21st-Century Abe was active February 12, 2009-August 31, 2009.
To mark Lincoln’s 200th birthday we explored why we in the 21st century are still obsessed with this 19th-century man. Abe is everywhere, from advertising to political punditry. What does this popular Abe have to do with the historical Abe? 21st-Century Abe took six months to tackle these questions. We asked scholars and artists to get the ball rolling, but visitor responses have defined 21st-Century Abe.
The 21st-Century Abe blog is the place to find out what’s been happening on 21stcenturyabe.org and what fun, exciting or downright ridiculous things the curatorial team have discovered in their search for Lincoln.
The blog is no longer being updated. But please check out our older posts.
This project has been funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program with additional support from the Marketing Innovation Program. Additional support has come from the Samuel S. Fels Fund and The Raab Collection.
All good things must come to an end and today marks the last day of the 21st-Century Abe project and our last blog post. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the project by visiting the site, reading this blog, and contributing your Abe links, and Abe art that have helped illuminate the role of Lincoln in the modern world.
Although we will no longer be accepting new submissions to the site, the existing content–artists projects, found Abe, Rosenbach documents will remain available for you to browse and enjoy.
To find out what new projects the Rosenbach Museum & Library is up to, check out www.Rosenbach.org.
All those numbers from yesterday’s post got me thinking about world records and whether Lincoln has been involved in any. On Lincoln’s birthday this year The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum tried and failed to break the world record for the most people simultaneously reading from the same text–they organized a read-in of the Gettysburg Address, but fell more than 40,000 people short of the record. So to find a real Lincoln record we turn to Lincoln logs–here is a video clip documenting the world-record setting Lincoln-log structure. It involved over 10,000 logs and was set in 2001, making it quite appropriate for 21st-century Abe.
I feel that Lincoln must have been involved in some other world records somehow, so let me know if you know of any. Also, the ALPLM hasn’t given up hope on the simultaneous reading record–they’re setting their sights on the Civil War 150 for a reading of Lincoln’s Farewell Address to Springfield on Feb 11, 2011. So perhaps the second time will be the charm for Abe’s run at the record books.
People like numbers. They especially like big numbers. Whenever someone writes a book about Lincoln, or reviews a book about Lincoln, they like to note how many books have been written about him already–14,000 is the number that keeps being thrown about. Who knows if that’s an accurate number, but it’s an impressive one. So I thought I’d round up a few more Lincoln numbers for your enjoyment (all website numbers are from today 8/27):
Hits for “Abraham Lincoln” in a keyword search of the Library of Congress online catalog=7,417
Ebay results for “Abraham Lincoln”=2,214
Youtube results for Abraham Lincoln=13,100
Flickr results for “Arbrahm lincoln”= 30,663
Google hits for “Abraham Lincoln= 11,200,000
How ’bout a few numbers from the 21st-Century Abe website:
# of site visits: 28,014
# of unique visitors:22,016
# of countries represented by visitors: 126
# of blog posts written thus far=173
# of items in the Found Abe section=202
OK folks, here it is, the last in our weekly “document of the week” series. I’ve saved the best for last–this week features what is almost certainly the most important single Lincoln document in the Rosenbach collection–the manuscript of the Baltimore Address. (I’m pretty certain I didn’t do this one yet–bear with me if I’m mistaken)
So what makes these such important pieces of paper. First, there’s the rarity factor–this is a complete manuscript of Lincoln speech, which is rare and it is a speech which he gave as President, which is even rarer since I think he only gave about a dozen public speeches while in office.
Second, there is the content. In this speech, which Dr. Wilson describes as one which really deserves to be better known, Lincoln tackles some mighty big issues. He talks about the competing definitions of liberty which are at the heart of the Civil War conflict, as well as addressing the massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow.
He not only tackles big issues, but does it with style–the musing on the meaning of liberty is very elegant and Lincolnian: “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name———liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names———liberty and tyranny.” Lincoln follows it up with another gem of Lincoln style–an Aesopian fable about a wolf and a black sheep.
Finally, the collecting history of the manuscript is pretty interesting. You might notice the horizontal lines which indicate that the manuscript was cut up and reassembled. We think it was probably cut up in order to be set into type at a newspaper. Shortly after it appeared in print the newspaper owner, who was a big Lincoln supporter, asked Lincoln if he would donate the speech to be sold at the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair to benefit the troops (the newspaper owner’s wife was on one of the fair’s committees). Lincoln agreed and the speech was sold (he had donated the original autograph copy of the final Emancipation Proclamation to Chicago Northwestern Sanitary Fair in 1863) I believe it may have had an additional intermediate owner before Dr. Rosenbach purchased it, but he certainly had good taste—as you can see it is one cool document! To find out more, please head over to the document viewer to check it out!
As a follow-up to a New York Times article about Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier photograph from the Spanish Civil War, which apparently could not have been photogarphed where and when it was supposed to have been, the Times put together a brief “History of Photo Fakery”, which includes this print, which was made by grafting Lincoln’s head onto an existing print of John C. Calhoun. This was not an unusual practice in printmaking and to be honest I’m not really sure that I could call it “fakery.” However, it is particularly amusing given that Lincoln differed rather substantially (shall we say) from Calhoun in his political views–Calhoun was at the forefront of the Nullification Crisis of 1832, when South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union over tariffs, and and was one of the main architects of the Southern political ideology and the Southern defense of slavery as a “positive good” for all involved, including the slaves.
Another Lincoln image that was made by reworking an older print is the memorial “Apotheosis of Lincoln”, which was cribbed from James Barralet’s 1802 print “the apotheosis of Washignton.” But since Lincoln liked Washington much more than he liked Calhoun, somehow it seems a bit better.
If this sort of adaptation interests you, you might enjoy the Rosenbach’s upcoming exhibit “Friend or Faux: Imitation and Invention from Innocent to Fraudulent” which opens on November 11 and explores the realm of copies, forgeries, reproductions and adaptations. Join the Rosenbach’s mailing list to keep up to date on this exhibition and all the cool programs we’ll be hosting around it.
When I’m not obsessing about Lincoln for 21st-Century Abe I do have some time for other projects at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and recently I’ve been spending some time doing research in preparation for an exhibit on dime novels, which is slated to go up next summer (2010). If you’re not familiar with them, dime novels were inexpensive paperback novels popular in the late 19th-century; their name comes from the fact that they initially sold for a dime, although later many “half-dime” publications emerged.
They are often thought of today as being lurid or trashy, being solely about cowboys and Indians, and being solely the province of boys, but I’m realizing now that isn’t the case. Many novels, especially the earlier ones published closer to 1860, were written by “real authors” and were intended to appeal to a broad audience, not a child audience. Lincoln himself reportedly praised Metta Victor’s novel about slave life entitled Maum Guinea and Her Plantation Children which was strongly in the abolitionist vein and included an extended account of Nat Turner’s rebellion.
One of the things that intrigues me about these books as I read through them is that on one hand they seem “cheap”–they are usually very derivative (one book I just read aped Robinson Crusoe to the extent of including a naked footprint scene) , have little character development, care more about filling the requisite pages than in developing a coherent plot, and utilize ridiculous dialects– but on the other hand they can expect some sophisticated knowledge from their readers–dropping in Latin phrases, having characters speak in French (without translation), or making references to the Comte de Buffon, an 18th-century naturalist.
Hopefully by now you’ve all had a chance to listen to and enjoy Bryce Dessner’s six Lincolnian compositions on the site–if you like them, remember, you can download them and keep them forever! Also remember that if you missed his live performance here at the Rosenbach in April, you can find a couple video clips on our Youtube Channel (they are also posted to the Rosenbach’s Facebook Page).
But what I really wanted to share with you today was a really cool radio piece I just found about the kind of music Lincoln enjoyed. It’s called “Lincoln’s Music” and it apparently aired back in early February on the Illinois station WUIS , but I just ran across it on Public Radio Exchange. Yes, PRX is a bit annoying in that they make you register before you can actually listen to the darn thing, but trust me, it’s worth it. The show is nearly an hour long and is chock full of great music–plus they talk about the ways in which 1860s instruments were different from their modern counterparts, which really gave you a sense of what the music then might have sounded like. Go ahead and have a listen–and if you have other ideas of Lincoln music resources on the web, please drop me a comment so I can enjoy them.
This week’s document is a letter from Lincoln to U.D. Grant written four days after the fall of Richmond. He’s informing Grant of a meeting he had with a Judge Campbell, who had served as Assistant Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Their conversation had concerned the reassembly of the rebel Virginia legislature for reuniting with the Union and withdrawing Virginian troops from the field.
It looks like an Ohio man may have found an envelope signed and dated by Lincoln on April 14, 1865–the day he was assassinated. Check out the full story in the Morning Journal (or on NPR). He apparently bought it at a flea market–why can’t I ever find those sorts of things when I go garage saling?The note doesn’t have much in terms of content, but given that it was signed on Lincoln’s last day it takes on added significance (and monetary value).
Who knows, maybe there are more out there. Happy hunting…