolm Forbes sold dad’s horde of Americana. Some of Forbes’s 100-plus Lincoln items sold for more than $273,000 each. And some of those also came to the ALPLM through the Taper Collection.
Were those 1952 or 2002 prices worth it? By all evidence, yes: Lincoln’s legacy flowers, research deepens, records of provenance grow stronger, and values rise. When in 2006 the State of Illinois paid $100,000 to acquire an oil portrait of Lincoln by LeRoy Neiman (who died in June at the age of 91), some people thought it was too much. But in April 2012 at an auction in Chicago, yet another record price for Neiman was set, $173,000 for a painting of Las Vegas. In 2009 our Lincoln portrait, reproduced at a large scale, had graced the back of the stage when President Obama spoke at the 200th Birthday banquet in Springfield. The legacy, the research, the provenance, and publicity all affect worth. The ALPLM’s acquisition and exhibition of the Neiman work probably enhanced the value of all Neiman work.
This brings us to Lincoln’s famed stovepipe hat. An article in the Chicago Sun-Times this spring cast doubt on its authenticity because we cannot scientifically prove it was Lincoln’s. No DNA is traceable from such an item. No photograph was taken when he gave it to William Waller of Jackson County, Illinois. Do you snap a photo each time you give a gift?
But Waller kept the hat his whole life; his son, a 5-term Illinois legislator and author of books on Illinois history, kept it for his whole life. In 1958, 2 years after his death, Waller’s second wife Clara sold it to Jim Hickey, a major private collector of Lincolniana as well as a staff member of the Illinois State Historical Library, now the ALPLM. Hickey sold it to Louise Taper in 1990; and now it is back ‘home’ where it belongs and on display currently at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
So we pursue this mystery like the 5 above: seeking, finding, proving, further proof, association. We have no proof that an unknown letter or photo will show up some day. But 7 people, from Lincoln’s day to the present, believed the hat was his, not to mention John Allen (1887-1969), the dean of southern Illinois history, who knew the Wallers and wrote that he believed the provenance, too.
And the pursuit of authenticity continues!
Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat
Nothing brings the image of Abraham Lincoln to mind better than his iconic stovepipe hat. And nothing sums up Lincoln’s beliefs better than a scrap of paper he may have stored in that battered hat. “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy,” the piece of paper says.
Now, just in time for Lincoln’s birthday, both the hat and the note on democracy are going on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. They’ll be added to the museum’s Treasures Gallery on Wednesday, Jan. 23, and remain on display about six months.
The beaver-fur hat has two bare patches on its brim where Lincoln’s fingers wore it out as he continually doffed it to passersby.
As he traveled from courthouse to courthouse on the Illinois prairie, Lincoln needed to stay warm and protect his legal papers. “Solving both problems, Lincoln kept his head warm and dry under this beaver-fur stovepipe hat, and he tucked his letters inside the hatband. It was his ‘office in his hat,’ according to a fellow attorney, and everyone on the circuit knew this amusing characteristic of Lincoln,” said ALPLM Lincoln Curator James Cornelius.
To hear more about Abraham Lincoln’s hat, listen to our latest podcast.
Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation
Copyrighted and designed by Mrs. M. M. Pabor in 1888 this commemorative lithograph of the Emancipation Proclamation was printed in Cincinnati, Ohio and features the allegorical ladies, Justice and Liberty. Other symbols of peace and justice, the laurel leaves and grapes are featured on the print. Because not all slaves were freed immediately with the issuance of the Proclamation in 1863, Mrs. Pabor added a note to this copy: “The rest of the slaves were freed by legislation, and Constitutional amendments.” This statement refers to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
This lithograph is currently on display as part of our most recent version of our “Boys in Blue” exhibit currently on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library until March, 2014.
©2013 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Harry Houdini and the Ghost of Abraham Lincoln
Mary Lincoln passed away on July 16, 1882, but it appears that, even as late as 1924, there was some curiosity about the spirit realm still surrounding Mary’s descendants. Enough curiosity, it seems, that world-renowned magician Harry Houdini helped to dispel the notion of at least one “spirit photograph” featuring himself and Abraham Lincoln.
On Feb. 13, 1924, just one day after what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 115th birthday, Houdini typed out a letter to Mary Edwards Lincoln Brown, the grand-daughter of Ninian and Elizabeth Edwards, Mary Lincoln’s sister. The letter reads:
State Lake Theatre,
Chicago, Ill. Feb. 13, 1924.
Mrs. Mary Edwards Lincoln Brown,
My dear Mrs. Brown:
Enclosed you will find Spirit Photograph of your renowned ancestor, and although the Theomonistic Society in Washington, D.C. claim that it is a genuine spirit photograph, as I made this one, you have my word for it, that it is only a trick effect.
Mrs. Houdini joins me in sending you kindest regards,
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—-we can not consecrate—-we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that, government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863
This is the original arrest warrant for Mary Lincoln on charges of insanity.
Mrs. Lincoln was tried in 1875 at the instigation of her son Robert on allegations of insanity, which ultimately led to her being declared a “lunatic” and placed in the Bellevue Sanitarium in Batavia, Illinois. Mary Lincoln obtained an early release from Bellevue with the assistance of her friend, Myra Bradwell. One year after the original insanity trial another jury found her sane, restoring her legal control over her assets. Even today, historians disagree whether the evidence against the First Lady was “trumped up,” whether the procedures used constituted due process, and what would occur if today’s modernized health laws were applied to the same facts.
Tonight, here in our Union Theater, Mary Lincoln’s insanity trial will be retried using modern rules. A roster of well-known modern judges will serve as attorneys for the petitioner and respondent, and audience members will decide Mrs. Lincoln’s fate after hearing the arguments and testimony.
If you are unable to be in attendance this evening, there will be a live webcast of the proceedings here: https://new.livestream.com/blueroomstream/events/1431860
More details: http://ow.ly/e5Ju2