Friday, January 30, 2009

Don’t forget: Look for Lincoln

I told you the other day about the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition and their My Hero essay and artwork contest. There is another Looking for Lincoln and one well worth pursuing.

Be sure to watch the PBS film, “Looking for Lincoln,” by Kunhardt Productions, read the companion book and visit the wonderful interactive and educational website which accompanies the two.

Kunhardts - worth a second look - a third - and more
This isn’t my first time to write about the great work of the Kunhardts and it won’t be the last. I want to learn and write more about the Meserve-Kunhardt photos, the new numbering system and more. I’ll be hearing Philip Kunhardt III speak in Springfield during the Bicentennial events and I’m hoping to get to meet him. Maybe we can get an interview lined up sometime so I can get the most complete and accurate information about this amazing family and their work.

In the meantime, be sure to read my friend Pete Sherman’s article about the Kunhardt film in today’s State Journal-Register to learn more about the film.

Not the first on Kunhardts
You may also want to read my earlier Kunhardt articles:

Watch online if you miss it on TV
And, the really cool thing is that if you can’t catch the PBS special on TV on Feb. 11, you’ll be able to watch it online through the website. For people like me who will be attending other Lincoln events that evening, for educators wanting to share it with their kids and for others who just want to go back and see it again and again, this is super!

Remember, keep looking for Lincoln. He’s all around you…

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Long days and short nights pay dividends

There are some days when you go, "Wow! Maybe what I'm doing is worth it." This was one of them.

The Journal is my friend
When I read my favorite newspaper, The State Journal-Register, this morning and visited fellow Lincoln blogger Mike Kienzler's Abraham Lincoln Observer blog on the paper's website, I learned Mike had included mine in a list of blogs and websites in his early morning post today. The day was off to a good start. I was pretty excited to be mentioned in the paper of which Lincoln said in 1864, "The Journal paper was always my friend; and of course its editors the same."

Thanks, Mike. You and the SJ-R are my friends, too. Not as impressive as having Lincoln as a friend, though, huh?

So is 21st Century Abe
Later in the day, I learned Kathy Haas of the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia had mentioned my blog in her post on the museum's 21st Century Abe blog. I didn't even know this one existed. Watch the list of blogs I follow (at the bottom of the home page). I'll be adding 21st Century Abe there. Thanks to you, too, Kathy.

Found online
This was plenty of recognition for one day, and more than this blogger felt she deserved. It would have been enough to keep me beaming for weeks, but the day got even better. I went to the McLean County Museum of History to hear Dan Guillory read from his great little book, "Lincoln Poems." I was reminding my friend, Jeff, at the museum to be sure to watch the blog for information about the bicentennial. He asked me to show him the blog on his computer. When I did, he said, "Wait, someone sent us a link to this today. It was Dan."

It was pretty exciting to know that the speaker had found my blog post. That's what it's all about - promoting the legacy of Lincoln, recognizing those who do the same and promoting events and others who share the passion.

Doing what I do - because...
If I've done that, I'm achieving my goal. What does it take to do this blog? It’s late nights, early mornings and Lincoln spinning endlessly through my head. It’s attending lectures, taking classes, reading books and newspapers and online articles. It’s writing research papers in the second half-century of my life. It’s spending the entire week of Lincoln’s birthday in Springfield savoring every event I can attend – and even doing some volunteering. It’s spending nearly all of my vacation time this year attending Lincoln symposiums – and even dragging my husband and best friends along for the ride. It’s driving my family, co-workers and friends nuts as I talk Lincoln incessantly.

And, it’s all worth it. (Except maybe the part about driving all my loved ones nuts . You'll have to ask them about that.) I hope you’re enjoying visiting the blog as much as I’m enjoying writing it. I’m still trying to determine how best to share the excitement of the bicentennial events. I’ve got some ideas, but they’re still percolating. I should have some news for you on that in about a week.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to get to some Lincoln events near you, okay?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloomington area: Come hear a Lincoln poet

Those of us who are history buffs usually have people, places or organizations which nuture and inspire our love of the past and the people who left their marks. For me, one of these places is the McLean County Museum of History and many of those people serve on The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of McLean County.

These two groups have joined forces once again, as they have several times in the past year or so, to bring us another program dedicated to honoring the Lincoln legacy.

An evening with Dan Guillory
The museum and commission are hosting an evening with Dr. Dan Guillory, who will be reading his new poetry inspired by Abraham Lincoln. A book signing will follow the program.

Who: Dr. Dan Guillory, emeritus professor of English, Millikin University, Decatur
What: The Lincoln Poems poetry reading and book signing
When: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 at 7 p.m.
Where: McLean County Museum of History, 200 North Main Street, Bloomington (Ill.)

All about Guillory
Guillory's new book, "The Lincoln Poems," was written in the form of 61 poems told in the imagined voice of Lincoln himself. Lincoln was a lover of poetry, and for most of his adult life he regaled his friends and companions with impromptu recitations of his favorite poetry.

Dr. Guillory is an Emeritus Professor of English at Millikin University in Decatur (Ill.) He has won awards or grants from the Academy of American Poets, the American Library Association, the Illinois Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published over 500 articles, poems, and book reviews, as well as chapters of books.

More McLean County Lincoln at
This event is sponsored free of charge as part of the McLean County celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial. For more information on local events, please visit

Thanks to the folks at the McLean County Museum of History for their email message with many of the details I’ve shared with you here.

Lincoln in sculpture – Fleeting and lasting

One of the benefits of this Lincoln blog is the fellow Lincoln buffs I’ve met – scholars, authors, photographers, educators, fellow Lincoln bloggers. It’s really neat when they share their enthusiasm, experience, knowledge and tips.

Weigers captures Lincoln images
Recently, one of my readers tipped me off to a fleeting Abraham Lincoln sculpture here in Illinois – a sculpture made of snow. The reader, David Wiegers of Gurnee (Ill.), has crossed the country taking photographs of more than 200 sculptures of the 16th President. He’s planning to publish them in a book, with a tentative title, “A Life Worth Remembering - the Monumental Legacy of Abraham Lincoln.” In the meantime, you can see his work and many of the statues he’s captured at the “Looking for Lincoln” PBS film website. More on this Kunhardt-produced film with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Harold Holzer and others later.

Weigers learned of a Lincoln snow portrait being crafted in Aurora (Ill.) this week. I sent email to the media contact this morning to make sure it was still on. It is, so here’s the scoop from the Aurora Public Art Commission.

The nitty-gritty snowy details
  • What: Abraham Lincoln ‘Snow Portrait in Progress’
  • Where: Next to the David L. Pierce Center, Aurora (Ill.)
  • When: Monday – Friday, Jan. 26 - 30, 2009
  • Meet the artists: Snow portrait reception on Friday, Jan. 30 from 3 – 7 p.m.

The rest of the snow scoop*
In honor of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial the Aurora Public Art Commission has commissioned a portrait of Lincoln, to be carved in snow by sculptor Joseph Gagnepain. This large-scale bust will be located in APAC’s sculpture garden, which is adjacent to the Pierce Center at 20 East Downer Place .

Gagnepain, a local freelance artist, has been carving snow for the past four years. With his teammates from Eau Claire, (Wisc.) "The Starvin' Carvists” have participated in multiple national and international snow sculpting competitions and commissions in Michigan, Illinois, and Italy. Last year his team placed first and second in an international competition held in two villages in Northern Italy.

To create the Aurora Public Art Commission’s Lincoln Bicentennial snow portrait, Gagnepain is assembling a team of local talent including Ed Pineada, Pete "Blast" Barrett and Marcus Mason. After foot packing (imagine stomping grapes for wine) the snow into a concrete form with snow plowed off of Mastodon Lake, the artists will use a model and photographs to scale the image onto the eight-foot block of snow. Differing from ice sculpting, the artists only employ hand tools - shovels, scrapers, horse brushes, saws, and homemade sanders.

In writing about his outdoor winter works, Gagnepain has stated: "I love snow sculpting, being close to nature, enjoying crisp/dry winter air, and being hands on with the pristine beauty of wonderful, white snow. I look forward to a good, snowy, cold winter each year."

Joseph Gagnepain is honored to have the opportunity to create a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. A long time admirer of this former president, he has always wanted to use him as the subject for a work of art. The project also strikes a personal chord of pride for Gagnepain, as ancestors on his mother's side are cousins to Mary Todd Lincoln.The Lincoln portrait will be on display as long the cold weather holds.

* Thanks to Kathleen Swigart of the Aurora Public Art Commission for the information on the snow sculpture and a special thanks to my friend Dave Wiegers for the tip.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The ALPLM and more - Bicentennial activity galore

On an April morning almost three years I got up early, drove to Springfield and waited in line for the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM). The early drive was worth it, as I was seventh in line on the first day the museum opened to paying customers. (Some school groups and other visitors had seen the museum free of charge in the preceding days.)

I drove back and forth for four days in a row that April, taking in as many of the ALPLM opening activities as possible and, believe me, it was worth every mile I drove and every minute I waited in line. The museum was all I’d hoped it would be – and more – and the museum, library and scholarly symposium left a lasting mark on this Lincoln scholar-wannabe. If you haven’t visited yet, what better time than now?

Bicentennial events begin Feb. 7
I’ll make a similar trek again in a couple weeks. The Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the ALPLM and a number of other organizations and venues in Springfield are joining together to throw one heck of a 200th birthday party for Lincoln. Why not join me? For this party, it’s the more, the merrier!

To learn more about the following events, see the Bicentennial or ALPLM website calendars.

Authors aplenty
You’ll be able to see and hear a who’s who of Lincoln scholars for author discussions and book signings all week. They’re coming from the East Coast, the West Coast and places in between, with a couple of scholars coming all the way from England and Northern Ireland.* The scribes include:
  • Bob Burleigh
  • Michael Burlingame
  • Vernon Burton
  • Richard Carwardine
  • Catherine Clinton
  • David Contosta
  • Daniel Mark Epstein
  • Eric Foner
  • Dan Guillory
  • Cheryl Harness
  • Daniel Walker Howe
  • Charles Hubbard
  • Betty Kay
  • Karen Kostyal
  • Philip Kunhardt
  • Bruce Levin
  • Russell McClintock
  • Edna Green Medford
  • Wendell Minor
  • Barry Schwartz
  • Camesha Scruggs
  • Brooks Simpson
  • Jack Smith
  • Louise Taper
  • Wayne Temple
  • Elizabeth Varnon
  • Jennifer Weber
  • Daniel Weinberg
  • Judge Frank Williams
  • Karen Winnick

Countless celebrations
Springfield will be host to all sorts of birthday celebrations, including:

  • First issuance of Lincoln Bicentennial Postage Stamps
  • Springfield’s Farewell Address to Lincoln
  • Meet Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln
  • Now He Belongs to the Ages Overnight Vigil
  • Wreath-laying at Lincoln Tomb

Endless exhibits
If you haven’t found anything to interest you yet, how about taking in some of these Springfield exhibits:

  • From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln's Illinois
  • The Lincoln Project paintings
  • Lincoln Portrait in Post-Its
  • Lincoln in Illinois sculpture photographs

Family fun
I'd wager a bet that if you ask most Lincoln enthusiasts when they became mesmerized by his legacy, they'd say it was as a child, so don't leave the kids at home. There are plenty of family friendly events, such as:

  • Children Celebrate: Birthday crafts
  • Statewide Reading of The Gettysburg Address
  • Children’s Storytelling with Abraham Lincoln
  • Children’s Reading Room
  • Period Ball
  • Mr. Lincoln's Science Fair Free Family Event

A plethora of performances
Want to celebrate with a play or in song? Check out these performances:

  • Our American Cousin
  • Amazing Grace: A Time of Spirituals
  • Program of Spirituals
  • One Destiny
  • Illinois Symphony Orchestra
  • From My Front Porch
  • Meet the Lincolns
  • The Lincoln Trio
  • The Four Sopranos
  • Lincoln & Frederick Douglass Emancipation and the Dream of Freedom - From Slavery to the White House
  • Music of the Lincoln Era
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Biography in Words and Music

These take tickets
Several other events do require reservations and paid tickets. They are:

  • Lincoln Academy of Illinois Bicentennial Award Ceremony
  • Bicentennial Luncheon
  • Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday Party: Abraham Lincoln Association banquet (sold out except overflow seating) with President Barack Obama joining the celebration**

Special thanks to my friends at the ALPLM for an email pulling all this information together in one place so it was easier to list everything here for you. Be sure to vist the Bicentennial and ALPLM websites for times, locations and more.

* Updated Feb. 2, 2009 - My apologies to Catherine Clinton. For some reason, I was thinking she and Richard Carwardine were both in England. I learned just today that Clinton is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I hope to see both when they speak in Springfield the week of the Bicentennial.

** We learned today President Obama will be joining us. What a special birthday gift for Lincoln!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who’s your hero?

Come on, you know you’ve got one. Is it a teacher, a coach, a grandparent, a single parent? Whether you’re six or 96, you can share the story of a hero in your life – and if you’re a winner, you’ll win a trip to Springfield to visit Lincoln sites.

The “Looking for Your Lincoln Hero” Global Essay and Art Contest is a joint on-line venture between the My Hero Project and the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition designed to personalize Lincoln’s legacy for a worldwide audience.

Those of you who read my blog know I rarely use “canned messages” – press releases prepared by others. In this case, there’s a lot of information to share, so much of it is borrowed from the pen (or keyboard) of my friends at Looking for Lincoln, but reformatted and reorganized for online viewing.*

Lincoln – a hero through the ages
Abraham Lincoln exemplified the qualities of a leader with integrity, compassion, perseverance and an unwavering commitment to the moral principle that all people are created equal. He continues to be a role model for people today.

Honor your hero with an essay or artwork
The Looking for Your Lincoln Hero contest encourages young people and adults to think about the people in their lives who share some of Lincoln’s heroic qualities and write an essay about them. Art entries should feature the artist’s contemporary hero, and may include a brief description relating that hero's qualities to those of Lincoln.

Contest details are available on the My Hero website. Essays and artwork are due by March 1, 2009. Teachers and students can also be linked to learning materials supporting the project.

In all, 25 essay finalists will be selected from the following groups:

  • Grades K-6
  • Grades 7-12
  • College
  • Adults

One finalist from each age group will be selected to win a trip for two to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and Lincoln Legacy sites across the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area

And the judges are…

Contest judges include:

  • Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of "Hotel Rwanda" who saved more than 1,000 people from the Rwandan genocide
  • Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission co-chair
  • Dr. Daniel Stowell of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
  • Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
  • Kathryn Harris, director of Library Services, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
  • Dr. Marcia Young, board member, Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition

Finalist judges for artwork include:

  • Stan Lee, creator, Marvel Comics creator
  • Kay Smith, Artist Laureate of Illinois

Smith has also loaned some of her artwork for the website’s Lincoln Art Gallery.

Contest sponsors

The contest is supported by:

  • National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  • The Lincoln Institute
  • Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Contest co-chairs are Senator Dick Durbin and LaHood.

Wonder why they’re doing this?
“This contest is designed to transport the legacy of one of our great American heroes to the present. Abraham Lincoln’s most admired strengths of principle and character throughout his life and during some of our nation’s most tumultuous times have been sources of inspiration for generations of Americans and people around the world. We are inviting writers and artists to share the story of someone in their life whose strength inspires them in a similar way,” said Senator Durbin.

“We are pleased to co-chair the ‘Looking for Your Lincoln Hero’ global online essay and art contest. We hope teachers everywhere will study Lincoln this year, encourage their students to find the Lincoln hero in their lives, and tell us about them in their essays and artwork,” said Secretary LaHood.

About My Hero Project
The My Hero Project is a not-for-profit, interdisciplinary website that honors the very best of humanity. All across the globe, students of all ages, along with their teachers, parents, and friends, use to learn about those who better the world around them, whether that world is as small as a single household or as large as an entire continent. In turn, visitors, who generate nearly two million page hits each month, are also able to share their own stories about people who help make a difference.

About Looking for Lincoln
The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, enacted last year by Congress, is managed by the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving, interpreting and promoting the Lincoln Legacy in Illinois, including the iconic sites of Lincoln's Home, Law Office, Old State Capitol, Lincoln Tomb, historic New Salem, and the world-class Presidential Library and Museum. The Coalition also helps to tell the stories of many other significant sites across 42 counties of central Illinois where Lincoln enjoyed friendships, married and raised a family, mourned the loss of a child, practiced law, held public office, and debated famous political rivals on his unlikely journey to the White House. The National Heritage Area designation allows enhanced and expanded opportunities to educate, preserve, and interpret the heritage and culture across the region as it relates to Lincoln's life. To plan travel and learn first-hand about Lincoln's life journey, visit:

*Special thanks to Hal Smith of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition for enthusiastically sharing information about this neat contest with me via email and through a press release.

Congratulations, Mr. Secretary

It’s official. Co-chair Ray LaHood of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) is now U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Secretary LaHood was officially sworn in on Jan. 23, 2009, with family members and fellow ALBC co-chair Senator Dick Durbin, another Illinois native son, present.

Congratulations, Secretary LaHood, and thanks to you and Senator Durbin for continuing to promote the legacy of Lincoln.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Look no further – Lincoln in Illinois

What Illinois community do you think of when you think about Abraham Lincoln? New Salem, maybe, or Springfield?

He certainly lived and worked in both, but more than 42 counties throughout Illinois can claim a connection to Lincoln. The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition works with those communities to keep his legacy alive.

Looking for Lincoln was founded nine years ago, and those of us who live or work in places such as Bloomington or Galesburg have seen the Looking for Lincoln logo and signs around town.

National recognition and funding
The coalition got a big boost earlier this year, though, when the National Heritage Area was signed into law. The legislation was originally authored by Senator Dick Durbin and former Congressman, now Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The law authorizes Congress to appropriate up to $1 million a year for 15 years to support the preservation and interpretation of the historic and cultural heritage of Lincoln’s time. The Heritage Area will explore and develop these in the context of Lincoln’s life and its impact on the American cultural landscape. Projects using federal funding in the Heritage Area must be matched by local, state, private, in-kind or foundation funding.

When the Heritage area legislation was signed, Looking for Lincoln Director Hal Smith said, “The Heritage Area designation will help us more fully develop and interpret a rich and vivid visitor experience that reflects the impact Lincoln had on our history and culture. Our mission will be to create and market a visitor experience that is interesting, historic and fun for travelers from across America and around the world.”

The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area is the only heritage area in America named for a U.S. President.

Wayside exhibits
One way the coalition is creating that visitor experince is in partnering with communities to develop wayside exhibits which feature unique stories about Lincoln in each area. I had the opportunity this fall to attend the dedication of the wayside exhibit at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington. The dedication truly was a moving experience.

By next summer, the coalition plans to have 220 exhibits at place in 47 communities throughout the state.

Looking for Lincoln History Hunt
Are you planning a family vacation to Lincoln site in Illinois? If so, the Looking for Lincoln History Hunt, available on the coalition’s website, is a great way to pique youngster’s curiosity and interest. Check it out.

Essay/art contest
In celebration of the bicentennial, Looking for Lincoln is also co-sponsoring a really cool Lincoln Hero essay and artwork contest. You can learn about the contest online, but I do want to share more later. This news is too neat to get buried at the end of a column, so I’ll give the contest its very own article soon.

Learn more about Looking for Lincoln
To learn more about Looking for Lincoln and for particulars on communities with Lincoln connections, visit the coalition’s website. They also keep an events calendar, so there’s one more place for you to learn where you, too, can live and breathe the rich Lincoln legacy here in Illinois. Be sure to check out the downloadable visitor's guide.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just for fun ;-)

I couldn't help but share this fun article from the New York Times about an earlier Times article - way earlier - 1862, to be specific - about a typesetter's error or intentional action, which resembles the emoticons many people use in email correspondence and text messaging today. The article in question includes text from one of Lincoln's speeches.

Be sure to read all the way to the end. The close is worth it! ;-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Camera catches co-chairs

I once read a great little book, From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives, by one of my favorite essayists, Robert Fulghum. Many of you will remember him as the All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten guy. From Beginning to End was about rituals. Now, I'm not always the most organized person, but in some ways I can be very ritualistic - especially in the pre-dawn hours or when it comes to reading daily news.

One of my most rigid early morning rituals is reading The Peoria Journal-Star online. When I opened it today, I found a photo* I have to share with you. The photographer, Susan Walsh, a staff photographer for the Associated Press and president of the White House News Photographers’ Association, captured her subjects so well. Former Congressman Ray LaHood's confirmation hearings have begun for the post of Secretary of Transportation in President Barack Obama's cabinet. LaHood and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin are two of the three co-chairs of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, along with Harold Holzer, a leading Lincoln scholar.

Walsh's photo seems to capture the cameraderie of the two, who though from different parties and different parts of the state, can come together for a common purpose in which they both believe. As a Lincoln buff, I'd like to imagine Walsh caught them just as Durbin leaned over to LaHood to say, "Boy, Ray, I'll bet you can't wait until these hearings are finished, so we can get ready to go to Lincoln's birthday party, the biggest bash in 200 years. We're going to have a blast!"

May the photo and thoughts of the upcoming celebrations put a smile on your face, too.

* The photo may load a bit slowly. Be sure to wait for it. The smiles on the commission co-chairs' faces are worth it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Illinois is throwing Lincoln a big bash

For some time now, I’ve wanted to tell you all about the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and all the cool things they’ve got on the agenda to make Lincoln’s birthday his best ever – right here in Illinois.

Lincoln lived here longest
After all, it was here that Lincoln lived from age 21 (1830) until he left on the train the day before his 52nd birthday (1861), headed for the White House. In the prairie state, he worked as a storekeeper, a postmaster, a surveyor, a lawyer, a politician.
Here, too, Lincoln grew from a storyteller into one of the most eloquent speakers of all time and from a self-taught lawyer to one who participated in some of the largest railroad cases of the day. If we’re to believe his partner Billy Herndon, it was also here the 16th president planned to return to practice law, had not John Wilkes Booth’s bullet put an end to Lincoln’s life and his partnership with Herndon.

Celebrating Lincoln no small task
With a life and legacy such as Lincoln’s to commemorate, the need for a commission to plan the celebration was a no-brainer and desire to do up right was there even before day one. This was our big chance to promote our favorite son and the places in Illinois with significance in his life.
Since its formation in 2006, the Illinois commission has been working hard to put on a big bash with a small budget, which grew even smaller in light of the state’s financial woes. And, they’re doing a bang up job!

Generosity, imagination, hard work
How, you might wonder, do you put on a once-in-a–century celebration in the midst of an ailing economy and a state budget crisis? One way the bicentennial commission did this was by seeking expertise and working together with groups who could help spread the good news. Through the ingenuity and generosity of a number of government and private entities, here are just some of the ways the commission is getting the word out about Lincoln and celebrating his legacy:
  • “The Lincoln Log” – a day-by-day newspaper piece with explains Lincoln’s daily activities, running in more than 60 papers across Illinois in 2008 and 2009
  • “The Voice of Lincoln” – a series of audio public service announcements on Illinois radio stations statewide – with Lincoln as the narrator
  • Billboards throughout the Midwest with Lincoln’s face and a Happy Birthday message
  • Links to the bicentennial website from other businesses and organizations
  • Speakers spreading the word to organizations
  • Cooperation between media outlets promoting Bicentennial in print, on the air and on the tube in January and February 2009
  • A National Geographic coffee table book, “Abraham Lincoln’s Extraordinary Era,” with much content provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM)
  • Traveling exhibits of reproduction artifacts from the $100 million Illinois Lincoln collection, thanks to funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities
  • Lincoln documentaries featuring Illinois Lincoln sites
  • A semi-truck size mobile exhibit, “Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America,” funded by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism and the ALPLM

What’s up
So, when Illinois throws a party for its favorite son, how do we celebrate? How’s this for starters:

  • The Lincoln Academy of Illinois will present the State’s highest honor, The Order of Lincoln medal, to 30 people from around the world who have advanced the study and legacy of Abraham Lincoln on Saturday, Feb. 7.
  • “The Lincoln Project,” a series of paintings by Chicago artist Don Pollack, opens Sunday, Feb. 8 at the Presidential Museum.
  • The “Post-It Note Guy,” Chris Killham, will create a huge, Lincoln-related work of art in the windows of the land bridge that link the Presidential Library and Museum, beginning Feb. 8 and running several days.
  • The U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Postmaster General will roll out the first issuance of the four Lincoln Bicentennial postage stamps on Monday, Feb. 9 at the Old State Capitol.
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address to Springfield in early 1861 will be the focus of a dramatic presentation on Wednesday, Feb.11 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, a performance for all ages and an activity for families.
  • A free “Birthday Bash” pops performance by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra that night with a Lincoln-themed concert is developed specifically for the Bicentennial and also family friendly.
  • Bells will ring hourly in the Union Station bell tower playing “Happy Birthday” on Lincoln’s bicentennial, Thursday, Feb. 12.
  • A 9:30 a.m. reading of the Gettysburg Address will originate from the Presidential Museum Plaza, with children throughout Illinois and the nation reading along wherever they are.
  • The annual Lincoln’s Birthday wreath laying at the Lincoln Tomb will be in the morning, with a flag retreat ceremony planned for the afternoon.
  • A special Postal Service cancellation for the new Lincoln Bicentennial stamps and commemorative envelopes will help commemorate Lincoln’s birthday.
  • New United States citizens will be naturalized that day at the Old State Capitol.
  • A free 1860s Period Ball at the Presidential Museum will be complete with birthday cake.
  • The Abraham Lincoln Association will hold their Lincoln’s Birthday Banquet (by ticket) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel., with President Barack Obama joining the celebration.*
  • Numerous lectures, living history events, book signings and more will keep visitors to Springfield hopping.
  • A plethora of other events throughout the state help Lincoln buffs celebrate the big day.
  • Oh, and did I think to say, we’re still hoping President Barack Obama can join us in Springfield for the big day. Keep watching this blog and your local media, in case he says “yes” to the big invite Springfield extended.*

Learn all about it
To learn all about Lincoln events in Springfield and throughout Illinois in the coming weeks and on Lincoln’s birthday, see the calendar of events on the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website.

Be sure to read the information about sending Lincoln a birthday card. Handmade greetings are preferred and there is no age restriction for senders.

Time is ticking away until the big day. To watch the countdown, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the commission’s home page.

Looking for Lincoln info coming soon
The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition has also shared exciting news about their work celebrating Lincoln in Illinois. I’ll share that with you in a future article.

Special thanks to Julie Cellini of the Illinois and U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions, who braved the first winter precipitation of the season and shared much of this information at a Dec. 3, 2008 Public Relations Society of America meeting in Springfield.

* Updated Feb. 2, 2009 - We learned today President Obama will be coming. What a special gift for President Lincoln's big day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mo’ on Poe

I picked up a book off my nightstand this evening, opened it and found that in researching Edgar Allen Poe for yesterday's article, I’d missed another reference to the writer - one in a Lincoln Prize winning book from a leading Lincoln scholar.

Douglas L. Wilson, of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in my longtime hometown of Galesburg (Ill.), writes of Poe in his book, Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and The Power of Words. This Lincoln expert has long been one of my most reliable and helpful "go to" sources for all things Lincoln. I'd consulted one of his books, which didn't have a reference to Poe, but I totally missed this volume. I apologize for the oversight, Dr. Wilson.

Wilson on Poe
As Wilson notes, Lincoln was a prolific writer of newspaper articles, many of them anonymous. In one such article, Wilson writes, Lincoln’s “subject was a strange sequence of events involving the mysterious disappearance of a visitor to Springfield named Fisher.”

Wilson writes that Lincoln’s fascination with the case was:

… firmly centered on the nature of its intellectual challenge, its apparent defiance of rational solution. In this respect, [the article] bears a recognizable resemblance to something one might have read at the time in Edgar Allan Poe, Lincoln’s exact contemporary, and according to one report, his favorite American writer. In fact, Poe’s typically wording and stilted mode of expression may be in part responsible for similar qualities in Lincoln’s essay.

The work Wilson cited as claiming Poe was Lincoln’s favorite writer was an 1860 publication, "The Life of Abraham Lincoln: With Excerpts from His Speeches,” by J.Q. Howard. It seems that many of today’s Lincoln scholars believe now that Walt Whitman was Lincoln’s favorite author of his time.

Wilson’s point is well taken, however, that the influence of Poe’s work can be seen in this particular piece, one that Wilson believes may have been “evidence of a cautious literary debut … protected by a shield of anonymity in the case of failure or indifference.”

The lo’ down on Poe
One thing is certain. Poe’s life, though cut short even sooner than Lincoln’s, ran parallel to the president’s. Lincoln was a prolific reader. As we learned in one of the sources cited in my earlier article on Poe, Lincoln likely owned Poe’s work and is said to have read it. Poe’s work is powerful – and memorable. It can’t help but have left its mark on Lincoln, so mention of Poe in conjunction with the Lincoln Bicentennial is fitting and proper.

Excerpts from:

Wilson, Douglas L., Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words, Vintage Books, New York, 2007.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Times wants your Lincoln in New York questions

Updated Feb. 1, 2009

I hope some of my readers followed this article to read the questions submitted and Harold Holzer’s answers. Though they’re no longer accepting questions, be sure to watch for Holzer in the news – often. Even before he was co-chair of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, he was one of Lincoln’s biggest cheerleaders. This guy’s knowledge of Lincolniana is amazing. Follow articles about him, read his books and catch him on Lincoln documentaries, and you’ll learn a ton.

Original article
Got a question for quintessential Lincoln scholar and U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission co-chair Harold Holzer about Lincoln in New York? The New York Times is filtering questions to Holzer this week. Check out the article and follow the link within it to submit your questions.

Happy 200th, Edgar Allan Poe

Did you know 2009 is not only the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, but also of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Darwin? Today, January 19, 2009, is the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth.

I went to several of my favorite Lincoln authors – or their books, actually – to see what they had to say about Lincoln and Poe.

Shenk on Lincoln and Poe
I first consulted Joshua Wolf Shenk’s Lincoln’s Melancholy. I heard Shenk speak twice when he was in Peoria ( Ill.) last summer and I thought I’d remembered him mentioning that Lincoln read Poe. If anyone is an authority on Lincoln’s dark side, this is the guy. And as Shenk points out in his book, “Suffering and futility were pervasive themes in American literature of the early nineteenth century.”

I actually expected to find more references to Lincoln and Poe in Shenk’s work. Though he does refer to Poe and his gloomy work several times throughout the book, there is only one reference to Lincoln reading Poe. I’m finding this lack of much information connecting Lincoln to Poe’s work to be the case throughout my research.

Shenk writes of the early 1940s when Lincoln was serving as a lawyer, riding from town to town on the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Illinois. It was during those evenings away from home, according to the Shenk, that Lincoln’s partner John Todd Stuart remembers Lincoln reading Poe’s “The Raven” over and over by candlelight.

Thomas on Lincoln and Poe
I then went to Benjamin Thomas’s 1953 biography, Abraham Lincoln. Though it’s more than half a century old, this succinct volume is still respected by several leading Lincoln scholars and was even recommended by one of them as the text for a high school class on Lincoln. If Thomas’s account is accurate, it may have been Quincy (Ill.) lawyer Andrew Johnston who first introduced Lincoln to Poe’s work.

According to Thomas, Lincoln had sent some of his own poems to Johnston. Johnston, in turn “sent Lincoln a parody of Poe’s ‘Raven,” in which an experience with a polecat replaced Poe’s conversation with his feathered midnight visitor.” Johnston apparently not only gave Lincoln “several hearty laughs” but also prompted him to seek out Poe’s poem just a year after it was written.

Burlingame on Lincoln and Poe
And finally, I consulted Michael Burlingame, whose two volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, is the largest work on Lincoln since Sandburg’s six-volume set and will likely reign as the definitive Lincoln biography long into the future.

According to Burlingame, Lincoln liked not only “The Raven,” but “also liked Poe’s short stories, notably ‘The Gold Bug’ and ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.”

Special thanks to my Poe-authority
I’d be remiss, however, if I were not to give credit where credit is due for remembering Poe’s birthday so I could share it with you. A few weeks ago, when I told my friend Dr. Robert T. Rhode that I was doing a Lincoln blog, he reminded me that it was also Poe’s bicentennial. Rhode is one of several authorities on the 19th century who has served as a mentor to me. For his nurturing, sharing of knowledge and encouragement, I will always be grateful.

I know Rhode as an authority on steam powers and the owner of a really neat 1923 65-horsepower Case steam engine, which I’ve had the privilege to ride. Yet, he’s also an authority on Poe - teaching his works, writing about him and acting in more than two hundred productions as the poet. In 1988, Rhode performed as Poe for the Baltimore Poe Society, which named his one-person play the authorized stage version of Poe's life.

According to Rhode, the best Poe biography is Arthur Hobson Quinn’s 1941 Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, which, unfortunately, doesn’t even mention the Lincolns. Rhode cautions those researching Poe to beware of some online sources. He says the authoritative website is that of the Poe Society of Baltimore’s. Thanks, Dr. Rhode, for pointing me to the information showing:

  • Lincoln owned an 1845 copy of the booklet that contained “The Raven.”
  • A listing of articles by Poe scholar Burton R. Pollin, including one he wrote on polecat parody in the The University of Mississippi Studies in English in 1989 (#100).

After the bicentennial, please watch my blog for more information about Dr. Rhode. Not only is his work on the steam era and Walt Whitman relevant to the study of Lincoln, he’s also the author of some pretty nifty reference books for all students and writers. More on that later …

Excerpts and information taken from:

  • Burlingame, Michael, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2008.
  • Rhode, Robert T., email correspondence, Dec. 2, 2008.
  • Shenk, Joshua Wolf, Lincoln’s Melancholy, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2005.
  • Thomas, Benjamin, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1953.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lincoln happenings here, there and everywhere

Do you know what Lincoln events are happening – and where? My hope when I learned back in 2000 that Congress had established a Lincoln Bicentennial Commission was that the nation would throw our 16th president and my state’s favorite son one big, huge, birthday bash. In the process, I hoped that the bicentennial would serve to spread enthusiasm and encourage others – young and old – to learn more about Abraham Lincoln.

Now, with the big day less than a month away, I’m happy to say my hopes are coming true, thanks to the hard work of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, liaisons and commissions in states across the nation, the generosity of individuals and corporations, and a lot of hard work and devotion by people who are dedicated to promoting Lincoln’s legacy.

See earlier article for even more links

Recently, my blog post titled Lincoln Laundry List included links to state bicentennial commission websites and online articles about other events across the country. Be sure to visit that article and the state links there and on the left hand side of my blog for the most current information in each state.

I continue to watch a number of online newspapers and receive several Lincoln-related alerts. Here are some of the events I’ve learned about since my last update. I’ve arranged them by state for your convenience. As I mentioned in my earlier post, some of these articles may be available for a limited amount of time. If so, my article may sprout some broken links. I’ll try to monitor and remove them. My apologies if I don’t catch them right away.

You won’t want to miss these Lincoln events
Please try to attend some of the events listed. Remember, a Lincoln celebration of this magnitude comes but once a century – and we’re here to experience it. Happy celebrating!

District of Columbia
Bicentennial events at National Archives


Orange County Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration

Bicentennial events


Madison County Lincoln Birthday Bash


Birthday bell ringing

Wabash College Lincoln bicentennial celebration


Council Bluffs events

Lecompton talks at Constitution Hall

Community celebration – Bicentennial progamming

New York

Cazenovia Public Library series, “Lincoln and His Vision of Freedom,” with Jason Emerson lecture


Lincoln’s birthday party couldn’t come together without people learning about it. Thanks to media specialists across the country who get the word out - and to newspapers, radio and television stations and online media outlets for spreading the word. I couldn’t share it without all of you.

Watch for Illinois-specific information soon
The Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition are just some of the groups working to make sure Lincoln’s birthday in Illinois is as special as he is to us.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about these folks and their grandiose contributions to making this birthday one to remember, but other things kept pushing them aside. I didn’t want to rush that article, as I wanted to be sure to do it right. The time has come to get the job done before it’s too late. I’m planning to hold up on other topics until I’ve achieved that goal. Please stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thank you – four months and still counting

This blog, Lincoln Buff 2, was born of passion and on a whim a little more than four months ago. I was taking a course about Abraham Lincoln at my local community college, learning tons and itching to share my passion for our 16th president. For several years, I’d hoped to be doing something to promote Lincoln as the bicentennial of his birth approached on Feb. 12, 2009. This seemed to be an ideal way.

So, what’s happening with this venture to date? I’ve written more than 60 articles and the blog has had nearly 1,000 visits from more than 400 unique visitors. They’re located in over 220 cities in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Visitors hail from 13 different countries and five continents. I don’t know what you think, but this is pretty exciting to me. I even have some return visitors who read the blog regularly.

I’ve received kind words, research help, encouragement and thanks from teachers, Lincoln buffs, fellow bloggers and even some leading Lincoln scholars. To all who visit I say, “Thanks. Tell your friends. Let’s keep spreading the word about Lincoln and make his 200th birthday a smashing success.”

And, by the way, if you know any Lincoln buffs in Africa or Antarctica, please ask them to visit the blog. Does anyone know - do they even have Internet in Antarctica?

Thanks again. I appreciate your visits and I plan to keep on keepin’ on. Ann

What about Spielberg’s Lincoln?

The press is alive this week with talk of Steven Spielberg and his proposed Lincoln film, which is supposed to star Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln and rumored to star Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.

Why this week? Maybe because when someone wins a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, it puts them in the spotlight. And the light was on Spielberg big time as he was honored with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Congratulations, Mr. Spielberg
Lifetime achievement? How cool! You’re not even “old” yet!

As I think back on others who’ve received similar awards, they always seem to come very late in life when people are really old. Yet, Spielberg has accomplished more in his 62 years than most people could in a dozen lifetimes. It’s nice to see him honored at this stage of his life and career.

I read several articles about Spielberg this evening, but my hat goes off to Gregg Kilday of Hollywood He wrote not only of the award, but of the film that started the “train rollin’” and piqued the film legend’s interest in moviemaking when he was just six years old.

Say when?
Like all the other writers, Kilday addresses the issue of when production will begin on the Lincoln project. Apparently, Spielberg says only it’s “coming together really quickly.” It would be nice if we could see progress on this film while the interest in Lincoln and the bicentennial of his birth is still timely – at least within the next year or so.

Spielberg's no dummy. He knows timing is everything. I don't think he'll let us down. When he’s ready to spread the word, this blogger would be glad to scoop the news. (Hint, hint, Mr. Spielberg.)

A gift to be treasured

You’ve got to like the guy, not only for all the great movies Spielberg’s brought us and the way he’s been a leader in his field, but also because he understands the importance of those who really make a difference – mentors. And, by the same token, he believes in serving as a mentor himself.

I’ve always been enthralled by the roles mentors play in others’ lives - from Lincoln and his mentors to Carl Sandburg and Philip Green Wright to the great mentors I’ve had. As one who has been blessed with strong and nurturing mentors in the workforce, academia and the Lincoln world, I’m convinced the influence of a good mentor is one of the greatest gifts a person can receive – or give. If only all could be so fortunate...

I can’t help but wonder, was Steven Speilberg’s most famous line, “May the Force be with you,” really his tribute to his own mentor, Sidney Sheinberg? In Kilray’s article, Spielberg is quoted as sharing Sheinberg’s promise to him, “I will be there for you in success, but I will also always be there for you during the tough times."

When you’re blessed with such a mentor and you recognize how lucky you are, you’re blessed indeed. My bet is the infamous line was Spielberg’s tribute to Shienberg. The Force was surely with this brilliant protégé.

Monday, January 12, 2009

George S. McGovern on Virtual Book Signing

-- Updated 5:15 p.m. Jan. 13, 2009

If you’ve never watched a Virtual Book Signing from the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, you’re missing out. In December, I had the privilege of watching owner Daniel R. Weinberg talk with Philip Kunhardt, III, about Looking for Lincoln, the book Kunhardt co-authored with his brother and nephew, Peter W. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr.

On Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009* at 6 p.m. Central Time, you can see former Senator George S. McGovern talk with Weinberg about McGovern’s book, Abraham Lincoln: The American Presidents Series: The 16th President, 1861-1865 (Hardcover).

Visit the Virtual Book Signing website to:
  • watch online,
  • order your copy of McGovern’s book or
  • see details about the signing.

About Abraham Lincoln Book Shop
The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop was opened in 1938 by Ralph G. Newman, a contemporary of Carl Sandburg and the editor of Lincoln for the Ages. Newman’s book is one of the “must haves” in my Lincoln library. It contains the work of 76 authors who tell the story of Lincoln from the cradle to the grave and beyond. Lincoln for the Ages, by the way, was one of the books published around the time of Lincoln’s Sesquicentennial. My guess is that there weren’t as many Lincoln books published from 1958-1960 as there will be from 2008-2010.

Weinberg was Newman’s partner in the book store beginning in 1971 and purchased the founder’s interest in 1984. He and James L. Swanson are the authors of Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution.

See Weinberg and others in person next month
Weinberg is a leading authority on Lincoln documents, books and memorabilia. He’ll be moderating a panel discussion on Collecting Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library on Feb.8, 2009 at 2 p.m. Collectors on the slate to speak that day are Kunhardt, Louise Taper, Chief Justice Frank Williams and Jack Smith. Though admission is free, you do need to call 217-558-8934 to make reservations to attend. I've heard all but Smith speak before and I'll guarantee hearing them share their passion will be time well spent.

These are just a handful of the Lincoln authorities, scholars and authors who will be in Springfield the week of Lincoln’s birthday.

  • Visit the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website to learn about all the other exciting events going on in Springfield and Illinois in celebration of the bicentennial.
  • For events across the nation, see the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website or Abraham Lincoln Online.

*Earlier I listed the wrong date. The signing is on the 15th, not the 14th, as previously stated. I apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused. Ann

Holzer does it again

Do you ever have one of those happy-sad kinds of days? Happy you’ve completed something, but sad that it’s come to an end. Yesterday was that kind of day for me. I’d spent more than month with Abraham Lincoln and Harold Holzer. They’d been with me as I studied for my Lincoln course final exam, over lunch and late at night, on the plane as I went to and from California, and on the freeway while I was there.

It took me longer than the average reader to get through Holzer’s Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861. As a student of Lincoln, I can’t just “read” a book – I have to study it. If a quote or a reference catches my interest, my curiosity isn’t satisfied until I’ve turned to the back to read the notes and to find out where I can learn more. Thank goodness for a liberal renewal policy on interlibrary loan, which allowed me to take the time I needed to savor the book to the depth I desired.

Lincoln buff and Holzer’s too
I’ve been a Lincoln fan since childhood, but my first encounter with Holzer’s work was when I reviewed The Lincoln Mailbag for the State Journal-Register in 1998. I was an instant fan of his as well. Holzer has now written or edited more than 30 books on Lincoln, and each one keeps readers coming back for more.

Lincoln President-Elect covers the 16th president’s activities from election through inauguration, not just for two-and-a-half months like today, but four months. Lincoln’s inauguration was held on March 4.

The timing for this book is appropriate, as Americans are watching the activities surrounding Barack Obama’s president-elect days. We see similarities between the two – and other U.S. presidents – in selecting a cabinet, preparing to uproot a family, preparing an inaugural speech.

A unique perspective
But in Holzer’s work, we also see the effect of the secession crisis on the president, the impact of the press, the role of his colleagues, political friends and enemies, and more. Holzer takes us along with Lincoln through the streets of Springfield, for a final visit to his aging stepmother and as he deals with favor-seekers by the hundreds. We’re with him when he treks tiredly home after a long night waiting for election results and on the train as he gives speeches along the rail route from Illinois to the nation’s capital. We see Lincoln through the eyes of his closest colleagues and strongest political foes, as Holzer seems to leave no crucial recollection untouched.

Holzer has written solo, edited the works of others and often collaborated with other authors, both well-known and obscure. This book was Holzer’s alone and his intuitive, colorful voice came through beautifully, yet I couldn’t help but note his work was richly enhanced by the contributions of a writer from Lincoln’s time.

Henry Villard was a New York Herald reporter who was essentially embedded with Lincoln on this particular journey through time. Time and again Villard provides a unique perspective into Lincoln’s thoughts and activities. Holzer seems to have skimmed the richest cream from Villard’s vessel – and it’s made the book all the more delightful.

I think that’s one of the strengths of this co-chair of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and why his books are so successful. Harold Holzer seems to know when he should tell the story and when he can allow those who were there to do it. In Lincoln President-Elect, he struck the perfect balance.

More Holzer to come
As for the happy-sad feeling – I won’t have to suffer it for long. I still haven’t read a lot of Holzer’s earlier books, and he has three more new ones on the horizon:

I’m looking forward to having Holzer and Lincoln with me again, just as soon as I get done with Eric Foner’s Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, Fred Kaplan’s Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer and the book, Liability Claims Practices, by my fellow former Toastmaster, James R. Jones, which I must read for an industry course. Fortunately, Jim, now director of the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services at Illinois State University, can actually make a book about insurance interesting – not quite as interesting as Lincoln, but that’s a hard act to follow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama at Abe's birthday party?

There's a grapevine in the Lincoln community. Word has been circulating for some time now that President-elect Barack Obama might attend the Abraham Lincoln Association's annual birthday banquet, which this year will serve as his 200th birthday party. I'd heard the information earlier - after I'd purchased my own ticket, but before the announcement was ready to go public. My word is as important to me as Lincoln's was to him, so I did not violate the confidence of those in the know by sharing this information until it was public knowledge.

This morning's State Journal-Register includes an article that confirms Obama has been invited and speculates on the possibility he might attend - or not. Tickets are sold out for the banquet, but overflow seating for a dessert reception was still available when the newspaper went to press earlier today. To read more, visit the articles:

For overflow seating, if available, visit the Abraham Lincoln Association's website to download and mail the Overflow Reservation Form with your payment.

In case you're wondering - no, my seat is not for sale! Before Obama was ever elected, I planned to go to this to celebrate Lincoln. That wish has not changed. This was my gift to me and I'm not giving it up!

* Updated Feb. 2, 2009 - We learned today President Obama will be coming. What a special gift for President Lincoln's big day! And, no, my seat is still not for sale! This - celebrating Lincoln's big day - is a longtime dream for me. I hope to savor every minute of it.

See the updated website links

When I was preparing my laundry list of Lincoln bicentennial websites and articles about events throughout the country yesterday, I remembered that I'd been meaning to update the links on the left side of my website. Although these listings could go into even greater depth, you will now find more updated listings of state bicentennial sites, research websites and places to visit.

As I've been writing this blog the last four months, the response from others in the Lincoln community has been encouraging and enlightening. What a helpful group of people - all equally passionate about the subject!

I must give a special thanks today to Roger Norton of The Abraham Lincoln Research Site, Rhoda and Lowell Sneller of the Abraham Lincoln Online website and the staff at the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, whose online resources always seem to get me directly to the information I'm seeking. These folks are diligent in keeping up on the latest in the world of Lincoln. I consulted these sites in compiling the links for mine, so we all owe them a big collective thank you.

Don’t be a stranger

Please come back often to visit my blog. I try to publish an article every day or two, especially with the birthday date now so close. When I have the time, I’ll try to update my sidebar links even more. I know I’ve fallen behind on keeping the books link up as much as I’d like. Be sure to watch your newspapers and online news sites for the latest new releases in the Lincoln world. There are truly dozens coming out this year.

I’m committed to sharing as much as I can about Lincoln and events in his honor over the next few months, even though it’s sometimes a gargantuan task in light of the responsibilities and commitments in my real life outside the Lincoln world. This blog is my birthday present to Lincoln and my gift to you. My hope is that it honors him and inspires you. Thanks for visiting. Ann

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lincoln laundry list

News in the Lincoln world is coming in fast and furious these days. Even though I receive a number of very specific Lincoln-related email alerts daily, it’s a challenge to keep up with all the Lincoln events planned throughout the country. It will surely be even more challenging the nearer Lincoln’s birthday gets.

Because of this, with little more than a month to the big day, I’m sharing a laundry list with you. On first glance, it’s surely overwhelming, but as you hone in on the locations closest to you, it won’t be so much so. In nearly every state and many communities, you'll find ways to celebrate this momentous day. If you're like me, you'll wish you could clone yourself on Feb. 12 to attend dozens of celebrations far and near.

Learn more
Many states have their own bicentennial commissions. If so, and if they have a website, I’ve provided a link to it. If there is no commission in your state, but the little birdies have shared information about events there, I’ve linked to an online article with information about the happenings.

A couple of great sources to learn about Lincoln events near you are the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission website calendar and the Abraham Lincoln Online calendar. Both are exceptional and will likely have timely information, while mine is only as up-to-date as today’s media. Currently, all my links should take you to live websites or articles. As time goes on, however, some pages may be deactivated, so links may no longer work. In that case, I’ll try to remove them when I catch them.

Make the most of this opportunity
It’s exciting to be living at this moment in time, so please be sure to take advantage of Lincoln events near you and to read some of the many new Lincoln books or great old ones. Use this once-in-a-century opportunity to study our 16th president – and be sure to share what you learn with others. Spread the enthusiasm and knowledge!

Check out these Lincoln happenings

Sonoma Valley Regional Library seminars

Lincoln’s Colorado legacy
Estes Park: Visit with the Lincolns


Connecticut Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission


Delaware Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Delaware Lincoln events

Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Student penny drive helps renovate Lincoln statue

Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition
Galesburg Public Library: Commemorative children’s book
Illinois events statewide
Lincoln Log Cabin events
Lincoln, Ill.: Mary Todd Lincoln fashion show
Springfield: Lincoln play

Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Kansas Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial

Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Kentucky Lincoln events


Louisiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Massachusetts Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Michigan Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

New Jersey

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of New Jersey

North Dakota
North Dakota Lincoln events

Ohio Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Oklahoma events

Oregon Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Oregon essay contest

Pennsylvania Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Rhode Island
Rhode Island Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

South Dakota
Dakota Conference

Vermont celebrations

Washington, D.C.
U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Ford’s Theatre
Loew’s Hotel: Lincoln Bedroom experience package
National Archives celebrations
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History “New Birth of Freedom exhibit”

Wyoming Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Keep looking for Lincoln
Wherever you are, don't stop Looking for Lincoln. You'll be amazed how often he turns up when you least expect it!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Lincoln presence in Nixon's haunts

On our recent visit to California, my husband, son-in-law and I visited the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Since today would have been Nixon’s 96th birthday, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the Lincoln connections there.

The first Lincoln connection was as soon as I walked past the ticket counter. There I found one of the squashed penny machines about which my fellow blogger, Mike Kienzler of the State Journal-Register often writes. Of course, I had to get my own commemorative squashed penny.

Inaugurating Lincoln
As we prepare for the upcoming inauguration of our 44th president, Barack Obama, the library is hosting a special exhibit, “Called Upon By the Voice of My Country.” The exhibit runs through April 19 and celebrates the history and pageantry of presidential inaugurations.

Among the items featured in the exhibit are a bill of fare from Lincoln’s inaugural dinner, a ticket to the inauguration, a first-hand account of Lincoln’s second inaugural celebration and a Lincoln photo. Several of these items are on loan from the collection of Tom Charles Huston, who served as a White House aide during the Nixon presidency.

Nixon’s fave digs bore Lincoln’s name
Another highlight for me was the recreated Lincoln sitting room. The room, which adjoins the Lincoln bedroom, was Nixon’s favorite room in the White House. He was said to have loved the fireplace so much that he was known to even have a fire built in it in the summer with the air conditioning also running. He apparently did much of his work there, perched in a cozy chair with a matching ottoman. The replicated room even includes recreations of the red chairs Mary Todd Lincoln purchased for the White House.

From the pens of babes
Those of us who write about Lincoln today because of an interest that began in grade school had a kindred spirit in Nixon. The Nixon Library displays a copy of a school report Nixon wrote as a youngster about Lincoln and his sons. It’s accompanied by a typed version for those who may have trouble discerning the grade-schooler’s handwriting.

A day well spent
Before we went, I had wondered what a visit to the Nixon library would be like. Would I like it? How could any presidential library compare to Lincoln’s? I was busy working and raising a little one during Nixon’s administration. I buried my head in the sand when it came to politics so I wouldn’t have to face the things going on outside my little world. Would this museum really mean anything to me?

The answer is yes. I learned about the boy who was born in a farmhouse like my own parents – just in California, rather than Illinois. I learned of the young man who worked with his parents and brothers around the house and in the family store, like my own parents, uncles, cousins and brothers. I saw exhibits which took me back to the days when I was young – the scary feelings about war, the confusing feelings about a government scandal, the relief when prisoners left Vietnam, the fun thanks to memorabilia from the days when I was growing up – a black and white TV, an old wood-paneled station wagon, a Jimi Hendrix album, a daisy-adorned empire waist dress.

And along the way, I learned about our 37th president, the one from Whittier, the California town my three uncles and their families called home. I brought away a greater appreciation for this president and the challenges he faced. I saw a beautiful facility with its stately columns, glistening reflecting pool and tranquil gardens, and I felt there a reverence for this country and those who serve in the highest office – a monumental task in any century.

Sleeping in Lincoln's bed - Not so bad

You've got to check out my favorite columnist Dave Bakke's story about his overnight stay at the Illinois Governor's Mansion, where he got to sleep in Lincoln's bed. Dave is cool - and so is his story in today's State Journal-Register.

Happy Friday. Ann

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Research isn’t always easy

If I’ve learned nothing else in these past few months, it’s that research isn’t always easy. In fact, maybe it’s never easy – especially when you’re dealing with history and even more so in this electronic age.

History is objective, right?
In my previous scholarly pursuits, the research was easier. I majored in English and specialized in regional and non-fiction literature. As I do with my Lincoln studies, I always consulted a number of sources, but writing about literature can be pretty subjective. Writing about history isn’t, is it? Isn’t history and biography supposed to be objective - cut and dried – crystal clear? This happened or it didn’t. The sources will support it, right? Wrong!

Little did I realize until this fall when I really became a student of Lincoln and the history surrounding him how subjective things in the past can be. As I learned when doing my term paper, myth plays into things, and so do the many different memories people have – often two conflicting mental pictures of the same event. And, in this day and age, when anyone can publish anything on the Internet, there’s a lot of wrong information out there.

The real story of the missions

Early in my recent California visit, my daughter suggested we visit Mission San Juan Capistrano mission. We were barely inside the grounds when she directed me to a plaque which she knew would make my day. It stated that Abraham Lincoln had returned this mission to the Catholic Church in 1865.

Later on our tour, we learned more about Lincoln and the mission at an exhibit inside one of the mission buildings. We even saw a copy of the proclamation Lincoln had signed on March 18, 1865, less than a month before his death.

While at the mission, I bought a very nice book, California Missions and Presidios: The History and Beauty of the Spanish Missions by Randy Leffingwell and Alastair Worden. I’d hoped to consult the book for my blog entry and to share information about each of the missions and the dates Lincoln returned them to the Church.

Unfortunately, even though this volume is written from a more scholarly angle than many of the other books on the mission and is indexed, it still didn’t discuss Lincoln’s involvement with the missions to the extent I’d hoped – nor did it list the dates the proclamations were signed for all of the California missions. I then thought I’d supplement by finding details online. Oh, there were details alright, but often two different sources listed conflicting dates for the return of the same mission.

Opportunity knocks
If this weren’t the bicentennial year and if I didn’t have so much I need to communicate in the coming weeks, I would have taken the time to dig deeper into this subject. Maybe someday I will.

In the meantime, do we have a Lincoln scholar or California history authority out there who can point readers to a good source? Can you tell us – what was Lincoln’s role in this whole mission story? Why did he get involved? What are the specifics and the timeline? I find it interesting that he was dealing with San Juan Capistrano and other missions in the last month of his life with everything else he had going on at the time.

If I’m correct, Lincoln never made it to California. Yet, according to information I found on one of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s websites, Mr. Lincoln’s White House, on the day he was assassinated Lincoln spoke with Schuyler Colfax of his interest in California and Colfax’s upcoming trip there.

It seems to me we’ve got a topic for further exploration here – Lincoln and California. Has anyone ever studied this subject in depth? If not, it sure does sound like an opportunity for a scholarly paper - or maybe a thesis or dissertation or book. Any takers?
I’ve got my hands full here in Illinois, but the more I study Lincoln, the more topics grab my interest. Oh, if only time and distance were no object!

More than 70 years ago, Lincoln scholar J. G. Randall asked “Has the Lincoln theme been exhausted?” Nearly 30 years ago, Mark E. Neely addressed Randall’s question in an article in the Journal of The Abraham Lincoln Association. Today, more than ever, even with Burlingame’s definitive two-volume biography and scores of other new books coming out in celebration of the bicentennial, opportunity still knocks in the Lincoln world. Fortunately, bright inquisitive minds continue to answer the door, willing to undertake the challenge of research even though it isn't easy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holidays, California trip provide new blog topics

Thanks, Lincoln buffs, for your patience as I left my blog unattended recently. Although I wasn’t writing about Lincoln regularly, he was with me much of the time. I already had a long list of blog topics planned in anticipation of the February 12, 2009 bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The holidays and a long-awaited trip to California gave me even more things to write about.

Wantin' nothin' but Lincoln for Christmas
In lieu of Christmas gifts this year, I asked for and received the opportunity to attend a number of Lincoln-related scholarly events in the coming year. I've got plans beginning in Springfield in February and ending with The Lincoln Forum at Gettysburg in November. What a gift that keeps on giving – not only for me, but for what I can share with you.

I also received Michael Burlingame’s two-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Life. Later in the year I’ll share my thoughts on that monumental piece of Lincoln scholarship. Due to the bicentennial and an industry course I’ll be taking for my real job, I fear Burlingame will remain unread for a few months.

Watch for these topics soon
Travel time and a totally unscheduled day did provide some reading time on my vacation, though. Watch for my thoughts on Harold Holzer’s Lincoln President-Elect before long. I’m closing in on the end of it.

Here are some of the other vacation-related Lincoln items I wish to share with you in the coming days:
  • Lincoln’s role in returning California missions to the Catholic Church
  • Squashed pennies
  • Lincoln images at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
  • Lincoln memorabilia at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace
  • A Lincoln sighting in a Chicago suburb

I also got to go to the pier at Huntington Beach, the Tournament of Roses Parade and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Lincoln connections for any of those, but they were all sure a lot of fun! If only I could say that for California traffic...

Lincoln celebrations across the land
As I followed the Lincoln world during my time off work, I did learn of bicentennial events throughout the country. Believe me, there will be no shortage of things to blog about in the coming weeks. It will be a juggling act to find time to share all I’d like and still complete my industry course.

If you stop to visit the blog and find I haven’t updated it, please return. I’ll try to get to it as often as I can.

Thanks for sharing my passion
Several of you have let me know that you visit the blog regularly and enjoy it. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I’m hoping we’ll all learn a lot about Lincoln in 2009. It’s nice to have you along for the journey.

Happy New Year and Happy Bicentennial Year!