Thursday, October 22, 2009

Miami Lincoln buffs: Town hall coming your way Nov. 1

If you thought Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial celebration was all wrapped up on his February 12th birthday, think again.

The U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), state and local commissions, communities, colleges, universities and more continue to celebrate the legacy of our 16th commander-in-chief.

Check out this information the ALBC shared with me about a Nov. 1 event in Miami, Fla.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alonzo Mourning join the celebration
As Miami joins in the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is proud to host a Lincoln Town Hall exploring the theme of “Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream.”

The Nov. 1 Town Hall will be led by Channel 4 anchorman Antonio Mora. Respected panelists, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and the Knight Foundation’s Alberto Ibarguen, among others, will weigh in on the impact that Lincoln’s life and words have on the Miami of today.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, will also join the dialogue and discuss his new book, Lincoln on Race & Slavery.

In addition, attendees will be treated to the musical works of the Ambassador Chorale of Florida Memorial University and the orchestra of the New World School of Arts, as well as an excerpt from the work “Lincoln’s Portrait”, narrated by former Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning.

All events are free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required for the Town Hall. Please visit for more information on event times and locations, and to find out how to RSVP. Like always, you can connect with us and join the discussion today through:

Mount Pleasant's not just for threshermen

People who know me well will know that I'm not just a Lincoln buff, but also a fan of steam engines. Though I've never made it to the mecca for steam enthusiasts, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, I still hope to someday.

Now Lincoln buffs have a reason to go there, too. Check out this information from the college's website about a Lincoln event today:

Lincoln events planned for Iowa Wesleyan College

Author Burrus Carnahan will speak about his book Act of Justice: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War on Thursday, October 22, at 11:00 a.m. at Iowa Wesleyan College.

The program will be held in the Chapel Auditorium as part of the Forum series. The Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House at Iowa Wesleyan College are sponsoring the event.

Act of Justice examines how President Abraham Lincoln came to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Carnahan explains that Lincoln did not think he had the authority as President, under the Constitution, to free the slaves. However, he came to understand that he had authority as commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces to free the slaves in the territory that was in rebellion against the Federal Government. He believed that freeing the slaves was in the military interest of saving the Union.

The book is available now in the Iowa Wesleyan College Bookstore and will be available at the College Chapel the day of the presentation. Following the presentation, the author will sign copies of the book.

The Iowa Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has included this event on their calendar of events for this fall. The Bicentennial Commission and Iowa State Historical Society will bring their new traveling exhibit History on the Move: Abraham Lincoln and Iowa to Iowa Wesleyan that day. Mount Pleasant 5th grade classes will tour at specified times, and the exhibit will be open to the public immediately following Carnahan’s presentation until 1:45 p.m. The exhibit will be parked on the driveway northwest of the College Chapel, off of Broad Street.

The Harlan-Lincoln House on the Iowa Wesleyan campus will be open for tours following the presentation until 2:00 p.m. Brochures that detail Harlan and Lincoln sites in Mount Pleasant will be available for anyone who wants to take a self-guided driving tour of these sites. There is no charge for any of these activities.

Burrus Carnahan is a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was a private sector consultant on international arms control issues and served for 20 years as a lawyer in the U.S. Air Force, where he specialized in the law of war. He has participated in several international negotiations on arms control and the law of war and is author of numerous articles on those subjects. Carnahan is also a lecturer at George Washington University Law School.

Carnahan has local connections; both of his parents attended Iowa Wesleyan, and Carnahan Road is named after his ancestors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three stops you'll want to make in Springfield

Ever since the week of Lincoln's birthday, I've wanted to tell you all about three of my favorite shops in Springfield. Today, I got just the nudge I needed.

Tinsley's - A Springfield treasure
My journalist friend, Pete Sherman, of The State Journal-Register wrote about Tinsley's Dry Goods, a quaint little shop next to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices. The store has been in Springfield almost since Lincoln first came to the prairie community. It was established in 1840.

Granted, today's owners haven't been there that long, but Dana and Ron Homann are sure to make you feel at home, answer your questions and share their pride in the legacy of the 16th President.

Be sure to read Pete's article. You'll not only learn about Tinsley's but also about how the Homanns are giving back some of the blessings they're reaping during the bicentennial year.

Turn the corner - Turn the page
Around the corner from Tinsley's is another Springfield treasure. Stepping through the doors of Prairie Archives Antiquarian Booksellers and past the big friendly dog lying in the doorway is like stepping back in time.

The store is just what an antiquarian bookseller's haunt should be. It's old, a bit musty smelling and full of cozy, tattered chairs where you can sit a spell and immerse yourself in books twice as old as you are. It's one of those places the book lover in you will never want to leave.

Owner John Paul and his staff know that. They'll let you wander aimlessly for hours through the stacks, if that's your book hunting style, or help you in the quest, if you're seeking something special.

You don't have to go to the store to buy their books, as they sell them through Abe Books. If you buy online, though, you'll miss the experience, so next time you're in Springfield check it out. You'll be glad you did.

A kid's kind of place
Caddywampus across the street from the Lincoln Home visitor's center is another little shop you won't want to miss. Mr. Lincoln's Inc. Souvenirs & Gifts is bright and clean and uncluttered. It's the kind of gift shop many of us remember from grade school field trips - the kind of place where a kid can find something to buy no matter how little money he's got in his pocket.

The store meanders through several rooms in the basement of an old home. You'll find t-shirts and top hats, pencils and postcards, statues and souvenir spoons, ball caps and busts (of Lincoln, of course).

But even better, you'll find a friendly face - a gent with a child-heart not unlike Lincoln's - to welcome you warmly and brighten your day. On my first trip to the store, the owner, Tom Rebman, and one of his buddies made me feel as if I'd known them forever. They were interested in my visit to Springfield and my passion for Lincoln and they were both full of vinegar. I had so much fun kidding around with them that I didn't want to leave.

I was planning to return to Springfield the following day, grandkids in tow, for a couple events at Lincoln's Home. When I told Rebman and his buddy, they scored lots of extra brownie points in my book. The two acted as if they couldn't believe I had grandkids and guessed my age at ten years younger than I am. Remember, I said they were full of vinegar, but, hey, a gal has to take a compliment when she can get one. I'll take one like that any time - and I'll stop in that shop any day!

I did stop in again - with four kids in tow, ages six to 14. They all had equal amounts to spend, and it didn't take them long to find exactly what they wanted - all different, all fitting their interests, all within their budgets. Yep, that's just the kind of place I want to take my brood. And Rebman had just as much fun kidding them as he did teasing me.

More Lincoln on the horizon
If you're following my blog regularly, I'm afraid I'll let you down the next couple days. I'll be in Springfield for the Lincoln Legacy Lecture series at University of Illinois - Springfield tomorrow night, at the Illinois State Museum for a Lincoln exhibit open house Friday night and at the Lincoln Colloquium on Saturday. Gotta keep learnin' if I'm gonna keep doin' this blog, ya know, so off I go.

Do me a favor. Learn something new about Lincoln yourself this weekend, okay?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lincoln Bicentennial events still going strong

Did you think Lincoln’s birthday #200 was over? Think again. Across the country, there are still events every week. I just ran out of time and energy to tell you about all of them.

My friends at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission aren’t going to let me slack, though. They’ve got news to share so, by golly, I’ll share it.

Lincoln and education

First, head to the Land of Lincoln in October for a national conference about Lincoln’s role in American higher education.

Here’s what the bicentennial folks have to say:

“Prominent government officials, land-grant college presidents, and respected academics and experts on higher education will come together to discuss ‘Lincoln and the Morrill Act: The Unfinished Work of Public Universities’ on Oct. 23-24 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“This conference will explore the historical significance of the Morrill Act, and how it is applicable to current issues of higher education. Conference speakers will include Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Martha Kanter, U.S. Undersecretary of Education, and Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, among many others. Speakers will discuss the important role land-grant colleges can play in developing the work force of the future and create life-long learners in a global society.

“Through moderated panels and interactive discussions, conference goers will delve into the past and future of higher education, as they never have before.

“This event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required. Please visit for more information or to RSVP.”

Lincoln in art and photography

Later in the month, you’ll want to head to Newark, New Jersey for the Lincoln presentation by photographer Deborah Willis. And, in November, that same community will present a town hall panel discussion on race, ethnicity and freedom.

The bicentennial folks say:

“On Oct. 28, respected photographer Deborah Willis will unveil and discuss her new work entitled “Lincoln as Monument, Lincoln as Icon.” Held at the Essex County Historic Courthouse, this event will explore the various depictions of Abraham Lincoln in art and photography. Using examples ranging from the 1870s to the present, Willis will lead the audience in a discussion of this iconic American figure, and how changing artistic depictions of him have impacted public perception.

“In addition to the presentation and discussion, attendees have the unique opportunity to take docent-led tours through the Historic Courthouse, and even take a photo with the Borglum statue of Abraham Lincoln prior to the presentation.

“Deborah Willis’ show is also a wonderful opportunity for attendees and community members to familiarize themselves with Lincoln and his legacy prior to our town hall discussion on Nov.12 at the Newark Museum. A panel of esteemed speakers, including Pedro A. Noguera, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, Jeff Johnson, award-winning journalist, social activist and political commentator, and James O. Horton, Historian Emeritus at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, will lead a stimulating discussion on the topic of “The Humane City: Race, Ethnicity and Freedom in Urban America.”

“Panelists will discuss issues surrounding our urban communities today, and how we can collectively utilize the resources available in those communities to work towards a more successful future. This event seeks to critically examine the current situation in urban America when viewed through the lens of differences in race and ethnicity, while bringing together a group of scholars who are willing to give their recommendations for how communities in urban America can best achieve their collective potential.

“Both events are free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required. Please visit for more information or to RSVP.

Social media buffs – follow Lincoln at 200
You can also connect with the bicentennial commission and join the discussion through:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Virtual book signing features Civil War author, captivating photographer and historian

What are you doing at noon Central Time on Saturday, Oct. 17? If you don't have plans yet, plan on eating a late breakfast or an early lunch so you can watch Virtual Book Signing. Or, if you're not concerned about crumbs in your keyboard, grab a sandwich and sit down at your computer at noon.

Daniel Weinberg and his staff at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop have another interesting Virtual Book Signing planned. They'll be hosting:
  • Barton A. Myers, author of Exceuting Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty and Guerrila Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865 and
  • historian Ron Elliot and photographer John Snell, authors of Through the Eyes of Lincoln: A Modern Photographic Journey.

Lincoln buffs in the Chicago area can drop by the shop to watch the events firsthand. The rest of us - yes, even Lincoln buffs in Australia, England and Brazil - can watch live online.

Don't fret, though, if you have other plans Saturday. I'll be in Springfield at the Lincoln Colloquium, but I know I can find it in the Virtual Book Signing archives later. If you've missed many other Lincoln and Civil War authors, check out the archives. You'll find some interesting and engaging interviews there.

Friday, October 9, 2009

State of the blog 2009

A year ago today, I set out on a maiden voyage, a trip on uncharted seas, an excursion not unlike Abraham Lincoln's first flatboat trip. I started writing this blog.

In honor of its first birthday, I thought perhaps I owed my readers - the faithful as well as the new and the occasional - a "state of the blog" address. Some of you may not realize where I've been and others may wonder where I'm going with this little adventure.

Like Lincoln, I might not know of the obstacles in my path nor the sights I'll see along the way. Nonetheless, I'll take my best shot at telling you what I've learned on the journey and where I hope to go from here.

The birthplace
Officially, this blog was born on Oct. 9, 2008, as a way to disseminate all the information I was learning about Lincoln in a Heartland Community College class, "The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln."

Really, though, it was born the same day I was, more than 57 years ago, in a hospital room just a block from Knox College's Old Main. Yes, I was born within a stone's throw of a Lincoln-Douglas debate site.

I often kid around and say that the wind blew some Lincoln dust my way the day I was born. I really do believe, though, that growing up in close proximity to places where Lincoln's legacy lives did make me want to learn more about him.

Glancing over my shoulder
Let's look back at this past year. Since the blog was born, I've:
  • Been to Springfield, Jacksonville, Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington and Decatur in search of Lincoln.
  • Heard a bunch of Lincoln scholars speak.
  • Watched plays about Lincoln and heard musicians pay tribute to him.
  • Met and befriended authors I'd never dreamed of seeing.
  • Celebrated Lincoln's 200th birthday in the same room as the President of the United States.
  • Met Richard Dreyfuss and Stedman Graham.
  • Read a bunch of Lincoln books and heard a lot of Lincoln audio books.
  • Written more than 180 blog posts and more than 1900 Twitter tweets.
  • Stayed up too late, awakened too early and fallen asleep at my keyboard (thus the fun birthday cake image).

My blog has had almost 6800 visits from more than 3900 unique visitors. They've come from 1500 cities in 69 countries and every state in the U.S. I've heard from people in Australia, Brazil and England. I've got followers who are students, teachers, authors, photographers, doctors and more. On Lincoln's 200th birthday, more than 200 people visited the blog.

I've written about many of my Lincoln experiences, shared my opinions on books and told my readers about Lincoln events across the country. My blog posts hit their peak and my sleep suffered the most in February as I tried to keep up with all the bicentennial events surrounding Lincoln's birthday. As the year progressed, my energy began to wane, other duties needed my attention and my posts became less frequent.

My mission remains the same, regardless of the frequency of my articles. I am writing this blog and maintaining a Twitter page to share my passion for the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and to teach others about him, too.

Forging forward
This year was just the first in the young life of my blog, Lincoln Buff 2. I hope to stay at this for a long time to come, and to eventually begin writing with more frequency than I did the last few months. Once I get caught up on some other obligations, I'll be able to do that.

As much as time allows, I hope to:

  • Point you to Lincoln-related events.
  • Tell you about Lincoln books - old and new.
  • Share stories about Lincoln - both well-known and seldom-told.
  • Introduce you to others who have Lincoln connections.
  • Chronicle a trip to Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg.

When I started this blog, I wanted each blog post to be my own work, written in my own words and with my own "voice." As time went on, though, I realized that wasn't always possible. Either my time was too short or the events were too many. So, from time to time, the only way I could get the news to you was by sharing someone else's "canned" press releases.

I'll still be doing that some. The U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has some events coming up they'd like me to share. For the most part, those will come to you in their format.

When I have time to read Lincoln-related books, I'll craft my own book reviews. And, when I attend events, I'll try to give you a first-hand account.

For other articles on my blog, you may see a combination of my voice and someone else's press release. The important thing is that I'm spreading the word about Lincoln and you're reading it.

Please, if you enjoy Lincoln Buff 2, tell your friends, and if you're interested in little bits of Lincoln info, as well as links to other Lincoln news, you'll want to follow me on twitter at And, maybe someday, you can read one of the books I plan to write about Lincoln.

Thanks for your loyalty and for giving me a reason to learn and to share. It's been a year I'll never forget. Long live Lincoln's legacy!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The rest of the story

Yesterday, I told you about a practical joker who used to play Lincoln's New Salem acquaintance, Jack Armstrong, in the production,"Abe Lincoln in Illinois."

Years ago, the joker, John "Jay" Slaven, left a note in a chair directing the finder to a lead chest with a treasure of gold coins. Here's a follow-up to that tale.

After columnist Dave Bakke's stories about the treasure hunt ran in The State Journal-Register, one of Slaven's descendants came forth with the news that he has the coins described in the letter. They aren't buried after all.

It's a tough break for the finder of the letter and the man whose lot she's digging up, but good deal for the guy who inherited the coins. Check out Bakke's story to learn more.

The owner of the lot does have a bit of buried treasure though - a bunch of old bottles. Gee, maybe he could say, "These bottles belonged to Abraham Lincoln," and cash in on eBay. People have made stranger and more outlandish claims.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clary's Grove boy gets last laugh

Tales of Lincoln's New Salem years have always been among my favorite Lincoln lore, discounted, of course, by the knowledge that much of what we hear about that era is tainted through memories twisted by time and gilded with an aura of grandiosity. As Billy Herndon conducted his oral history project with New Salem residents, Lincoln became larger than life - and so did many of the tales and the characters.

Ya gotta like those Clary's Grove boys though - the ornery critters who came out of the woods like mountain lions ready to kick and scratch and wrestle their way to a place of authority in the little village. Yet, according to legend, it was the railsplitter Lincoln who outwrestled them and earned their lifelong respect, which they demonstrated by electing him captain in the Black Hawk War.

Trick or treasure
One of my longtime favorite columnists is Dave Bakke of The State Journal-Register. He ran a column earlier this week about some folks who were digging for gold right in the heart of Springfield, Ill. The short of it is that this lady bought an old chair at an auction and found a note about buried treasure on 5th Street in Springfield. She actually started excavating the lot to look for it! For the long of it, read Bakke's version.

The story gets better, though. Bakke heard from a former State Journal-Register employee who remembered a practical joker at the State Journal-Register. Former classified ad manager John “Jay” Slaven just happened to use the pen Chauncey Wolcott to sign his practical jokes. Who was the author of the treasure note? You guessed it - none other than good old Chauncey.
Unfortunately, Slaven passed away in 1976, so the treasure hunter can't ask him if this was but another of his fun-filled pranks. She's going "crazy" trying to decide if she should keep on digging.

As a Lincoln buff, I tend to see stories in relation to Lincoln's legacy and legends. And I'm thinking Clary's Grove boy Jack Armstrong (pictured above) would have been pretty proud of old Jay Slaven for this bit of orneriness. You see, Slaven performed for years in the play "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" His role - Jack Armstrong! Don't you suppose Jack, Jay and Abe are up there snickering at this one?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Judge Ruben Castillo to reflect on Lincoln and the American Dream

If you're in Chicagoland, you won't want to miss an upcoming Lincoln event. Thanks to my friend, David Early at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, who sent this information to me. His press release contains everything you'll need to know, so I've included it in its entirety.

Judge Ruben Castillo on Lincoln’s Leadership for a Multicultural World

Abraham Lincoln likely never envisioned today’s multicultural society. However, even in his day, the United States grappled with the immigration issue. What lessons for today can we find in Lincoln’s steadfast commitment to the ideals of freedom, democracy, and equality of opportunity?

On October 12, at the Chicago History Museum, U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois will reflect on Lincoln’s legacy and its impact on immigration policy, human rights, and citizenship in the United States today.

The program is free and begins at 6:30 p.m. A reception precedes the event at 5:30 p.m.

“Abraham Lincoln and the American Dream: Lincoln’s Leadership for a Multicultural World” is a free program sponsored by the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and presented in partnership with the Chicago History Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Newberry Library. Seating is limited and reservations are encouraged by visiting the CHM’s Web site at .

“The legend of Lincoln has withstood the critical test of time,” said Judge Castillo. "Lincoln’s thoughts on issues that cause constant debate in our country, still serve as a great, guiding beacon in the 21st century.”

Judge Castillo was appointed to the Federal bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. He is the son of a Mexican father and a Puerto Rican mother, and is the first of his family to graduate from college. He earned his bachelor's degree from Loyola University in Chicago, working nights as a clerk at the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County. He earned his law degree from Northwestern University in 1979.

For five years, he was an associate attorney with the firm Jenner & Block, before being appointed an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in 1984. In 1988, he became a regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, before returning to private practice with Kirkland & Ellis in 1991. He has served as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission since 1999.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that minorities, which now account for roughly one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become the majority in 2042. By 2050, the Census Bureau projects the nation will be 54 percent minority. Even sooner, by 2023, minorities will comprise more than half of all children.

“The American values of freedom and democracy, which Lincoln so eloquently articulated, are immutable,” said Eileen Mackevich, ALBC executive director, “even as American demographics change rapidly. As we become more and more multicultural, will Lincoln continue to hold the American imagination? The Lincoln Bicentennial has give us the opportunity to explore this issue and we look forward to Judge Castillo’s perspectives.”

WHAT: “Abraham Lincoln and the American Dream: Lincoln’s Leadership for a Multicultural World”
WHO: Ruben Castillo, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois
WHEN: Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 *Reception at 5:30 p.m. *Program at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark Street, Chicago

About the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission & Foundation
Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to recommend appropriate ways to commemorate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln in 2009. The Commission is predicated on the premise that it will function as a public-private partnership. Congress appropriates funds for administration. Private funding is necessary, however, to produce programs, events and materials planned for the Bicentennial. To support the public-private partnership, and insure that Lincoln activities continue into the future, the Commission established the ALBC Foundation [a 501(c)(3) based in Washington DC] in 2007. For more information, please visit