The Newsletter of Lincoln For The Ages


Sat., Feb. 13

Sat., May 15
Sun., May 30

Thu, June 3
Fri, June 4

Presidents Day,
St. Paul's Church National Historic Site, Mount Vernon, NY - talks and re-enactments commemorating President’s Day and February as African American History Month, including appearances by Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as talks about Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

Forever Free: Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation (Exhibit), Pollard Memorial Library, Lowell, MA
375th Anniversary Celebration, Town of Newbury, MA

Civil War Day, Brownstone Intermediate School, Portland, CT
Civil War Day, Peck Place School, Orange, CT


With 2009 being the Bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, you can imagine that Lincoln For The Ages was busy.  The interest that this celebratory year generated brought us to a wide variety of venues throughout the year.  Despite the rainiest year on record, none of the events at which Lincoln For The Ages performed was rained out; indeed, only two days suffered foul weather.  Here are the highlights of the year's performances.

LINCOLN DAY, Captain Forbes House Museum, Milton, MA
Under the auspices of Presenting The Lincolns, Mary Todd Lincoln joined President Lincoln for this annual event. 
Besides each of them giving a speech, the President and First Lady engaged in a gentle banter, to the delight of the museum guests who were given the opportunity to eavesdrop on the domestic side of life in the White House.  The Captain Forbes House Museum specializes in items of the China Trade and in Lincolniana.

The Year 2009 found us in schools all over, about half of them with the First Lady, in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.  Birthday parties and cakes abounded at these schools!

COMMUNITY DAY at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT

We joined the festivities at the annual Community Day on the campus of the University of Hartford.  This day opens the campus grounds to the public, and a broad variety of attractions provides entertainment for adults and children alike.  Many local and regional agencies and groups displayed and demonstrated their wares and services, adding to the fair-like atmosphere.  The President gave several speeches, in between which he toured the grounds, speaking with visitors and posing for photographs.  He even participated in the reading marathon in which all of the poems of Edgar Allan Poe (also born in 1809) were read out loud.

Lincoln For The Ages provided the Lincoln part for a modified Lincoln-Douglas debate as part of a broader Lincoln Bicentennial program, organized by the Steinberg-Lalli Charitable Foundation of Acton, MA, and the Concord Historical Commission of Concord, MA.  Besides the debate, several guest lecturers spoke about unique aspects of Lincoln, with musical interludes between speakers.  All in all, a fine evening by which to honor the memory of Lincoln.

Promoting local community involvement, the Lawrence Heritage State Park asked Lincoln For The Ages to participate in its Fourth of July observances.  Besides family games and a luncheon provided by local businesses, volunteers from the audience read sections of the Declaration of Independence.  Lincoln led a small parade in the locale of the park, and the celebration closed with a sing-along.  Coordinated with the local Sail-to-Trail program, the event was partially funded by a grant from the Lawrence Cultural Council, supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

GETTYSBURG ADDRESSED, Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, MA
On a fine July day on the lawn of the Longfellow House (which also served as headquarters to George Washington in the early days of the American Revolution), President Lincoln had the opportunity to meet with Edward Everett, the main speaker at Gettysburg to discuss the finer points of that memorable day in November 1863 for which Lincoln is far better known, although his speech was far shorter than Everett's.  Everett told Lincoln that Lincoln had come closer to the meaning of the day in three minutes than he [Everett] had come in two hours, which Lincoln took as a high compliment, coming from this
internationally renown American statesman.

VICTORIAN TEA, Parsonsfield Seminary, Parsonsfield, ME
First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln joined President Lincoln for a most bucolic engagement at the historic
Parsonsfield Seminary, which hosts an annual Victorian Tea.  The Friends of ParSem so enjoyed Mrs. Lincoln a few years ago
that they wanted to have the First Couple on hand to celebrate the President's birthday.  A fine afternoon for domestic banter between Abraham and Mary, followed by a lovely, light repast.  This event was funded in part by the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Humanities Council.

CIVIL WAR WEEKEND, Hearthside Homestead and Chase Farm, Lincoln, RI
Co-hosted by The Friends of Hearthside, this event featured battle reenactments, a Civil War civilian encampment and activities, and a raffle for dinner with General Grant and President Lincoln in Grant's headquarters camp.  The dinner had its own magic, as first-person, living history conversation on 19th Century topics of national and international import rolled effortlessly around the table, while white-gloved soldiers waited the tables and drained the fast-accumulating rain from the tent-fly overhead.  A highlight of the weekend was a press conference and interview with Judge Frank Williams,
Chief Justice (Ret.) of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and a devoted Lincoln scholar.

CIVIL WAR WEEKEND, Campagnone Common, Lawrence, MA
Mrs. Lincoln joined the President again for a pleasant afternoon on the common.  General and Mrs. Grant hosted a quiet Victorian tea at their headquarters tent, and Union soldiers of all branches of the army - infantry, cavalry, and artillery - drilled and exercised to the delight of visitors.  Organized and hosted by the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard, which includes the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers, who, in responding to Lincoln's call for troops, were attacked by Baltimore rioters as they marched between railroad stations.

HERITAGE WEEKEND, Smith-Harris House, East Lyme, CT
President and Mrs. Lincoln made a return visit to this fine event.  Rain on Saturday dampened the spirits of those less intrepid souls, but Sunday came off warm and dry, ideal for the Victorian Tea held outside under the dining fly.  This timeline event features historical periods from American history.  First-person presentations go on all day, making this event particularly notable.  Where else are you going to hear an antebellum Southern planter tell you about why slavery is important to his business?  Or see a Punch and Judy puppet show?  Saturday evening always finds the house host to a candlelight tour, each year an original theatrical production.



Even as notable as Lincoln became in his lifetime, and after, he shared his birth year and his birth day with other notable historical individuals.  The list below is only a few of them.

Jan 4         Louis Braille - developed Braille reading system for the blind

Jan 19        Edgar Allan Poe - American author and poet

Feb 3        Felix Mendelssohn - German music composer

Feb 12       Charles Darwin - scientist, theory of evolution, The Origin of Species

Feb 15       Cyrus Hall McCormick, Sr. - inventor of the mechanical harvesting reaper

Mar 31       Edward Fitzgerald - English scholar and poet (The Rubaiyat of Oman Khayyam)

Apr 1        Nikolai Gogol - Russian novelist, humorist, dramatist (“The Inspector General")

Aug 6        Alfred Lord Tennyson - English poet (“The Charge of the Light Brigade”)

Aug 27       Hannibal Hamlin - Lincoln’s Vice President in his first term

Aug 29       Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. - American author and poet, father of famous Supreme Court Justice

Nov. 27      Frances Anne “Fanny” Kemble - internationally renown Shakespearian actress

Dec 24      Christopher “Kit” Carson - Union Brig. General, Indian fighter        

Dec 29      Albert Pike - Lawyer, Brig. General who raised and led Confederate regiments of Native Americans

Dec 29      William Ewart Gladstone - Prime Minister of Great Britain

Lincoln knew very little about his ancestry.  As an adult, he did correspond occasionally with cousins in Virginia, from whence his grandfather Abraham had emigrated to Kentucky at the end of the 18th Century.  The descendants of “Virginia John” Lincoln who remained at the Linville Creek homestead near Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley established a family cemetery which exists today.

After the Civil War, former slaves were free to leave the plantations and go make new lives for themselves.  Some did move around, looking to settle new homes and communities for themselves.  Some went to the western frontier.  Some migrated north to industrial centers.  Others stayed on the plantations, the only home they had ever known, with former masters who had treated them well.

The Virginia Lincolns were a slave-holding family.  At the end of the war, some of their former slaves stayed on, among them Uncle Ned and his wife Queen.  The Lincoln family regarded these African Americans so much as family members that when they died, the Lincolns buried them in the family plot along with the rest of the Lincolns, without separation or distinction.

Lincoln’s birthday was a separate holiday from Washington’s birthday until 1971.  It never was a federally recognized holiday (a day off from work), as Washington’s is.  It is still a separate legal holiday in several states.

People began celebrating Washington’s birthday (February 22) beginning in 1796, almost four years before his death (December 14, 1799).  The observance of Washington’s birthday as a federal holiday was signed into law by President Chester Arthur in 1885.

Observance of Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) began in Congress in 1866.

In 1892, the State of Illinois was the first state to make Lincoln’s birthday a state holiday; other states followed suit.

In 1909, Congress officially sanctioned Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday.

In 1971, the observances of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays were combined, to be held on the Monday closest to Washington’s birthday, and named Presidents’ Day by President Richard M. Nixon.

February 1817:  Perry County, Indiana.  "At this place, A[braham] took an early start as a hunter, which was never much improved afterwards.  (A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log-cabin, and A. with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack, and killed one of them.  He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game.)"

Lincoln's own words, from an autobiography written for John L. Scripps, June 1860, as campaign material for the presidential race, from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. IV, edited by Roy P. Basler, 1953.



"I have only recently come to know the President, except from a passing introduction," Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, told L. E. Chittenden in the spring of 1862.  "I have lately met him five or six times.  He is producing a powerful impression upon me, more powerful than any one I can now recall.  It increases with every interview.  I think it my duty to take philosophic views of men and things, but the President upsets me.  If I did not resist the inclination, I might even fall in love with him."

Chittenden, a Register of the Treasury, pressed Henry for more details about his impressions of Lincoln, perhaps aware even at that early date that he would ultimately collect and prepare observations of this kind about Lincoln for future publication.

Henry went on: "I have not yet arranged my thoughts about him in a form to warrant their expression, but I can say so much as this: President Lincoln impresses me as a man whose honesty of purpose is transparent, who has no mental reservations, who may be said to wear his heart upon his sleeve.  He has been called coarse.  In my interviews with him he converses with
apparent freedom, and without a trace of coarseness.  He has been called ignorant.  He has shown a comprehensive grasp of every subject on which he has conversed with me.  His views of the present situation are somewhat novel, but seem to me unanswerable.  He has read many books and remembers their contents better than I do.  He is associated with men who I know are great.  He impresses me as their equal, if not their superior.  I desired to induce him to understand, and look favorably upon, a change which I wish to make in the policy of the Light-House Board in a matter requiring some scientific knowledge.  He professed his ignorance, or, rather, he ridiculed his knowledge of it, and yet he discussed it intelligently."

From Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration, by L. E. Chittenden, His Register of the Treasury, New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1891.

Joseph Henry (photo at left) (1797-1878), a physicist who pioneered in electricity and magnetism, was the first Secretary (or director) of the Smithsonian Institution from 1846 to 1878.  His vision formed the scope and mission of the Smithsonian as the unique research and cultural institution that we know today.

Lucius E. Chittenden (no photo available) (1824-1900), a native of Vermont, was an author of several books on topics of American history, a lawyer, and a politician, as well as a banker, which experience gave him credibility for his position as Register of the Treasury in Lincoln's administration.  He was prominent in the anti-slavery movement, was appointed as the Vermont delegate to the Washington Peace Conference which tried to avert the coming Civil War.

"I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here.  ...  We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped."  Simon Cameron, speaking about the Smithsonian Institution, 1861.

Cameron was Lincoln's first Secretary of War, whose Cabinet appointment proved short-lived when Cameron was found to be corrupt.  Lincoln ultimately made him an ambassador to Russia and sent him to St. Petersburg to cool his ambition for personal gain.



General John A. J. Creswell called at the White House to see the President the day of the latter's assassination.  An old friend, serving in the Confederate ranks, had been captured by the Union troops and sent to prison,  He had drawn an affidavit setting forth what he know about the man, particularly mentioning extenuating circumstances.

Creswell found the President very happy.  He was greeted with: "Creswell, old fellow, everything is bright this morning.  The War is over.  It has been a tough time, but we have lived it out, - or some of us have," and he dropped his voice a little on the last clause of the sentence.  "But it is over; we are going to have good times now, and a united country."

General Creswell told his story, read his affidavit, and said, "I know the man has acted like a fool, but he is my friend, and a good fellow; let him out; give him to me, and I will be responsible that he won't have anything more to do with the rebs."

"Creswell," replied Mr. Lincoln, "you make me think of a lot of young folks who once started out Maying.  To reach their destination, they had to cross a shallow stream, and did so by means of an old flatboat.  When the time came to return, they found to their dismay that the old scow had disappeared.  They were in sore trouble, and thought over all manner of devices for getting over the water, but without avail.

"After a time, one of the boys proposed that each fellow should pick up the girl he liked best and wade over with her.  The masterly proposition was carried out, until all that were left upon the island was a little short chap and a great, long, gothic-built, elderly lady.

"Now, Creswell, you are trying to leave me in the same predicament.  You fellows are all getting your own friends out of this scrape; and you will succeed in carrying off one after another, until nobody but Jeff Davis and myself will be left on the island, and then I won't know what to do.  How should I feel?  How should I look, lugging him over?

"I guess the way to avoid such an embarrassing situation is to let them all out at once."

From "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Lincoln Famous as America's Greatest Story Teller, by Colonel Alexander K. McClure, copyright by Henry Neil, 1901. 

Alexander K. McClure (1828-1909) was a close personal friend of Lincoln.  An eminent journalist, he founded in 1869 and was editor of the Philadelphia "Times."  He started out as a tanner's apprentice, spending his free time reading voraciously.  He was successful in the newspaper world, in politics, in law, and in the army during the Civil War.  In his capacity as chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, he was instrumental in Lincoln's presidential nomination.



Lincoln was known for telling stories, but few of them were his own invention.
He just recognized a good story when he heard it, and knew when to apply it.

"You speak of Lincoln stories.  I don't think that is a correct phrase.
I don't make the stories mine by telling them.  I'm only a retail dealer."



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