Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lincoln at Christmas

Here’s a mixed bag – or stocking, perhaps, given it is Christmas – of Lincoln-related holiday info. Forgive me for not doing the research myself to share more in-depth information on Lincoln’s Christmas. I enjoyed the company of my family, trying to see the joy of the celebration through the eyes of my grandchildren. That, today, seemed more important.

How Lincoln spent Christmas week
The Snellers at Abraham Lincoln Online website have a nice timeline on their website answering the question “How did Lincoln spend Christmas week as President and President-elect?” The timeline covers the holiday week from 1860 through 1864.

Lincoln holiday images
On the Abraham Lincoln Collectibles website, I found some beautiful images of the Lincoln family at Christmas, created annually by the late Lloyd Ostendorf for more than 20 years. I’ve not done the digging to know for sure how realistic the scenes portrayed in each image are, but they’re quite attractive nonetheless. Many of the images are for sale as prints or postcards via the website.

Nurturing a budding scholar
My six-year-old grandson wanted a biography of Lincoln which had a picture of him with a beard. On a Christmas Eve shopping blitz, I found Abraham Lincoln from the History Maker Bios Series. It’s written by Jane A. Schott and illustrated by Tim Parlin. It looks as if it’s written so that it will hold his young attention, yet provide him with the basics of Lincoln scholarship. It’s nice to know we’re starting our own Lincoln legacy here. Kunhardts we’ll never be, but you have to start somewhere.

Starting a new old tradition
On our trip to the holiday reception at the David Davis Mansion, my granddaughter and I learned of a tradition observed in the Davis home which has roots nearly 130 years ago. David Davis was a Bloomington (Ill.) attorney who rode the Eighth Judicial Circuit with Lincoln, was the primary force in helping him win the 1860 election, served on the Supreme Court in Lincoln’s administration and served as a father figure to Robert Todd Lincoln after the President’s death.

In the gift shop and on the dining room table at the mansion, we saw Peppermint Pigs. We learned this was a Victorian holiday tradition. Those at the holiday dinner passed the Peppermint Pig, shielded in a festive red pouch, around the table. Each guest shared something good from the past year, then hit the pouch with a small hammer to break the pink candy pig into pieces. Once it had been around the table, the pouch was opened, the pig was shared, and it was to bring health and good luck in the New Year.

Both young and old at our table first shared something they were thankful for. The pig wasn’t broken as much as we desired, so we passed it again making a wish for the New Year. Those youngsters amaze me. They get it. Their thanks and their wishes were from the heart and not selfish. I’m pretty proud of and thankful for them. They’re good kids.

Even if you don’t have a Peppermint Pig this year, may you reflect on good things from 2008 and be blessed with good health and good luck in 2009. Thanks for spending time learning about Lincoln with me. Ann

© Copyright 2008 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lincoln inaugural Bible to serve Obama, too

More exciting Lincoln news on the Obama front today. Most mainline news networks and even many obscure ones have picked up the news that President-elect Barack Obama will take his oath of office using the Bible Abraham Lincoln used at his 1861 inauguration.

Obama - One of Lincoln's greatest cheerleaders
Boy, with all the work my friends at the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Commission have done, they couldn't have asked for better public relations for our 16th president than the great PR he's getting from Obama - and they don't have any marketing expense for this great press!

Thank you, Mr. President-elect, for embracing and promoting the legacy of Lincoln. You're renewing an interest in Lincoln at an opportune time - his bicentennial year. Let's hope we can keep the momentum moving and have the greatest year for Lincoln scholarship ever!

Read about and see the Bible
Although you can find articles in many newspapers and online news sources, my friends at The State Journal-Register in Lincoln's longtime home, Springfield, had a good article today about Obama and the Bible, with some very nice photos. Be sure to check it out.

You'll also want to see the image of the back inside flaps of the Bible from the Library of Congress website. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it. You can actually read much of the handwriting inside it.

Happy holidays from the Land of Lincoln
I won't be blogging for a day or two so I can devote time to spending the holiday with my family. May you find this season a time to create warm memories with your loved ones, too.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. Ann

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thanks, Kunhardts, for building on a legacy

Recently, I was looking for an audio book about Lincoln to “read” on my commute to work. The first one I ran across in a nearby library was Lincoln: A Biography by Philip B Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B Kunhardt III and Peter W. Kunhardt. Nearly as soon as I began listening to it, I knew it was going to be time well spent.

Just the beginning
Even in this abridged 1992 audiotape, the Kunhardts’ coverage of Lincoln’s evolving views of slavery and African-Americans proved to be very comprehensive. And, considering this subject was to be one of the questions on an exam in the Lincoln course I was taking, the authors held me captive – so much so that I went back and also checked out the large-format unabridged hardcover, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography.

As I spent two weekends and several evenings documenting the topic for the exam and future reference, I was amazed at how much depth this book had on slavery and a number of other facets of Lincoln’s life. I was just as amazed at how beautifully the volume was illustrated. I took advantage of the library’s liberal renewal policy to keep the book longer and to spend time savoring the photographs. I learned the book was printed as a companion piece to the trio’s four-part ABC mini-series on Lincoln.

Delving into the Kunhardt story

These guys and their work were impressive. I stepped away from Lincoln for a bit and began to research the Kunhardts, their books and their documentaries. I was excited to find there was much more to learn than just a tale of three guys who decided to write a book about Lincoln. There was a legacy here – a powerful one spanning five generations – from Frederick Hill Meserve (grandfather of Philip, Jr.) who was born the year Lincoln died, through Frederick’s daughter Dorothy (Mother of Philip Jr. and author of Pat the Bunny), then Philip, Jr., his sons Philip III and Peter, and Peter’s son Peter, Jr.

The legacy started when Meserve purchased the glass photographic negatives of Lincoln/ Civil War era photographer Matthew Brady. Thanks to Meserve’s wise investment, the rest of us can linger over these photos today and see back into Lincoln’s time with a clarity which wouldn’t have been possible without this man’s wisdom and foresight.

Sharing the treasures

Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and her son, Philip, Jr., started the tradition of sharing these magnificent images in the book, Twenty Days: A Narrative in Text and Pictures of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Twenty Days and Nights That Followed--The Nation in Mourning, the Long Trip Home to Springfield. If I’m not mistaken, this volume was first published in 1965 on the centennial of Lincoln’s mournful trip home to Springfield.

Philip Jr. and his sons built on the tradition with the illustrated 1992 biography I stumbled upon. I was troubled to learn that Philip Jr. passed away in 2006, but delighted to learn that the next project, now hot off the press, is the work of his two sons and his grandson, Peter, Jr.

The latest Kunhardt work

I had the opportunity recently to hear Philip III talk about the new book, Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon, with Daniel Weinberg of The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop on Virtual Book Signing.* This book, too, draws from the family’s collection of images and draws upon each of the co-author’s unique gifts – Philip III’s gifts as a writer and his brother and son’s talents with the images and design work.

The book continues the Lincoln story, taking the reader from the assassination through the life of Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. It, too, is a companion book, to an upcoming PBS documentary, but based on tradition, I’m sure it will stand well on its own. The legacy of the Kunhardts, like the legacy of Lincoln, is one which will remain strong for years to come.

Congratulations, Philip III and Peter
In February, Philip III and Peter will join other Lincoln experts in receiving a special Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial edition of the highest honor awarded by the State of Illinois, The Order of Lincoln. As is the case with the other honorees, this recognition of the brothers' longstanding commitment to Lincoln is well-deserved. Congratulations to both of you from someone who appreciates your work and laments of not discovering it earlier.

More to come
Watch for more information on this interesting family and their contributions to the Lincoln world, including a new numbering system for Lincoln photographs, in future Lincoln Buff 2 blog posts next year. If I told you everything I’ve learned about this talented family, I fear it would take me into the new year.

* Abraham Lincoln Book Shop and Virtual Book Signing: This is really cool! I even got to send a question via email, which Mr. Kunhardt answered on the air. I want to tell you more about the history of this institution and the new legacy they're creating with the virtual book signings. Watch for more on that next year, too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blog topics you may have missed through Dec. 19

The last few weeks have been busy in the Lincoln world, so there's been lots to write about. If you’ve missed some posts since my last "topics you may have missed" piece on Nov. 18, 2008, here’s a hyperlinked list of what we covered. If this is helpful, please check one of the Reaction checkboxes at the end of this article.

In the past few weeks, you might have missed articles:

For earlier articles
For articles between the birth of this blog on Oct. 9, 2008 and Nov. 18, see the Nov. 19 article.

The opportunity of a century
Remember, this time of bicentennial celebration will never be equaled by any in our lifetimes for opportunities to celebrate and learn about Lincoln. You can find a couple of great calendars of bicentennial happenings across the country at these websites:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. Secretary-to-be

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard the term “Team of Rivals” so many times that some of us are beginning to wish Doris Kearns Goodwin had named her Lincoln book something else.

No offense, Ms. Goodwin. It was a great name. It’s just getting worn out as President-elect Obama selects his cabinet and the media runs the phrase into the ground. The freshness is kind of gone, you know.

There’s one “rival” we’re excited to learn about here in Central Illinois, though. Our native son, Congressman Ray LaHood, who recently announced his retirement from his current role, has been named Secretary of Transportation for the Obama administration.

LaHood’s our man
LaHood is dear to us here in the Land of Lincoln, not only because he’s from our neck of the woods – or prairie – but because he’s a co-chair of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

So, it seems appropriate that this Lincoln enthusiast will have a role with our nation’s transportation. After all, as early as the New Salem days, Lincoln was passionate about internal improvements – better waterways, railroads and such. We were already proud of our Representative for his public service and his support of the Lincoln legacy. We’re even prouder now.

Learn more
As usual, the journalists at the Peoria Journal-Star have done a great job of telling the story of Hood’s nomination. Learn more in the following:

Best wishes always
Congressman LaHood, when I wished you well in my Dec. 6 post, I borrowed some words from an old Irish toast. Little did I know the roads will not only rise up to meet you, but you’ll be the “road and sky guy” for our whole country. Wow!

Congratulations – and thanks for continuing to serve the people of the United States of America.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Give the gift of Lincoln

Is your holiday shopping done? Have you planted the seed of Lincoln yet?

It’s not too late to pick up a Lincoln book or two or a few to give to the special people in your life. If you’ve already remembered the people on your gift giving list, consider donating Lincoln titles to schools or local libraries. Can you think of a more fitting way to commemorate the upcoming bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth? A book is a gift that keeps on giving, often teaching and giving joy across generations.

In the Lincoln Buff library are Lincoln titles for all ages, including the first one I purchased in grade school through the paperback book program for less than a dollar. Today, my grandchildren - from the kindergartener to the high school student - can often be found with their noses in the pages of a book about the 16th president. I can’t help but smile when the youngest asks me if I can show him a picture of Lincoln without his whiskers or the oldest begins quizzing me on Lincoln facts for a term paper.

See the bicentennial website for ideas
If you’re looking for Lincoln titles, be sure to check out the Lincoln Bicentennial website, where you’ll find one list for children’s books and another for adult titles.

Season’s greetings
As you begin celebrating the season according to your own special traditions, I wish you health, happiness and a new Lincoln book. My bet is that if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got some on your list – especially with all the new ones coming out this year.

There will be one special title under the Lincoln Buff’s tree this year thanks to the compounded effect of a sale price, member discount, one day sale, free shipping and a holiday gift certificate. I’ll be sure to report on it once I’ve read it. It should be a good one.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be spending more time with my loved ones, so I may not be blogging quite as often. This won’t be my last post before the holidays, though. Please check back in as you have time amidst the hustle and bustle. If you don’t find a new post, know that I’m not forgetting Lincoln or you. I’ve got a huge list of topics and lots of news other Lincoln buffs want me to share. We’ve got a lot to talk about between now and Feb. 12, 2009!

Happy holidays! Ann

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A somber look at Lincoln's time

Recently, I was at a nearby library searching through the audio book section, hoping to find Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. Instead, I found an audio book which gave me a behind-the-scenes look at the Civil War I would have never thought possible. The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves by Andrew Ward is a sobering first-hand account through the eyes of hundreds of former slaves.

I normally have a rule: My 30-minute commute to and from work is a transition time and I try to listen to things which will make me smile – Hippie Radio or fun country songs like “Chicken Fried” by the Zak Brown Band.

As I listened to narrator Richard Allen read the accounts from Ward’s book, I did anything but smile.

From the mouths of babes

The book includes the first-hand accounts of scores of former slaves, many who were just children during the Civil War and at the time of emancipation. They paint a vivid picture of the horrors of war, the injustice of servitude and the strength of a people who, by circumstances of their skin color, time in history and environs, were subjected to atrocities the like of which I can’t begin to imagine.

As I listened to the 11 audio tapes (14 hours in all), I was moved by the variety of memories the interviewees had and the color with which Allen relayed them. From stories of plantation life and battlefield scenes to memories of seeing President Lincoln at Richmond in 1865 just before the assassination, this resource sheds new light on the most troubling time in our nation’s history.

Slaves’ War draws upon 1930 Works Progress Administration interviews with those who were just children during the war, as well as other oral history. The end result is a resource which will surely hold a prominent place in the libraries of many Lincoln and Civil War scholars. It’s on my list of must haves.

Hearing is believing
I normally don’t recommend listening to a book before reading it, especially nonfiction, but in this case, I’d do it the same way all over again. Hearing Allen bring the dialect to life and “reading” in chunks seemed to be just what I needed with this book.

Now, I just have to get the printed book to keep on my reference shelf. I’ve already found several quotes I’ll want to use in my future scholarly work. Methinks Andrew Ward’s book will become as much a staple in my Lincoln bibliographies as Herndon’s Informants, edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis.

Time for kicking down the cobblestones

As I dig deeper into my Lincoln work, I’m finding my commute time is a great time to learn through audio books like this one. But for now, I think I’ll kick back and listen to some fun vibes. After all this heavy stuff, I think it’s time for some really light and funky sounds like “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” by Simon and Garfunkel – for a few days, at least.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Keepin’ on keepin’ up with Lincoln news

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a relic of the sixties – not Lincoln’s dismal 1860s, but the 1960s – a freaky, funky, frightening time. We had lots of fun phrases back then, and one of my favorites is “Keep on keepin’ on.” I’d like to twist the phrase a bit today.

Lately, there has been so much Lincoln news that it’s hard to “keep on keepin’ up” with it all.

I actually have a calendar of potential blog topics – things I’ve covered briefly and want to share with you more in depth, books I want to tell you about, people I want you to meet. Yet, recently, there seems to be a lot of Lincoln-related news every day – some of which appears on all the news pages and some which is more obscure.

Today, I want to draw your attention to three things – birthday cards for President Lincoln, a gift which may keep the Vandalia Statehouse open and a Bloomington (Ill.) home with Lincoln connections, which will have a new life.

Show your imagination – send a card
Who can forget the fun we had as children creating our own special birthday, Valentine or holiday cards and seeing the delight on another’s face when we presented our hand-crafted offering. Now, you can relive that pleasure by creating your own special handmade card for the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Just think, when will you ever have another chance to give someone a card celebrating their 200th birthday?

The Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is having a card shower for Lincoln, so join in the fun. For more information see The State Journal-Register’s article.

New hope for Lincoln’s first legislative home
Although the Illinois state capital is now Springfield, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it’s thanks to Lincoln and the other tall Sangamon County men known as the Long Nine that the capital was moved from its earlier home in Vandalia to its current more central location. Those who are familiar with Lincoln lore will most likely remember the Vandalia Statehouse for the tale of Lincoln jumping out the window to try to prevent a quorum.

The Statehouse is one of the historic sites closed under Governor Rod Blagojevich’s regime. Now, thanks to an anonymous donation from a Vandalia resident, pending state approval it appears the site may have a prolonged life. More on this story, too, in The State Journal-Register.

Couple to breathe new life into Lincoln-era home
Those familiar with Lincoln and his Bloomington (Ill.) connections know well his connection with Judge David Davis, but Lincoln’s McLean County acquaintances don’t stop there. If I were to say “speculator, investor, banker, millionaire, old grouch,” would you know which mid-19th century Bloomington resident I was describing? Try Asahel Gridley. The home he moved into on Lincoln’s inauguration day in March 1861 recently sold, and the couple who purchased it plans to rehabilitate the deteriorating building. Read more about the effort, the building and Gridley in The Pantagraph stories.

Watch C-SPAN White House programming
Don’t forget to watch C-SPAN’s superb White House programming this week. We’re trying to watch every night, but if you’re a Lincoln buff and can watch only one night, be sure it’s Thursday, Dec. 18. That’s when the Lincoln White House will be featured.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best wishes, Chief Justice Williams

An announcement late Thursday afternoon caught the State of Rhode Island and the Lincoln world off guard. Chief Justice Frank J. Williams of Rhode Island Supreme Court announced his retirement from the Court.

The good news is that Williams is still a leading Lincoln scholar and author, a member of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, chair of the Rhode Island Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, founding chair of the Lincoln Forum, member and former leader in many other Lincoln-related groups, and a recipient of a special Lincoln Bicentennial Order of Lincoln honor.

This man has done phenomenal work in the Lincoln world while working full-time. I can’t wait to see where his career as a Lincoln scholar goes from here. It's late on a Sunday night. I know I’m cutting this story way too short tonight, so I’m adding Frank J. Williams to my list of future topics. I promise to tell you more about his books and his work on Lincoln in an upcoming article.

For now, you can read more about the Chief Justice’s career and retirement in The Providence Journal online articles.

Judge Williams, if you’re reading, I wish you all the best. I look forward to seeing you around the Lincoln circuit – Eighth or otherwise. Ann

News in the Lincoln world

Last week and this coming week there's a lot of activity in the Lincoln world and in the Land of Lincoln. Since the Lincoln Buff was away from the computer for a couple days, I’ll give you a high level overview of the things you may have missed – and direct you to other news sites for more information.

Don’t miss the C-SPAN White House features
From Dec. 14-20, C-SPAN is featuring an in-depth look at where Lincoln and other American Presidents lived and worked. The Lincoln Buff family just finished watching the first episode. We learned tons and can’t wait to see the rest. Tonight’s program not only featured clips from President and Mrs. Bush, but also footage from a number of former Presidential families. Several of our well-known Lincoln and presidential historians, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Harold Holzer and Richard Norton Smith provided commentary, as well as people who have day-to-day connections with the White House operations. Please join us in watching the rest of the programming at 9 Eastern, 8 Central each night this week.

Michael Burlingame talks about his new book
I wasn’t near a television during the day today, so I missed the Book TV interview with Michael Burlingame concerning his new two-volume Lincoln biography, which is heralded by most as the next most valuable Lincoln work. Abraham Lincoln: A Life is published by The John Hopkins University Press. I may not get a chance to read it right away myself, but I’ll try to point you to more information on the book as it becomes available. Be sure to see Abraham Lincoln Online website, too, for their interview with Burlingame.

Indiana collection has a home – but not at ALPLM
In case you haven't heard it by now, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum won't be getting the vast collection of Lincoln memorabilia from the recently closed Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana - sad for us in Illinois. Instead, the $20 million collection will go to the State of Indiana and be housed in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne. It will be interesting to hear what Lincoln scholars and collectors have to say about this. Lincoln buff will try to follow this story and share what I read. In the meantime, you can read more in the article.

Hope for Illinois historic sites?
I doubt that anyone reading this blog is immune to the news from Illinois about the arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich. If this current governor steps down or is impeached, next in line for the office is Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. The good news is that Quinn’s already giving us hope about reopening the recently closed historic sites if he moves into the office. Hurray, Lt. Gov. Quinn! Although we’re watching this whole drama play out on many levels, we Lincoln buffs are especially interested in watching what happens to the sites which have connections to Lincoln. We’re glad to hear you’ll do the right thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mrs. Lincoln turns 190

Lots of hoopla is planned for the upcoming 200th birthday of the most celebrated President in American history, Abraham Lincoln. But, while we’ve been busy planning a party for Abe, his missus is about to have a birthday of her own. Mary Todd Lincoln turns 190 on Saturday, Dec. 13. Please join me in saying “Happy Birthday, Mrs. Lincoln.”

If you’re in Lexington on Saturday
If you’re going to be in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, you can join in the celebration at the Mary Todd Lincoln House. See their website for more information.

A shelf full of Mary Lincoln books

If you can’t make it to her party, you can read about Mrs. Lincoln. A number of scholars through the years have written about her - from Ruth Painter Randall and Carl Sandburg’s early works to the eye-opening work of Jason Emerson and James S. Brust. In January, you’ll be able to get yet another view of Mrs. Lincoln’s life when Catherine Clinton’s new book comes out.

In between, a number of other brilliant Lincoln scholars have written about the First Lady and shared their perspectives on her through scholarly articles, symposium presentations and documentary films.

To learn more, check out some of these Mary Lincoln books:

Please join me in using the Lincoln Bicentennial as an opportunity to learn about our 16th President, his family and his legacy. There’s no better time than now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Looking forward – Peering back

This past week was a busy one for the Lincoln buff, with Lincoln activities five out of seven days. Let’s take a peek back at the culmination of my Heartland College Lincoln class and at other Lincoln events I attended in Central Illinois. Let’s also look forward to what the Lincoln buff has planned now that my course is completed.

Never too much Lincoln
I began a whirlwind week on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as one of nine students giving oral presentations of our term papers. To learn more about the class, the students and the paper topics, see my article, Lasting Mark Left by Lincoln Class.

Wednesday of last week found me joining hundreds of other Central Illinoisans fighting freezing rain on I-55 as I travelled to Springfield to a Public Relations Society of America meeting where Julie Cellini of the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission told us what the commission has done to prepare for the bicentennial, what they’ve accomplished to date and what we have to look forward to. I’ll tell you more in a future article. It’s exciting.

The Lincoln world was well represented at that meeting, with people there from the Bicentennial Commission, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. All have great accomplishments behind them and a great task before them in preparing for Lincoln’s 200th birthday. It should be a celebration to remember.

On Thursday, I was accompanied by my young granddaughter to the volunteer and foundation member reception at the David Davis Mansion. What little girl – or big – wouldn’t be excited about seeing a beautiful 19th century showplace dressed up in all its holiday finery – right down to a teddy bears’ tea party? Watch future posts for more information about this architectural and historic treasure in Bloomington (Ill.), which has strong connections to the Lincoln legacy.

On the two days I didn’t have Lincoln events, I was preparing for one. I spent Saturday and Sunday studying for my final exam. Lest I give the questions away to future students of this class, I won’t give you the topics. Let it suffice to say one involved something which touched Lincoln’s entire life – a heavy, but important topic. I absorbed it, though, and made it through my Monday night final, melancholy that this once-a-week intellectual fix was coming to an end.

During my lunch time on Tuesday, I attended the dedication for the first of a number of Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits in the Bloomington-Normal area. The Bloomington exhibits are just a handful of the more than 200 which will grace sites with connections to Lincoln from one end of the Prairie State to the other by the end of 2009. I’ll tell you more about this ceremony, the wayside exhibits and the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition in future articles.

What’s on the horizon?
Although the class is finished, the Lincoln buff is just beginning. In 2009 and beyond, my schedule is ambitious. My first order of business is to complete an industry designation I’ve started for my real job. I’ll begin study this week and continue it through and beyond Lincoln’s February 12 birthday. So, if there are times when you don’t see a post for a day or two, don’t give up on me. Just realize I may have had to take time to study.

As for Lincoln, I won’t let him down. I plan to continue the blog and, to work toward my goal of growing my knowledge – and yours - of the life and legacy of Lincoln, I’ll be spending much of my vacation time attending Lincoln celebrations and scholarly events, including:

In the coming years, I also plan to:

  • refine and expand my paper on Lincoln and his mentors,
  • continue my work on Lincoln and Sandburg and on Lincoln in Illinois literature, and
  • begin an in-depth study of David Davis and his relationship with Lincoln.

The blog lives on
My original intent was to keep the blog active through 2010 to extend more than a year past the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. However, a very wise Illinois historian recently reminded me the interest in Lincoln will surely intensify and continue as the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War begins in 2011 and extends through 2015. Though that commemoration will likely be somber rather than celebratory like the Lincoln Bicentennial, it will serve as a time to continue to teach and to learn. God willing, I’ll be here and so will the technology so that this forum can continue to share what’s happening, what’s new in Lincoln scholarship and what I’ve learned. I’ll try not to let you down.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bloomington: Don't miss dedication ceremony

Bloomington area residents: Don't miss the dedication ceremony for the Bloomington Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 12:30 p.m. at the David Davis Mansion. I'm sorry I didn't let you know earlier. Some little matter of a final exam had me preoccupied.

See the press release on the McLean County Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website for more information.

And don't forget to visit the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition website to learn how this neat organization works with communities throughout Illinois to honor our favorite son.

Lasting mark left by Lincoln class

Last fall, I was all ready to sign up for the last course to complete a professional designation for my real job. The course? Liability Claims Practices. The designation? Associate in Claims – my sixth designation in the past 10 years or so. I’d set a goal of completing the designation by the end of 2009. However, those plans went awry one morning as I opened our local newspaper. There on the front page was an article about a college course, “The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln.”

People I work with know of my love of lifelong learning. They don’t understand it – but they know it is part of my essence. They know I’m usually working toward a designation and I can tell them which one I’m doing next. The goals I set normally are no secret.

The secret goal
I set another goal a few years back, though. It was 2002 and the first articles were beginning to hit the press about the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Some courses I’d taken and some of my freelance articles were Lincoln-related. They had lit a fire under me that would likely not be extinguished. I resolved when I saw that article that I would begin to set things in motion so I could be doing Lincoln-related work – of some sort - by the Feb. 12, 2009 bicentennial. Life got busy and the flame smoldered some. And the dream? I didn’t share that one. That goal was secret – known only to a privileged few. It just seemed too far out there. Who would believe in me – or in my dream?

Then came that late summer morning, the front page article in the Pantagraph, Heartland College and Dr. Scott Rager - and the beginning of the realization of my dream. I could begin to move along the continuum from Lincoln enthusiast to Lincoln scholar. The course was to be my first real step.

A bittersweet goodbye
Tonight I said my good-byes for now to academia. I took my final exam. The course is complete, but my life is forever changed. I always take something from every course I take and, from this one, I took so much.

I truly can’t ever remember a time in my life when I wasn’t mesmerized by the Lincoln legacy - from backwoods roots like those of many of my ancestors to the White House – with less than a year of school. Who wouldn’t be impressed by a story like that one? I knew the popular Lincoln, and thanks to a great undergrad teacher who is an Illinois literature expert, I knew the literary Lincoln, but I didn’t know Lincoln the lawyer, the politician or the President.

Guess what I know now? I not only know a whole lot more, but I also know there’s a ton I don’t know. With more than 1600 books about him and hundreds of scholars turning up new information and new theories every day, there is a lot I will never know.

What I do know is that I had an opportunity of a lifetime – and I shared it with some incredible people. The class was open to the public, either for credit or for enrichment. Students ran the gamut from some really cool, really bright traditional college students to a husband and wife team, a mother and daughter, a retiree with several degrees and others in between. Each of them brought their own unique perspective to the class, and I learned from all of them.

All across the board
Just to give you an example of the wide variety of knowledge and varied interests in the class, here are some of the topics selected by the students who completed term papers:
  • Lincoln and Slavery
  • Lincoln and the Constitution
  • Mary Todd Lincoln’s Marriage
  • Lincoln’s Romances
  • Lincoln’s Changing Views on Race and Slavery
  • Lincoln: His Choices, His Public, His Critics
  • Lincoln and His Cabinet
  • Lincoln Assassination Theories
  • Mentoring Lincoln: A Worthwhile Investment

These are some pretty heavy topics for a 200-level course and the students all “nailed it.”

An enriching semester

I guess maybe as a non-traditional student, you come to a course with a different perspective and a greater appreciation. I knew that since this was a new course, Dr. Rager was having even more homework to do than we were. Preparing lectures, lesson plans, seeking enrichment materials – it couldn’t have been easy. Yet, each week he was ready for us. He supplemented his lectures with several of the great documentaries available on Lincoln, arranged a couple field trips and kept us abreast of local Lincoln-related events. We even had guest speakers – three local Lincoln scholars, all known and respected in the Lincoln world:

  • Roger Bridges,
  • Guy Fraker and
  • Stewart Winger.

Watch for more about these brilliant men and their areas of expertise in an upcoming article.

Don’t miss the opportunity
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This bicentennial year is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – or as Julie Cellini of the U.S. and Illinois Bicentennial Commissions says, a once-in-a-century opportunity. If you missed the fall class at Heartland, though, you didn’t miss your chance to take this class. It’s offered again in the spring. Enrollment closes very soon. Don’t miss your chance. Call Heartland College and tell them you want to take History 296.

Oh, and as for me? I’m now beginning that Claims class I put off, my blog continues and my Lincoln studies have just begun…

C-SPAN offers ongoing Lincoln programming

As a partner with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, C-SPAN is there to document many of the exciting ongoing Lincoln activities.

Don’t miss these December events
Here are just a few you won’t want to miss:
  • Sunday, Dec. 14 – Book TV – 12-1:30 ET - Michael Burlingame talks about his new book, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” a 1800 page, 2-volume biography
  • Sunday, Dec. 14-20 – White House Week documentary series on C-SPAN with a number of leading Lincoln scholars, including:
    o Harold Holzer
    o Doris Kearns Goodwin
    o Richard Norton Smith
    o Anthony Pitch
    o And others

Watch for future programs
C-SPAN will air Lincoln 200 Years programming the first Saturday of each month from 8-10 p.m. through April 2009. Future events will:

  • explore Lincoln’s time in Springfield, Illinois, where he spent more than half of his life,
  • offer a view of the recent renovations at the Fords Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was shot, and
  • give you a look at Lincoln events throughout the United States.

For more information
Information on C-SPAN Lincoln 200 programs are available on their website. While you’re there, be sure to stay a while. There are hours and hours of previously recorded Lincoln programming which will provide a deeper look into the 16th president and his legacy and introduce you to those who study them. What a wonderful opportunity to grow your knowledge of Lincoln. I go there often and still haven’t watched everything.

Be sure to visit the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) website as well for an ongoing calendar of Lincoln-related events across the country.

My home state of Illinois has a great Bicentennial Commission, which is doing a great job of sharing the legacy of Lincoln. I’ll tell you more about what they’re doing and what they have planned in a future article. The calendar of events for the week of Lincoln’s birthday is already jam-packed and the Lincoln buff has her week planned. His birthday, Thursday, Feb. 12, will be a particularly busy day – with something to do in Springfield literally every hour. Be sure to see the calendar to start planning your week.

A number of other states also have their own bicentennial commissions. Links to several of them can be found on the left side of my blog through the links titled, “Celebrate Lincoln at 200 - Bicentennial websites.” If you can’t find your state listed there, see the list on the ALBC website.

* Thanks to Betty Anselmo of The Lincoln Forum for an informative email alerting Lincoln buffs to upcoming C-SPAN events.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanks and best wishes, Congressman LaHood

I can barely remember a time when the name Ray LaHood was not synonymous with Central Illinois politics. As a Lincoln buff, I’ll also never forget the day I heard that Congressman LaHood, Senator Dick Durbin and an author whose Lincoln book I’d reviewed, Harold Holzer, were to co-chair the newly formed Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. It was years before the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, which is now less than two months away.

As LaHood and fellow Lincoln buffs look forward to the celebrations surrounding Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthday, the Congressman is looking forward to a milestone in his own life – his retirement from public service in early January and, subsequently, more time with his family.

Thousands of touchpoints
LaHood has represented the people of the 18th Congressional District of Illinois in our nation’s capital for seven terms, but his public service started long before. Since the late 1970s, he’s served in a number of public roles, including as:
  • District Administrative Assistant, for Congressman Tom Railsback
  • Member of Illinois House of Representatives
  • Chief of Staff for U.S. House Minority Leader Robert Michel

Even earlier he was serving the people, working for the Rock Island Youth Services Bureau and the Bi-State Planning Commission. Although I didn’t know it until I did my research yesterday, LaHood also served as a junior high school social studies teacher for six years. It’s no wonder he’s been involved in keeping the legacy of Lincoln alive. That teacher gene never leaves, it seems, no matter where life takes one.

Lincoln lovers would be interested to know that in today’s 18th District, LaHood serves most of the same communities Lincoln served in the 7th District from 1847-1849.

Media respect well-earned
The Peoria Journal-Star, which has chronicled LaHood’s story since his early days in politics, has honored the outgoing servant with a tribute today. You can learn more about this man with Lincoln ties and his own personal legacy in these additional pieces:

While you’re at it, you might also want to listen to Q & A on C-SPAN for Brian Lamb’s interview with Congressman LaHood.

LaHood's farewell
Congressman LaHood also wrote his own farewell, which appeared as an op-ed piece on the Journal-Star website late Sunday. I find it interesting that one of the things LaHood mentions is his mentors, Railsback and Michel. He also offers words of wisdom for the Congressman-elect Aaron Schock. Schock will serve us well, I believe, but even better with LaHood passing on his words of wisdom.

Lincoln's growth, too, was enriched through his mentors - in New Salem, in law and in politics. He also made the transition from protege to mentor when he took on Billy Herndon. But, those are stories for another day. (This section added Dec. 8.)

Do you have a LaHood memory?
If so, the Journal-Star would like to hear it. You can email them at and they’ll publish highlights before Jan. 6, his final day in office. If I see that article, I’ll publish a link in my blog for those of you outside of Central Illinois. Wouldn’t it be nice if that next article contained some memories from fellow Lincoln buffs?

Lincoln buff/constituent says thanks
Congressman LaHood, thank you for your service to our country and your dedication to keeping the legacy of Lincoln alive. May the roads ahead rise up to meet you with all the joy and fulfillment you deserve. Ann

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fun Lincoln information coming soon

This is a busy week for the Lincoln Buff - student presentations in the Heartland College Lincoln class, a professional organization meeting with a speaker from the U.S. and Illinois Bicentennial Commissions, a David Davis Mansion Foundation event and preparation for the final exam. Please forgive me if my posts the next few days are short and not quite as frequent.

I promise I've got lots of interesting things coming. Watch for:
  • an overview of the class presentation topics - a wide variety and quite interesting,
  • what the bicentennial commissions are planning and
  • kudos to some folks in the Lincoln world.

My list of topics grows by the days. There are all sorts of Lincoln-related things to share over the coming weeks. Please return to my blog often and stay awhile to read earlier posts.

Thank you for visiting and for sharing news of my blog with your friends. Have a great week. Ann

Monday, December 1, 2008

Troubadour takes Lincoln to the masses

A little pickin’ and some strummin’, a little singin’ and some hummin’ – what better gift could our sixteenth president ask for in celebration of his 200th birthday? After all, such music is steeped in the tradition of the hills of Kentucky where Lincoln was born and was a way to pass the evenings when Lincoln travelled the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Abraham Lincoln in Song
Chris Vallillo, of Macomb (Ill.) is taking his gift of music on the road to honor Lincoln and share the music of his day. Vallillo’s program, Abraham Lincoln in Song, is endorsed by both the U.S. and Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions.

Though I’ve not yet had the experience of hearing Chris’s program in person, I have heard his CD by the same name, and the only thing keeping me from the real thing is opportunity. You can bet when the time and place pulls together, I’ll be there near the front of the line. His voice is rich, his picking perfect and his choice of songs a true tribute to the folk tradition of Lincoln’s times. And, if like me, you can't make it to one of his concerts anytime soon, you can order or download the CD via a link from Vallillo's website.

Vallillo’s venture into Lincoln is a natural offshoot of his love for music and his roots in Lincoln’s prairie state. He’s long sung songs which celebrate the nation’s heartland and its musical tradition, performing throughout the Midwest for a variety of groups and festivities.

Learn more
Here’s more information on:
  • When Vallillo will be performing
  • How you can contact him to bring his program to your area
  • What his songs sound like, or how to buy or download them

To read what other have to say about Vallillo and Abraham Lincoln in Song, see these articles by:

And you can be sure that when I’ve heard Chris myself, you’ll get my firsthand account.