DID YOU KNOW (Part 15) ABRAHAM LINCOLN

1. Did you know … that Abraham Lincoln was the first President to make Thanksgiving a national holiday! On October 3, 1863 he issued a proclamation that set the precedent for the national holiday observed today. It is often referred to as the Proclamation of Thanksgiving and was written by Secretary of State, William Seward. Here is the proclamation as found in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6, pages 497-498, edited by Roy P. Basler.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who,Page  497 while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

[L.S.]

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

2. Did you know … that on April 14, 1956, the last surviving person who was in Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination passed away. His name was Samuel J. Seymour and he was 96 years old. It’s ironic that he died exactly 91 years to the day that the assassination took place. At the time of the assassination, Seymour was just 5 years old. His godmother, Mrs. George S. Goldsborough, took him to see Our American Cousin. They sat in the Dress Circle facing opposite the Presidential box and witnessed the assassination and Booth’s leap to the stage.

Reference: We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts by Timothy S. Good.

we-saw-lincoln-shot-book-timothy-s-good

3. Did you know …  that Abraham Lincoln wore reading glasses? He first needed them at age 47 (around 1856). On the night of his death, the contents of Lincoln’s pockets held two pairs of his glasses/spectacles. The prescription for the lenses of the spectacles is +1.75 and +2.00.

 tm012-th at0050hs-th

Above is the collection of items President Lincoln had in his possession on the night of his assassination. Two pairs of eyeglasses were part of that collection. Courtesy Library of Congress.

NOTE: Just this month (November 19, 2008), a pair of Abraham Lincoln’s spectacles sold at the 2008 November The John Lattimer Collection of Lincolniana Grand Format Auction #6014 for US$179,250.00. The pair is made of zinc-colored metal with adjustable frames, open loop terminals.

lincolns-spectacles-1 

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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To see the entire series, click here “SUMMARY OF THE “DID YOU KNOW” ABRAHAM LINCOLN SERIES (Parts 1-15)”         

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If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by three Lincoln experts:

 

“An Awesometalk With” ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the ‘Abraham Lincoln Research Site’ (posted on December 30, 2008)

.

“An Awesometalk With” DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted on December 08, 2008)

 

“An Awesometalk With” HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted on November 10, 2008)

 

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  1. No, Lincoln was not the first president to make Thanksgiving a holiday. The two are unconnected. His proclamation was one of many such that were issued from his office, and such proclamations for this kind of observance, usually called “days of fasting and humiliation”, were issued by presidents since Washington in response to public events. In Lincoln’s case, of course, they had to do with his war.

    But this kind of proclamation was customary from time immemorial from every head of state in Christendom, including royal colonial governors here and elected governors after independence. None has anything to do with any annual observance. The documents are all available for your examination.

    But, all in all, especially in view of the glaringly obvious fact that no president can decree a holiday, this is one of the most preposterous bits of nonsense current in the United States today.

  2. Thank you for your comments Dr. Johnson. For those of you not familiar with Dr. Johnson’s work, he is a renowned scholar, writer and religion columnist.
    As always, I appreciate insight and comments about the content of what I publish here.
    The point I am trying to make is that the document, written by Secretary of State Seward, clearly mentions the following, “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving…”. Whether the proclamation was legal or acting upon the religious sentiment within the document was not my point Dr. Johnson. I was simply pointing out the fact that with this Proclamation the observance of Thanksgiving was given an exact day of the year to follow. And Americans have been following it ever sense. I don’t dispute your information but just wanted to put this in a simple context. And to your point, this kind of proclamation has used very similar rhetoric throughout history so the approach was not new. However, the exact date specified by Seward was new and that is the point I was making.
    Earlier this week, I sat in on a speech by President Clinton and he commented on the fact that President Lincoln was the first to proclaim Thanksgiving for a national observance. That is what prompted me to find the document and post it here.
    I would love to hear from others on this issue. Please feel free to comment (with respect to each other) and include as much factual information as you can.
    Best
    Barry

  3. Sarah Josepha Hale was the motivating force behind the annual observance. This particular proclamation fell on that date more by coincidence than anything else, and the two observances are entirely distinct in their natures.

    For many years, up to the 1950s, Yankee Thanksgiving was not celebrated–and pointedly not celebrated–in many areas of the South. Even though from 1865 until nearly a century later failure or refusal to celebrate it resulted in social and political sanctions, loss of business, or violence.

    But, no, Lincoln’s proclamation really didn’t have anything to do with the annual holiday. Mrs. Hale had been lobbying for it for years, and it took about 80 years for it to become a fairly universal observance.

  4. Thanks Dr. Johnson. This is wonderful information. I found one of Sarah Josepha Hale efforts in an 1858
    article in the “Editor’s Table,” Godey’s Lady’s Book called…

    OUR NATIONAL THANKSGIVING

    “All the blessings of the fields,
    All the stores the garden yields,
    All the plenty summer pours,
    Autumn’s rich, o’erflowing stores,
    Peace, prosperity and health,
    Private bliss and public wealth,
    Knowledge with its gladdening streams,
    Pure religion’s holier beams —
    Lord, for these our souls shall raise
    Grateful vows and solemn praise.”

    “We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States — as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all — that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY Of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people. Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart. This truly American Festival falls, this year on the twenty fifth day of this month.

    Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the “feast of fat things,” and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world”.

    Dr. Johnson, thanks for sharing this information with me and my readers. It’s another piece of the puzzle in history. Thanks for your kind assistance.

    Best
    Barry

  5. Hi,
    I am Brasilian but I like to read about Lincoln since I was a boy. I have almost 100 books about the great President here in my house in Brasil.
    Some years ago I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams: to visit Springfield and see the places where Lincoln lived and worked.
    And I liked to read again here the story of the boy who saw Lincoln shot. Timothy Good sent me his book last year and I thought it very interesting.

    Sebastiao Albano
    sealban@aol.com

    • Hi Sebastiao: Thank you very much for contacting me. It is very exciting for me to talk to people from all over the world. Especially fans of President Lincoln. I am really happy to hear that Timothy S. Good sent you his book. That must have been very exciting for you. I enjoyed his book “We Saw Lincoln Shot”. I’ve always been a big fan of actual eyewitness accounts.
      Tell me more about your interest in Lincoln and how you got started.
      Thanks for writing Sebastiao.
      Best
      Barry

  6. Hy Barry,

    Thanks for your kind response.
    Yes, it was a great pleasure to receive an autographed book from Mr. Timothy Good.
    You asked me tell you how I got to know Lincoln and I’ll tell you the story.
    First of all excuse my errors in your language. I”m a teacher of Portuguese but I try to do the little I know in English too.

    How I knew Lincoln

    MY ENCOUNTER WITH LINCOLN

    My interest in Lincoln began when I was 12, in 1956, and we lived in Cachoeira Paulista, SP, Brazil.
    My father had died when I was 4 and my mother, with her three kids, went to live at our grandmother’s house. In spite of being a big old house, it was a little far from downtown and we were poor. In that house already lived my grandfather, grandmother, a sister of my grandmother, two brothers of my mother, and now we, the four newcomers.

    I grew up a barefoot boy until 1951, when I went to school. At that time I had to help my family with all the chores. I had to cut wood for granny’s stove. I had to bring drinkable water from the spring almost half a mile away from home. I helped my uncles to build fences in the big backyard and a lot of other chores. But at free time I liked to read. I began to learn with a black woman who lived in the same street and when I was 7 I went to school.

    My grandmother was always reading newspapers and had some books at home. Most of them religious books but I loved to read. Besides reading, I liked to play soccer with other boys of the street, and swim and fish in a brook near our house.

    This same year my mother began to work as a cleaner in the big school downtown. She had to work to raise her threee kids. Besides cleaning she had to prepare lunch for the students. The lunch was a vegetable soup, sometimes with pieces of meat, but not always. After 5 p.m. she, and three other women, had a lot of classrooms to sweep. Then every afternoon I went there to help her in the cleaning work.

    Under the big building there was a large basement and I always wanted to enter there to explore it but my mother never allowed me to do that. However, one day, after having swept my classrooms I found the basement door open and without my mother’s consent I began my exploration. I went until the last room on the west side, not without a certain fear because it was dark, and there I found a bookshelf with several big black books covered with dust. I picked up one, went near the little window in the thick wall, and opened it. I opened exactly in a full page photograph of a man’s face. It was a dark, shaved, thin face. That face caught my attention and I read the name at the foot of the page, writen in Portuguese: Abraão Lincoln.

    At this very moment my mother was screaming from the basement door. I put the book back in its place and ran to the door where my mother scolded me for a long minute and made me to promise I would never enter the basement again. She said me that in that basement there were cockroachs, spiders and scorpions, and that I was never allowed to return there.

    But that photograph and that name remained on my mind. On the way home I asked she who Abrãao Lincoln was. She was angry with me yet and answered with a simple “I don’t know!” In fact she did not know. At home I asked my uncle who Abraão Lincoln was and he replied: “I don’t know, but you can ask your granny. She is always reading the newspapers and perhaps she knows.”

    Granny only knew that he had been president of the United States. I was eager to lean more but she said:

    ” Oh, boy! You always want to know too much! I don’t know. Isn’t it enough to know he was an American president?”

    ” No!”, I answered, “I want to know more.” And at this very moment I was scolded again, this time by my uncle who was entering my granny’s room.

    However, uncle Geraldo had a heart this big, and at one of his trips to São Paulo, the capital of our state, he bought me a Lincoln biography writen for children, and in Portuguese, of course. I passed some days reading the book and when I discovered that Lincoln had done all the chores I had to do every day, I never stopped reading about that man. And then I established a dream to fulfill. One day I would go to the USA to know all the things related to Lincoln I had read about.

    In 1979, when I was 35, I fulfilled that old dream. I visited Chicago and Springfield. Unfortunatelly I had not the chance to see everything I wanted because of the lack of time and money, but I intend to return there some day. Maybe for the celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial.

    Today, 48 years later, I don’t remember the name of the author of that first book any more, but as time went by I began to buy every book I could find here in Brazil about that great man. It was a hard work to find a book on the subject here, and in all these years I could get a dozen of them, but now, thanks to the Internet I have made friends in the USA and some of them have sent me books. Some books I buy via Internet too. And now my “Lincoln Library” has almost a hundred books.

    Now I can say I’m really learning about Abraham Lincoln.
    …………………………………….

    That’s the story. If you don’t like feel at easy to erase it.

    Sebastiao Albano
    Cruzeiro, SP – Brasil
    s.albano@ymail.com

    P.S. I’m constructing a blog of Lincoln in Portuguese and using some photos I made in Springfield when I visited that city. You can see it at:
    http://alway10.blogspot.com

  7. AN UNFORGETABLE JOURNEY

    I went to Springfield on a Saturday, September 1, 1979, to fulfill one of my greatest dreams since I was a youngster: to see Lincoln’s house and other things related to him in the area. I got off the Greyhound bus I took from Chicago and, suitcase in hand, began to walk through the city.

    On a corner there were two old guys seated on a wooden bench in the shadow of a tree. I asked about a hotel and one of them said, “There, at the end of the street you can see a hotel. That big building. It’s really nice.” The other reacted immediately: “No, it’s too expensive! Here behind this street there’s a little hotel, very nice and, most of all, cheap.” It was exactly what I wanted. I thanked the gentlemen and went to find the Governor Hotel.

    It was a really “American” hotel. Iron staircases and brickwalls throughout. It seemed like something from the movies that I went to in the Cachoeira movie house when I was little. After a long and well-deserved soak in the bath I went out, into afresh and lovely evening, to find Lincoln’s house. According to the information given to me by the lady who was the hotel concierge, I went by the old Capitol and as far as the corner of Eighth and Jackson. And there, suddenly, in front of me, was what I wanted to see for a long, long time: a little two story wooden house where Lincoln had lived a good part of his life, before being elected President.

    I was inside for a long time observing the details and, when I left, went to visit the other places related to the great man. The station from where he took the train to Washington, the law office, the State Capitol where he worked and everything else that I could see that day. That night, I saw a fantastic sound and light show in front of the Capitol. Unforgettable. Lee J.Cobb was the narrator, Whit Bissell was the voice of Stephen Douglas and Paul Lambert the voice of Lincoln. That “Sound and Light” still remains in my memory until today.

    The following day, as I couldn’t leave it be, I returned to Lincoln’s house. After much more time inside there, observing all the details, I left and sat on a wooden bench, almost near the, gate, in the shadow of a tree. I was there for some time observing the people that came to visit that house. I saw people from all over the world: from Japan, from India and other countries. It was there, then, that I perceived that Lincoln was a world figure, not only an American one.That very moment a black man, about 40 years old, sat down by my side and asked me the time. When I replied, he immediately knew by my accent that I was not American and asked where I was from. I said that I was from Brazil and, as I never wasted an opportunity to converse with Americans to practice my insufferable English, told him the story, that I was there fulfilling a childhood dream: to visit Lincoln’s house. “You mean that you came from Brazil over here only to visit Lincoln’s house? ” he asked. “Not just that. Other things too,” I said.

    When I looked at him again, he was staring in front of him, as if he were looking at no place, with eyes full of tears, nodding his head affirmatively and saying, as if to himself, “Yeah, Old Lincoln was really a good guy”. That man moved me too.

    Immediately he wanted to know everything that I had seen during those two days. “Did you already see the train station? The law office? The Capitol? Did you see…” I answered yes to all. Then he asked, “did you already go to the cemetery to see Lincoln’s tomb?” There I responded negatively because of the fact that I didn’t have a ride there. I said that perhaps I’d do that on the next visit, if one day I were to return to that city.

    It seems that that was the answer that he wanted. Quickly he said, “Come with me”. His car was parked nearby and he took me to the cemetery, some miles away from the city. When we arrived he parked in the shadow of a tree and said to me, “You can see everything that you want. I’ll wait here in the car. I used to come here when I was little. Feel free.”

    After seeing and photographing everything, I returned to the place where the man was still waiting for me. Then he took me back to the city center and left me at the door of the Governor Hotel. When I got out of the car I had my hand in my pocket, got out my wallet and asked, “How much do I owe you for your efforts?” His answer surprised me: “Absolutely nothing. You were my guest”. I didn’t believe this and insisted, but he determinedly refused to receive a thing. Then I thanked him much and entered the hotel.

    The following day, on a Greyhound on its way to Chicago, remembering everything that I had seen on those two unforgettable days, was that I awoke to find I had done something stupid. In all the anxious rush to see so many things, I never in the least got that good man’s name and address, so that later I could send him a thank-you for his hospitality. However, until now, almost 30 years later, when I remember him, I ask God to give him much health and peace and that he be rewarded for his goodwill.

    • Hi Sebastiao: It is wonderful to see Lincoln (and life) through your eyes. Your trip to Springfield was great. My Springfield trip was cancelled due to bad weather. I was very disappointed but it’s nice to read your experience because I can envisioned myself there. One day Sebastiao. One day!
      Thanks for sharing.
      Best
      Barry

  8. Hello all

    Great Site!

  9. Hi Barry
    As I don’t have your email address the I’ll write here.
    When I visited Springfield, a long long time ago,I made a drawing of Lincoln and yesterday – 02/12 – I decided to send it to Professor Roger Norton.
    Guess what happened.
    He liked the sketch very much and asked my permission to post the drawing in his website. Of course I agreed.
    You can see it at:

    http://home.att.net/~rjnorton/Lincoln2.html

    It is on the right side of the page in the poem “Mortality”. And he put my name at the botton of the page.

    Besides that he made acomment at ALO

    http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln.html

    I never felt so happy in all my life as a Lincoln buff.

    Best wishes

    Sebastiao Albano
    sn.sa@uol.com.br


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