Friday, October 31, 2008

Boy, has research changed!

It's been 14 years since I graduated from college, and 38 since I started the first time. No, I didn't go to school for 24 years straight. I took some time off after my first two years - and appreciated the experience much more the second time around.

Now, I'm back in the classroom again, and it still feels right. What amazes me the most this time, though, is how technology has changed the whole research experience in just these few short years since I was last in school.

Google, Noodle, J-Stor. If you'd have thrown these names at me a few years ago and told me I'd be singing their praises today, I'm sure I would have looked at you with furled brow and questioning eyes. Tonight, as I pull my paper together, I don't know what I did without these and the other electronic tools which make research so much easier and sources so much more accessible.

Searching funky things
Google is my search engine of choice, and thanks to a tip through a YouTube clip on Samuel P. Wheeler's website, Google Books is becoming my best friend. To think that there are books you can search right from the comfort of your computer at midnight or 5:00 a.m. just blows me away.

Noodle is this neat tool which creates your citations for you. I'm still learning it, but a little cutting and pasting into a template, and all the formatting is done for me - indents and all. No longer will I need that little blue term paper guide I've been using since the nuns introduced me to it back when I started high school in 1966 - nor will I have to fight with the tab key on my keyboard.

For years, when I walked into the Galesburg Public Library, just a couple blocks from the site of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate or Seymour Library on the Knox College campus just a couple buildings from Old Main, I headed straight to the Reader's Guide to Periodicals or the card file. Now, I can find all the articles I need online through J-Stor and borrow books from other libraries through I-Share. Everything is so much more accessible today, thanks to these tools I'm privileged to use as a Heartland College student.

I even found newspapers articles about Lincoln through Wheeler's site. It's all so incredible!

Pluses and minuses
The pluses - you can find everything you're looking for and so much more.
The minuses - you can find everything you're looking for and so much more.

That's right, once you get started on a research project, you can really go to town. In the past, you'd scrounge to find a few sources accessible through the libraries nearby, call it quits and do the paper with what you could find. Now it's all at your fingertips.

But, once you get started on a research project, you don't know where to stop. There is so much available, and there are so many different points of view. There is so much myth and so much scholarship and it's so addictive.

You know some of the paths you've stumbled on today will be paths you'll have to leave untrodden today, but your heart tells you you'll be back. The bug of scholarship has bitten. You'll do this paper, within the scope you set for yourself, but you'll return. You'll seek out those other trails, you'll cut the brush aside just like those early settlers to Illinois and you'll move forward on that next Lincoln project, knowing it, too, will just lead to one more. Now I know why those Lincoln scholars I admire do what they do. They can't help it either!

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Congratulations, Dr. Wheeler and thanks!

Those of you who are return visitors have likely discovered by now that one of the most rewarding aspects of this blog is that I’ve been able to use it to teach my readers about Lincoln scholars who inspire me, to show you the work others in the Lincoln community are doing and to thank these brilliant, dedicated individuals for their work.

A treasure found

When I began my Lincoln studies in earnest, and subsequently my blog, I began perusing the Internet more carefully for others who were using this medium successfully to share the Lincoln story.

One of the most exciting treasures I found was the website, Lincoln Studies: Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War (, the creation of a Lincoln student named Samuel P. Wheeler of Southern Illinois University. Wheeler’s site has become invaluable to me as I’ve begun my own in-depth studies of Lincoln’s life and legacy. To learn more about it, see my Oct. 19 blog post, Learning with Lincoln.

Since I’ve been busy with my own research recently, I haven’t been as diligent about visiting other Lincoln sites as usual. I stumbled upon a pleasant surprise this evening, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

A new, well-deserved title

Please join me in congratulating the new Dr. Samuel P. Wheeler on the successful defense of his dissertation, “Every Spot a Grave: The Poetry of Abraham Lincoln.”

We are proud of you, Dr. Wheeler. May you have a rewarding career as the newest official Lincoln scholar. Congratulations!

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October hunt for Lincoln-Graham

I think I saw the movie called "The Hunt for Red October" once, but it's not my kind of flick. I'm on my own hunt this October.

Hunt due to groundwork by Judge Willams
I'm working on a paper for the Abraham Lincoln class I'm taking at Heartland College . My theme is Abraham Lincoln and his mentors, and one of those I want to include is Mentor Graham, the teacher at New Salem. Thanks to the great article, "Lincolniana," which Judge Frank J. Williams does every year about Lincoln scholarship, I learned of a paper on the Lincoln/Graham relationship. I've been trying in vain to locate it.

Judge Williams is a member of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Chairman of The Lincoln Forum. He's passionate about Lincoln and his work is invaluable. I got to hear him speak in 2005 when the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) opened, so I can attest firsthand for his enthusiasm.

Enough about the Judge. I'll share more on his work another time. Back to the Lincoln/Graham paper.

Hunting for Basil Moore treasures
Basil Moore delivered a paper titled, "Abraham Lincoln and His Mentor Graham." at an April 11, 1992 conference "Remembering Lincoln," at Augustana College in Rock Island. The very helpful archivist, Jamie Nelson, at Augustana determined they don't have it. She connected me with Dean Hammer, who was the chair sponsoring the conference. Unfortunately, he didn't know where a copy could be found either. I'd go to the source - Moore - but I believe he passed away a number of years ago.

I'm checking with the ALPLM to see if they have the paper there or know if Moore's collection is in an archive somewhere. I do have a lot of material without this and a copy of Basil Moore's Lincoln coming through interlibrary loan, but I thought this might show the Graham/Lincoln relationship in some light I had not considered.

Thanks for your help in my hunt
My blog is new and just beginning to attract Lincoln buffs like me. I hope some of you are finding some value in it by learning something new from time to time about Lincoln, the scholars who tell his story or the books they've written. My foray into the world of Lincoln is teaching me so much, but I'm still new at learning where to look for all these sources. If you can help, please use the comments function on this blog post.

Happy hunting in your own Lincoln research, and be sure to watch my future postings for more on Lincoln and Graham. Douglas Wilson of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College provides information on the relationship which is a bit different than that of those who wrote about it earlier using the anecdotal material passed down through time. I'm looking forward to sharing what I've learned.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Davis through Ecelbarger's enthusiastic eyes

Lincoln buffs in Bloomington, Ill. had a real treat earlier this year when Gary Ecelbarger, author of The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination, spoke at the McLean County Museum of History (Sept. 11). The event was jointly sponsored by The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of McLean County and the David Davis Mansion Foundation.

Ecelbarger talked about “The role of David Davis in Lincoln’s nomination.” Anyone who lives in McLean County long enough and gets involved in its history circles will learn that the David Davis connection to Lincoln was long-lived and strong. They’ll learn early on that Davis was a big man and always had his own bed when he rode the circuit with Lincoln. They’ll learn a lot more about the connection between the two as time goes on. I know. I have.

Ecelbarger shared information I’d never heard before, though, and he’d be proud to know that I took one important number away with me – 233 – the number of votes it took for Lincoln to cinch the 1860 Republican presidential nomination. The speaker made sure to drive those digits home throughout his lecture.

I was impressed by two things – Ecelbarger’s energetic enthusiasm and his vast knowledge of names, dates, and the politicking that had to happen for Lincoln’s destiny as our president to come to be.

Ecelbarger is a magnificent storyteller, entertaining as only one passionate about his subject can. He takes his listeners on a journey through the Lincoln/Davis relationship and keeps them spellbound as he moves through the process which led to the crucial number of votes in the Chicago convention wigwam.

In Lincoln lore, one January date always stands out – that fatal first when the courtship with Mary Todd went awry and Lincoln slipped into his great melancholy.

After hearing Ecelbarger, I’ll now always have another January image etched in my mind, one in 1859 which I’ll dub the snowy sixth. I’ll see the picture Ecelbarger painted of Lincoln and the others holed up in the then State Library in the basement of the Old State Capitol. Lincoln, fresh on the heels of defeat after losing his second senate race, is not afraid to speak up and say “I can do it” when his name is overlooked as a candidate for the presidency.

Ecelbarger’s lecture was suspense-filled, entertaining and informative. Though I have not yet read the book I bought and had autographed that night, I’m sure it’s more of the same. I’m looking forward to reading it, and I feel confident in telling my readers you’ll want to read it, too. And if you want a great way to spend an hour or two, watch for an opportunity to hear him speak in a community near you.
© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shedding light on Lincoln’s darkness

Currently I consider myself an Abraham Lincoln enthusiast, thus the blog name “Lincoln Buff 2.” I hope someday to earn the title “Lincoln scholar.” To do so will take lots of hard work, years of reading and researching, and the mentoring and respect of Lincoln scholars who have come before me.

I’ve had the blessing of hearing a number of Lincoln scholars speak, and have even had a chance to meet a few. One of my hopes in this blog is that I can introduce you to some authors and scholars in the Lincoln community who inspire me - and tell you about their work.

Meet Joshua Wolf Shenk
I’ve already told you about Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College and Harold Holzer of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in earlier postings. Today I’d like to introduce you to Joshua Wolf Shenk and his book, Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.

Lincoln as most know him

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans know the legendary Lincoln – the young boy born in a log cabin in Kentucky, who later lived in some little village somewhere in the middle of Illinois, had little schooling, read by the light of a fireplace, ascended to the presidency, led our nation at its most difficult time and delivered a battlefield address which is probably studied in school more than any other oratorical work.

What the more astute students of Lincoln know, though, as it is covered again and again in varying degrees in his biographies, is that Lincoln had dark moments – very sad and solemn times. In his day, it was known as melancholy or melancholia. Today, we call it depression and we understand it’s a mental health issue faced by many.

A dual discipline approach to Lincoln
Joshua Wolf Shenk had the honor of serving as a Rosalynn Carter Fellow in Mental Health Journalism at the Carter Center in Atlanta. While there, he began his studies on Lincoln’s depression. Lincoln’s Melancholy is unique in the approach it takes to Lincoln’s life. Shenk takes a multi-discipline approach, combining his knowledge of and interest in mental illness with his expertise in the life of Lincoln.

As you read Shenk’s book, you’ll not only learn about Lincoln and how his depression affected his life and presidency, but you’ll also learn about mental illness, a condition which impacts one in five families in America.

I had the opportunity to hear Shenk speak this summer at two appearances in Peoria, Ill. He held us spellbound as he spoke with sincerity and depth about our 16th president and the depression which darkened his life. His book is comprehensive and educational without overwhelming the reader with medical jargon. If I had a chance, I’d see go hear Shenk yet again, and I’d recommend his book to any Lincoln buff.
© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hold on for more Holzer

Famed Lincoln author does it again
There are more books written about Abraham Lincoln than anyone except Jesus Christ, and a New York man is the author, co-author or editor of more than 30 of them. Please join me in congratulating Harold Holzer on his latest - Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 - published by Simon & Schuster and in bookstores this week. It’s already receiving accolades from leading Lincoln scholars.

I first “met” Harold Holzer in 1998, when I had the opportunity to review his book, The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865 for The State Journal-Register. It was my second book review and Holzer’s eleventh book. It was seven years before I was to meet the author in person – at an event we’ll both always remember.

An event of historic proportion
Holzer was one of the speakers at the scholarly conference, Lincoln in the 21st Century, at the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. in April 2005. The roster of speakers at the conference was a Who’s Who of Lincoln scholars, with more than 20 world-renowned scholars presenting. Holzer was on a three-generation panel with a patriarch of Lincoln scholars, David Herbert Donald, and Donald’s protégé and former grad assistant, Matthew Pinsker. The event was moderated by Brian Lamb of C-SPAN.

I got to meet Holzer that weekend and also got to ask a question of the three-generation panel. Today I can’t remember the exact words I used back then, but it was something like, “Do you think it is possible for someone to begin studying Lincoln this late in life and become knowledgeable enough to gain the respect of scholars such as these?” C-SPAN was taping that day, so the memory of the broadcast tapes is surely more accurate than my own.

The three scholars – and Lamb – could not have been more encouraging. Their advice: “Get involved in the Lincoln world. Attend events such as this one. No, it’s not too late.”

And the list goes on
Holzer’s life since that day in Springfield has been more productive than mine. He’s co-authored or edited twenty more books since that one I reviewed in 1998 – 31 in all:

  • The Lincoln Image (1984)

  • Changing the Lincoln Image (1985)

  • The Confederate Image, (1987)

  • The Lincoln Family Album (1990)

  • Lincoln on Democracy (1990)

  • Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art (1993)

  • The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1993)

  • Washington and Lincoln Portrayed (1993)

  • Dear Mr. Lincoln: Letters to the President (1993)

  • Witness to War (1996)

  • The Civil War Era (1996)

  • The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President (1998)

  • The Union Preserved (1999)

  • The Lincoln Forum: Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, and the Civil War (1999)

  • Lincoln as I Knew Him (1999)

  • The Union Image (2000)

  • Lincoln Seen and Heard (2000)

  • Abraham Lincoln, The Writer (2000)

  • Prang's Civil War: The Complete Battle Chromos of Louis Prang (2001)

  • State of the Union: New York and the Civil War (2002)

  • The Lincoln Forum: Rediscovering Abraham Lincoln ( 2002)

  • The President is Shot! The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (2004)

  • Lincoln At Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President (2004)

  • Lincoln in the Times: The Life of Abraham Lincoln as Originally Reported in the New York Times (2005)

  • The Battle of Hampton Roads (2006)

  • The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (2006)

  • Lincoln in the Collections of the Indiana Historical Society (2006)

  • Lincoln and Freedom (2007)

  • Lincoln Revisited (2007)

  • Lincoln's White House Secretary: The Adventurous Life of William O.Stoddard (2007)

Holzer is also the author of several hundred articles on Lincoln, has served in an advisory capacity to more Lincoln projects than anyone could fathom and has won numerous honors for his work. See his website to learn more. It’s only fitting and proper that Holzer is a co-chair of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Late-blooming scholar
But more memorable than any of the words Holzer has set in type are the words of encouragement to an aging baby boomer wanting to pursue a dream. In essence, he said, “Do it.”

Today, I’m taking a class about Lincoln, attending Lincoln-related events and using this blog to celebrate the 16th President and those who so passionately share their passion for him. Who says it’s too late to follow your heart?

Thanks, Harold, for encouraging me to listen to mine, and congratulations!

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning with Lincoln

Forgive me for not posting for a few days. I've been busy learning with Lincoln -- and with so many others who forged the path before me.

Lincoln - the student or the teacher?
I'm currently working on my term paper for my class at Heartland College. My topic is Lincoln and his mentors. I spent this weekend doing lots of online research and reading in books about the teacher at New Salem, Mentor Graham. Though Lincoln was already an adult at New Salem, his schooling to that point had been less than a year.

Lincoln befriended the village teacher, Mentor Graham, or perhaps Graham befriended him. Either way, as Lincoln delved into his studies - of grammar, of surveying, of law - and read books on a wide range of topics, Graham was there. If the sources I'm reading are to be believed, the two also spent hours discussing many of the topics which would be important or confusing to Lincoln throughout his life - internal improvements, slavery, religion.

The primary book I read today, Mentor Graham: The Man Who Taught Lincoln, by Kunigunde Duncan and D. F. Nikols, was written in 1944, and much of it may be anecdotal, based on myth, stories told by minds that have reshaped them, and hearsay. Yet, I came away believing that there were two students here. I think Graham learned as much in many ways as his student did.

Lincoln Studies Center and Lincoln
Those of you who have been following my blog know how much I admire, laud and appreciate the work of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. Drs. Rodney Davis, Douglas Wilson and their colleagues do amazing research there and have made invaluable contributions to the study of Lincoln. One work alone, Herndon's Informants, is perhaps one of the most valuable tools for any Lincoln scholar's bookshelf. I could devote several posts to their work and likely will.

I found another valuable research tool this weekend, though. There is an ambitious young PhD candidate at Southern Illinois University, Samuel P. Wheeler. Wheeler has created a website titled Lincoln Studies: Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, which is out of this world in getting students of Lincoln to the sources they need. His Research Links section takes you to nearly any online source possible without the access provided by colleges and universities to their students, including thousands of newspaper articles about Lincoln. Wheeler’s site,, was a big help to me this weekend. I know I’ll use it over and over again.

Can’t go wrong
Whether you’re seeking the experience Drs. Davis and Wilson have accumulated over nearly half a century, or the sources to which a budding scholar will guide you, remember two words – Lincoln Studies – and seek both as valuable contributions to your work in the world of Lincoln. I will.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Breaking up the wall of words

Dear visitors,

I've felt guilty about the wall of words on my website. Even though I found a way to show the paragraph breaks a few days ago, I still had extremely long posts with no visual break. I've now added subheads to my posts. I hope that helps make for easier reading.

In my real job, I follow online writing standards everyday with tables, bulleted lists and very succinct copy. Since this is a creative outlet for me, and scholarly types are used to reading walls of words, I'm not strictly following online style guidelines. Instead I'm using the writing style which best allows me to use my true voice as a writer. Hope you are enjoying it.

This is for you. Tell me what you like.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Road tripping with Lincoln in Illinois

Ever read a blog or a social networking site, listened to a voice mail or received an email out of office message where the person says, "I'm on the road this week"? I always thought that sounded so cool!

I've been "on the road" with Abraham Lincoln lately and it's been quite an experience. Okay, not really with him, but certainly pursuing his legacy.

Events aplenty
Thanks to the upcoming bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, central Illinois has been a great place to be a Lincoln buff - especially these last few weeks. A person would have to be nearly super-human to make it to all the events, but I've done my best to try to achieve that stature - four events in six days!

Immersed in Lincoln
As a student in the class which Heartland College is offering to commemorate the Bicentennial, History 296: The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln, taught by Dr. Scott Rager, I spend one evening each week immersed in Lincoln in the classroom and countless other hours reading my lesson and learning as much as I can outside of class. Yes, it has become somewhat of an obession!

Buss-Connors as Lincoln-Douglas
The Lincoln-Douglas Debate Reunion Tour 2008 has had George Buss as Lincoln and Tim Connors as Stephen A. Douglas traveling throughout the state. If you get a chance sometime, please go see them. You'll be glad you did.

I saw Buss and Connors at the historic Normal Theatre on Sept. 24 and at Galesburg on Oct. 4 for the anniversary celebration of the Galesburg debate. They've hit all the other 1858 debate sites this fall, as well. On Oct. 16, Buss will portray Lincoln for a modern day press conference at the Pettengill-Morron House in Peoria. I hope to make it to that event, too.

Scholars present
Last Saturday's colloquium at Knox was fantastic (see my Oct. 11 blog post) and tonight I was at the University of Illinois in Springfield for the Lincoln Legacy Lecture series with Drs. Silvana Siddali and Jennifer Weber presenting. This isn't the first time I've heard these two brilliant Lincoln scholars present, and I intend not to let it be the last. The event was moderated by Order of Lincoln honoree Thomas Schwartz, Illinois Historian, whose work with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and many other Lincoln-related organizations is inspirational. Watch my future posts for information on these Lincoln experts, areas of their Lincoln scholarship and links to their books.

I'll also try to tell you a little more about all of the Order of Lincoln honorees I've met in the past week, their contributions to the Lincoln legacy and their publications. Watch for future posts.

My assignment
In the meantime, I'm taking some time off the road for my own scholarly work. (Wow, I always wanted to say that!) I'll be working on a paper on Abraham Lincoln and his mentors. I've had great mentors myself - in work and in academia - so I was drawn to this subject. I think the topic definitely has relevance today.

Your assignment
Okay, all readers, here's your assignment. Think of a mentor you've had who has inspired you, helped you grow and guided you to new heights. Please feel free to use the comments function to share your story. (I do review all comments before posting, so you may not see them until the following day.)

Lincoln scholars, I know we've got budding scholars reading this post, especially my young friends in the Lincoln Seminar class at Galesburg High School. Like me, they admire you and your work. Please tell them about the mentors who inpired you.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Be like Lincoln - Read

If you were asked to name a characteristic of Abraham Lincoln's, what would it be? His honesty is always up there at the top, but so is his love of the written word. I can't ever remember a time when "Lincoln" wasn't synonymous with "voracious reader" in my mind.

There are more books written about Lincoln than anyone except Jesus Christ. I've provided a list of books you can read to learn more about our sixteenth president. The list now links directly to a source where you can order each one.

U of I Press keeps history alive
A number of books about Lincoln are published by the University of Illinois Press, a publishing house with a passion much like my own - keeping regional history alive. Therefore, whenever possible I'll link directly to the U of I Press website. For books published elsewhere, I'll normally take you to a major bookseller's website.

My blog booklist
You won't find the same books listed each time you visit my blog. The list is constantly evolving. I plan to feature books by authors or on subjects which relate most closely to my recent posts.

The book I'm currently reading will always be at the top. For now, that's David Herbert Donald's Lincoln. We're using it as the text in the Lincoln course I'm taking at Heartland College in Bloomington, Ill. Get used to seeing that one listed through early December.

Now featuring Davis and Wilson
For the next few days, the list will also feature books by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. Their names and faces have been familiar to me for almost as long as Lincoln's. Drs. Davis and Wilson are my hometown heroes, as much as Ronald Reagan, Carl Sandburg, Mother Bickerdyke or Superman himself (George Reeves). And they stepped up the hero ladder even more this past weekend when they did a magnificent job hosting the Twenty-Third Annual Lincoln Colloquium. Read my Oct. 11 post to learn more about this great event.

As I transition to a hyperlinked book list, you'll find two lists for a while. May you find something listed here you've not yet read, and in reading, may you discover another morsel or two of Lincoln knowledge you haven't yet discovered. Happy reading!
© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lincoln Colloquium educates like 19th Century lyceum

In Lincoln’s day, they didn't have television, Wii, iPod, Illini football, major league baseball playoffs – Cubs or no Cubs – or most of other things which occupy our time today.

The events for which communities joined together were much different in 19th century Illinois. People found their entertainment in spending time with others. Some of the gatherings which brought people in droves to nearby communities for social and intellectual interaction were things like the spring and fall circuit court sessions and the great debates.

The lyceum movement in Lincoln's day
Another pastime of the day was joining together to hear men who presented speeches through Lyceum groups. In his book, Lincoln, David Herbert Donald speaks about the lyceum movement:

"This was the golden age of the lyceum movement, when men and women thronged the lecture halls and listened for hours to speakers who might edify, enlighten or, at least, amuse them."1

Modern day lyceum
I attended my own lyceum of sorts on Saturday, Oct. 11. I spent the day listening to six renowned Lincoln scholars celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates with their rhetoric. The Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois hosted The Twenty-Third Annual Lincoln Colloquium, in cooperation with Lincoln Home National Historic Site, The Indiana Historical Society, and the Chicago History Museum.

Knox’s Harbach Theatre holds about 450 people when it’s full. Those who were willing to wager a guess figured there were about 400 people there – a number of other Lincoln scholars, high school teachers, college professors, students – young and older, senior citizens and other interested parties from near and far.

Orators do Lincoln proud
Lincoln wasn’t there to try his hand at speaking, but these six orators would have given him a run for his money if this had been a competition. Their passion for their subject was genuine, and they held the audience as spellbound as Lincoln and Douglas surely did when they debated on the east side of Old Main that blustery Oct. 7, 1858.

Today’s sessions began with remarks from Knox College President Roger Taylor and Douglas L. Wilson, followed by papers presented by David H. Zarefsky, Rodney O. Davis, Allen C. Guelzo, James M. McPherson and Garry Wills. Between them, these scholar-authors hold two Pulitizer Prizes, five Lincoln Prizes, four Abraham Lincoln Institute Awards and a plethora of other honors – an impressive lot for sure.

Symposium for the ages - Springfield 2005
In 2005, when the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opened, I took advantage of the opportunity to hear more than 20 of the top Lincoln scholars speak, many of whom were at Knox today – and I even got to meet Brian Lamb of C-SPAN.

Lincoln scholars - tops in my book
I thought then, and I still feel now, that Lincoln scholars are some of the most sincere, supportive people I’ve ever met. As I meet more of them, I’m even more convinced I was correct. I'm not sure if Lincoln just attracts a certain type of person, or if, by studying him, his sincerity, concern for his fellow mankind and search for truth come through in the scholar, but there's just something about his group you understand best when you're in their midst.

I think “Honest Abe” would be proud to know that such genuine people are keeping his legacy alive. (Did you know he really didn’t like to be called “Abe”?)

I'll write more reflections on the day in future blog entries. For now, my strongest reflection is this:

The colloquim was magnificent. I met lots of people who’ve made significant contributions to the Lincoln world. I was edifed, enlightened and amused. (Professor Guelzo's reponsible for the amusement. He can be hilarious!)

Learn more about the lyceum movement
To learn more about the lyceum movement in Lincoln’s day, read Dr. Donald’s Lincoln. There are several references throughout the book.

1Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln, Jonathan Cape, London, 1995, p. 164.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Over the dam - Boring a hole in the flatboat

In April 1831, Abraham Lincoln came to the rescue when a flatboat full of goods got hung up on a dam on the Sangamon River near New Salem, Ill. Lincoln climbed in the water, bored a hole in the bow of the watercraft and unloaded some of the weight so the flatboat could be lifted over the dam.

Blogging hits a dam
The waters I navigated as a blogger seemed to be just as difficult this week, as I struggled to try to figure out to make my carefully crafted entries have the paragraph breaks I'd so strategically placed.

Finally tonight, in reviewing all the settings controlling the blog, I found one which seemed to be just the solution I needed to get over my dam. I checked "yes" instead of "no" or vice versa on one little checkbox and, voila, magically my earlier posts had the white space (actually more of a buff color - chosen intentionally) that I'd so lovingly put in place.

Over the dam - down the river
I've passed over the dam and am moving on down the river. Hopefully, my river is not so in need of internal improvements as the Sangamon was in Lincoln's day...

Learn about Lincoln's flatboat rescue
To learn more about the Lincoln's flatboat rescue, read Chapter Two, "A Piece of Floating Driftwood," in David Herbert Donald's "Lincoln."

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Congratulations to The Order of Lincoln honorees

This week we learned of 30 people from around the world who will receive a special Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial edition of The Order of Lincoln, the highest honor awarded by the State of Illinois. Those chosen will be honored for the lasting and significant ways they have preserved the memory of Abraham Lincoln, and have contributed to Lincoln’s defining influence on the American spirit.

I've had the pleasure of meeting several of these people or hearing them speak at the symposium when the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opened or at other events. I list those people here and offer them my congratulations and my personal thanks for their contributions to the Lincoln legacy.

A special thanks - Davis, Holzer, Wilson
Three people deserve special thanks for always answering my Lincoln questions: my special friend Harold Holzer, co-chair of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and author of books on Lincoln and the Civil War, as well as Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Lincoln authors and co-founders of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

Harold has encouraged me every step of the way on my Lincoln journey, answers my questions patiently and inspires me with his passion for Lincoln. Drs. Wilson and Davis are my hometown Lincoln scholars, so their work has always been near and dear to me. They, too, are always there for me. I'm blessed.

Honorees I've met or heard speak
Congratulations to those who have mesmerized me as I heard them speak about Lincoln:

  • Jean Harvey Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln biographer and Harwood Bennett Professor
    of History at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Gabor S. Boritt, author and editor of 16 books on Lincoln and the Civil War, and
    Robert Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute
    at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Richard J. Carwardine, Lincoln biographer and Rhodes Professor of American
    History at Oxford University, England.
  • Thomas F. Schwartz, Illinois State Historian, internationally renowned Lincoln
    expert, and key planner of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
  • Louise Taper of Beverly Hills, California, renowned Lincoln collector, exhibit organizer, and John Wilkes Booth author and collector.
  • Frank J. Williams, Lincoln author and collector, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

And to one I get to meet this coming Saturday:

  • Allen C. Guelzo, author of books on Lincoln and the Civil War, and Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

To all the rest
To the others nominated, my sincere congratulations as well. Thank you for your part in keeping Lincoln alive in our memories and our hearts.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wall of words

I am a communicator. I do know how to use paragraphs and that it's really, really bad to write a wall of words. I am, however, somewhat technically challenged. I wrote my first post with lots of nice short paragraphs. It just didn't post that way. If anyone can tell me how to fix that, I'll be eternally grateful - or at least grateful for a day or two.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Navigating new waters

A little more than one hundred and four score years ago Abraham Lincoln set out on a flatboat journey from Rockport, Indiana to New Orleans, Louisiana. Today I set out on a maiden voyage, navigating new waters as a first-time blogger. I cannot say now where this journey will take me or how it will benefit any of us. I'm not yet sure how I'll use it or how often I'll post. Time will tell, I suppose.

A promise kept
One thing I do know is that I vowed several years ago I would not let the bicentennial of Lincoln's Feb. 12, 1809 birth pass without delving deeper into Lincoln myself. The day approaches, the celebrations have begun and I've kept that promise.

I'm taking a course, The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln, at Heartland Community College. Central Illinois is rich in Lincoln tradition, so a number of organizations are also honoring Lincoln's legacy by bringing in speakers and hosting other Lincoln-related events. I've had the blessing of attending several of these. In future blogs, I hope to share a little about these happenings and the other Lincoln scholars and aficionados I've met.

A plethera of Lincoln books
My first effort as a blogger is to share titles of some of the Lincoln-related books with which I am most familiar. I'm still trying to determine the best way to share the plethera of books I'd like to tell you about, without having you have to scroll till the cows come home. So, for now, I'll show you ten at a time - my favorite books or favorite authors first, with others rotating into view over time. The list is in no way all-inclusive, as more books have been written about Lincoln than about anyone except Jesus Christ. It's just the books I know or have in mind as I compile my listing.

Some of the authors have served as mentors to me as I've delved into Illinois history and literature and into Lincoln studies. Some have been there to answer a question now and then, while others have nurtured me tirelessly or encouraged me to pursue my passion.

Thanks, Lincoln scholars
To all, I say thanks. Sharing the word about your books is one way I can reciprocate, but never enough to thank you for your labors of love and the examples you set.

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.