I grew up in Chicago, which, being located in a state called Illinois, celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th. I have always found it curious that it is Illinois and not Kentucky(his actual birthplace) that claims for itself the rubric “Land of Lincoln”. And I have been told, though it may be apocryphal, that the only reason for the penny’s existence is the State of Illinois’s insistence.
Be that as it may, apparently in other parts of the country regard for the Great Emancipator has diminished —so that he must now share a car sales holiday with the father of our country,George Washington—Presidents’s Day. So it goes. In any case , I believe I have learned about as much as I need to know about Lincoln, having availed myself of Gore Vidal’s novel of the same name.In fact, let me venture (to the sure fire opprobrium of some of my more judicious friends) to opine that reading Vidal’s fictional history of of the USA offers a better insight into the real story than the usual academic texts.
Recently Adam Gopnik fabricated Angels and Apes, a clever book based on the coincidence of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin’s birthdays.What I recall from my reading of that tome is that books on Lincoln rival in number those of Jesus Christ. (the popularity of Lincoln books obviously an easy path to publication, I considered marshaling my considerable historical research skills to create a book about Lincoln’s dog.)
Lincoln A novel by Gore Vidal ( Random House/ 1984)
Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History by Richard Wightman Fox ( W. W. Norton )
“Lincoln’s Body explores how a president ungainly in body and downright “ugly” of aspect came to mean so much to us.”
President Lincoln Assassinated!!: The Firsthand Story of the Murder, Manhunt, by Harold Holzer (A Special Publication of The Library of America)
This enormous story is told in more than eighty original documents—eyewitness reports, medical records, trial transcripts, newspaper articles, speeches, letters, diary entries, and poems—by more than seventy-five participants and observers, including the assassin John Wilkes Booth and Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot him. Also included eulogies by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, and Benjamin Disraeli and poetry by Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and Julia Ward Howe two speeches by Frederick Douglass—one of them never before published—reveal
Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes(Yale University Press)
“Hodes brings to life a key moment of national uncertainty and confusion, when competing visions of America’s future proved irreconcilable and hopes for racial justice in the aftermath of the Civil War slipped from the nation’s grasp. Hodes masterfully brings the tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination alive in human terms—terms that continue to stagger and rivet us one hundred and fifty years after the event they so strikingly describe.”
Lincoln For Beginners by Paul Buhle and Sharon Rudahl (For Beginners)
Looking at Paul Buhle’s bibliography reveals a rich assortment of picture history books—FDR and the New Deal For Beginners, A People’s History of American Empire with Howard Zinn, Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Beats: A Graphic History, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. And my favorite Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form In this tome, Buhle attempts to simplify the who Lincoln was out of a morass of historiography
Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America by Brian McGinty( Liveright)
In May 6, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton barreled into a pillar of the Rock Island Bridge—the first railroad bridge ever to span the Mississippi River. Soon after, the newly constructed vessel erupted into flames and sank in the river below, taking much of the bridge with it.This case, Hurd et al. v. The Railroad Bridge Company,as presented by Lincoln scholarBrian McGinty is viewed as the most consequential trial in Lincoln’s career as a lawyer.
What I did not know anything about in Lincoln’s history
was the tragic case of Mary Surratt who was the lone female charged, found guilty and hung as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. Robert Redford’s 2010 film,The Conspirator,makes Secretary of War Edward Stanton the villain as he pressures for a conviction. Fine performance by Robin Penn.
Currently reading Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Larry Siems (Little Brown)