Archive for the ‘Lincoln Blogs’ Category

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Friday Blincoln Blog

October 3, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve put together a Blincoln Blog, which is a real shame because I took a pretty great picture of a Lincoln statue here in Indianapolis which would make great eye candy (iCandy?) if I’d ever find the time to research it a little bit (er…a “great picture” by took-it-with-my-cellphone standards).

But today I have something better.

The Indiana Humanities Council has been working with the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission on putting together One State, One Story, encouraging teachers, students and everybody else to try to read one book on Lincoln this year. As part of the effort the IHC designed some eye-catching bookmarks which are going/have gone out to all the schools in the state. The front is a simple design while the back has a list…

Why am I explaining it to you? You can just go here to see them. This Living Resource is a pretty great one-stop shopping experience for those wishing wishing to educate young Hoosiers on the life and times of our 16th (and perhaps greatest) president. (Apologies for the editorializing.)

Anyway, I guess I spoiled the surprise. The whole post is intended to 1) get you thinking about Lincoln, because that’s never a waste of time and 2) to direct you to this great resource from the IDOE, the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and us.

Have a great weekend all!

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Friday Blincoln Blog

June 27, 2008

My parents divorced when I was 13. Before turning 14 and starting high school, my mom and I moved to her hometown, Evansville, Indiana. My dad was in the Army and so prior to that I was only an occasional Hoosier.

We moved in with my aunt for the summer while mom got her bearings: found a house, a job etc. My aunt encouraged me to spend more time at the house of a friend of hers. They went camping…a lot.

It is no exaggeration to say that I spent the majority of that summer at Lincoln State Park. No joke. We Junior Naturalist Patchwent out there for a weekend, then a week, and then…after that…we came home only two or three times to do laundry and pick up more groceries. I earned my Junior Naturalist and Hoosier Ecologists badges (.pdf) from the Department of Natural Resources and I went to practically every hike, star gazing, flower identifying, or bird watching event that was sponsored by the park rangers.

I walked “the trails that Lincoln walked;” I visited his churchyard; and I saw where some of his family was buried.

And I watched Young Abe Lincoln probably 1,000 times. That part might be exaggeration. In some box somewhere in my house, is a signed play program from every actor and actress that walked in front of the lime lights of the amphitheater that summer. Apparently Young Abe Lincoln disappeared for awhile after they lost their funding but it is expected to resume next year. And thank goodness. I suppose that none of us likes to see the things we enjoyed as children disappear.

Traveling from Evansville to Lincoln City was also the first time I ever rode on a motorcycle. And that’s pretty cool.

All things considered, it was a pretty great summer, a truly unforgettable experience. Some people commune with nature but I spent a summer in the woods communing with our 16th president.

Because I’m a double nerd.

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Friday Blincoln Blog

June 20, 2008

When Lincoln was running for president he was routinely called “the western candidate” or “the candidate from the West” and other variations. In that time the western states truly were backwaters and the people from the area were often demeaned as hayseeds, rubes, and the like. Casting Lincoln in that role was purposeful baiting. Stephen Douglas, during his historic debates with the future Emancipator, referred explicitly and implicitly to Lincoln’s less-than-cosmopolitan upbringing as a way of turning the crowds against him.

Of course such political liabilities have been turned on their heads in recent years. Contemporary presidents have all made every effort to downplay their elite childhoods or Ivy League educations. Bill Clinton, although a Rhodes Scholar, famously ate at McDonalds during his morning jogs and wore boxers. His nickname was “Bubba.”

George Bush and Ronald Reagan were sure to get photographed on their ranches. Et cetera.

Although we now look back on Lincoln’s childhood in rural Kentucky and Indiana as a kind of moral play–an inspiration for poor children across the country–Lincoln was never proud of it. He refused to romanticize the life of subsistence farming as many of his political contemporaries did, and he was ashamed of his lack of formal education.

But Lincoln was a powerful intellect by any measure. Although he lacked the advantage of a schoolroom, he was sure to provide himself the education he needed. As this Lincoln Bicentennial blog reminds us, Lincoln was a book devourer, famously reading borrowed books by candle and fire lights. He taught himself to write by scratching the alphabet onto the dirt on a shovel, and so on and so on.

But my favorite image of Lincoln’s dogged pursuit of self-edification is one remembered by a colleague of Lincoln’s while they were sharing a room while running the court circuit–of having come home from some event or other that Lincoln was curiously absent from. Returning to their room he opened the door to find Lincoln surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper, his fingers stained with ink. After having worked his way through much of Euclid’s geometry on his own, Lincoln had spent the evening trying to square the circle.

It is hard to think of any modern politicians being so distracted.

Photo from flickr user Angie C used under Creative Commons License.

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Friday Blincoln Blog

June 13, 2008

I’m going to get at Lincoln in a very roundabout fashion for today’s Blincoln Blog. I was reviewing the list of the grants that the IHC awarded in its second 2008 round and I noticed that one of them went to the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society. I thought the name, Lew Wallace, sounded familiar, so I looked him up. And let me just tell you, he’s an impressive cat.

I first learned of Lew Wallace’s Indiana connection when I was working as an intern for the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports a few years ago. INShape Indiana’s office was right on The Circle in downtown Indianapolis and that’s when I first began taking an interest in the architecture here.

Several buildings would stand out enough for me to look up after my lunch break was over and the Blacherne was one. Or, more accurately, the Blacherne is a fine looking building but it has it’s name written on it, which makes it easy to remember and look up. And that’s when I learned about Lew Wallace, Civil War general, and architect.

I also learned that tidbit that he is certainly most famous for: He is the author of Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a book that, Wikipeidia will tell, you has never been out of print in 137 years and has had been adapted to film an incredible four times.

In addition to battlefield and authorial success (and architectural) Wallace also served as governor of the New Mexico territory and as the U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire. The list really goes on and on.

He was born in Brookville, Indiana and died in Crawfordsville.

Abraham Lincoln connection:

Well, in addition to serving in the Union Army, he also served on the military commission that tried Lincoln’s assassins.

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Not a Friday Blincoln Blog

June 11, 2008

I know it’s not Friday and therefore not time for this site’s only weekly feature so far, Blincoln Blogs, but news is news. So, if you must, blame me for not sticking to my own rules. Otherwise, just give me the benefit of the doubt and consider this museum news.

Courtesy of the fine folks at The Indiana Law Blog I’ve just learned that there are plans afoot to keep the Lincoln Museum’s $20 million collection of memorabilia at its current Fort Wayne location. This is doubly good news for those, like the Indiana Humanities Council, that are active partners in celebrating the Lincoln Bicentennial.

It’s not written in stone yet however:

Indiana’s bid, while strong, is not a done deal, according to those involved. Among others in the running: the Smithsonian Institution and the Lincoln Museum and Library in Springfield, Ill.

Good luck to those behind keeping the collection here–nothing against the Smithsonian or Illinois’ LMS but, y’know, home is home.

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Friday: Blincoln Blogs

June 6, 2008

As the Democratic primary race folded and the contest for November began to shape up with advocates on both sides abler to size up the competition, The New York Times Book Review asked several writers what books they might recommend for the future president.

I am not alone in my recommendation: Team of Rivals. To be honest, I didn’t initially think of ToR would but after Professor Drezner mentioned it, I had to immediately conclude he was right.

Goodwin’s book, as it’s title suggests, is not about Abraham Lincoln alone, but rather it covers a specific element of Lincoln and his leadership style. The new Republican Party of the mid-19th Century was looking for a candidate for president and they had their eyes on several people. Goodwin focuses on five: Abraham Lincoln, who would eventually win the nomination and then the presidency; Edward Bates who would serve as Lincoln’s attorney general; William Seward Sr., who would serve as Lincoln’s secretary of state; Edwin Stanton who would serve as Secretary of War; and Salmon Chase, who would serve as Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury.

The three men who were not Lincoln hated or at least did not respect the man who was. Goodwin follows all four men and analyzes how it was that Lincoln decided to fill his cabinet with his previous rivals–who were not just political rivals but were outspoken, highly-regarded, ideological rivals. Such dynamics would almost certainly have destroyed the presidency of a lesser man than was our 16th president.

I would also recommend the Complete Calvin and Hobbes–snowman sculpture has a way of taking the mind off the serious issues of the day.

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Friday: (B)Lincoln (B)logs

May 30, 2008

Lincoln was not just a great problem solver but he had a hawk’s eye for spotting new opportunities. I’m specifically thinking of his unrivaled ability to take advantage of new technologies in their infancies and utilize them in ways unintended by their creators.

My colleague Nancy has already mentioned (in the comments section) the book she’s reading on how Lincoln was an early adopter of the telegraph and how he used that technology to improve the logistical structure of the northern army (setting the pattern for continued American excellence in military logistics).

Equally savvy, and more in line with our mission as a state humanities council, Lincoln understood the increased intimacy created between candidate and voter when the latter could view the former in photographs. During his campaign for president in 1860, 35 photographs of Lincoln by Matthew Brady were circulated, making Lincoln the first president to use the new medium for political means. This political and artistic genius culminated, in Lincoln’s own mind, in his eventual victory. As Lincoln would say afterward, “Make no mistake, Brady made me President!”

The image here is not a Matthew Brady image but was taken by Alexander Gardner to use as a model for a portrait of the president he wanted to paint and is one of several works offered through Picturing America, a collection of iconic images from throughout American history.

(Click on the image to see a larger version of it on the Picturing America website.)

Over 600 Indiana schools and libraries have received the Picturing America prints.

This entry was posted by: Jim