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Lincoln on a Railroad to Presidency

After having resided successfully and allocating significant importance to the city via means of personal life and career decisions, Abraham Lincoln along with his family: his wife, Mary Todd and son, were memorialized within the limitations of an entire city, a city now inhabited by well over 200,000 people. Prior to being elected for the presidency, Lincoln had acquired and attained status as an accomplished lawyer in association with the politics of the Whig party and later became a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, his career thus developed and gained most tangibility in Springfield, Illinois. Due to such reasoning, Springfield is well-known as the Land of Lincoln, as it is expected that his memory should permeate that location and more specific sites within, such as the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and more isolated within this descant, the Great Western Depot.



November 6, 1860– Lincoln is elected as the President of the United States.

Lincolns last speech


Though not as momentous as his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln delivered a succinct, yet enduring speech at the Great Western Railroad Depot in Springfield. This “Farewell Speech” given on February 11, 1861, was not meant to attend to a multitudinous crowd- but for those who had interacted with Lincoln and his family as they made their home in Illinois. The railroad depot, if obvious enough was intermediary for travels and while also being a physical location for possible beginnings and final destinations for those traveling by train, it was also a symbolic representation for the beginning or settling down of one’s life. In context of Lincoln, his presence at the Great Western Railroad Depot on February 11, 1861, was one marking the beginning of his presidential journey heading way to Washington D.C. For the comparatively-speaking brief address of Lincoln meant only for his intimate entourage and ready journalists, there have been three versions that have been propagated since.

The prevailing version is indicated below and has been made readily available by the Library of Congress, it is also the official version that had been written by Lincoln himself.



“My friends, No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care      commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.” [2]

Another version that has been circulating subsequently, and has been acknowledged to be almost fully identical to the excerpt that had appeared in the February 23, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly attending to the speech.

 “My Friends:

No one not in my position can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century; here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine aid which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support, and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell.” [2]

As the first version was by Lincoln’s hand, the extemporaneous circumstances of the speech itself has caused for discrepancies in what was written and what was spoken. It has been determined that this adaptation of the farewell speech is the most accurate.


No one who has never been placed in a like position, can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed; here all my children were born; and here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, chequered past seems to crowd now upon my mind. To-day I leave you; I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I shall not fail, I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To him I commend you all — permit me to ask that with equal security and faith, you all will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I must leave you — for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.” [2]



There is commonality among all three versions: the emotion emanated by Lincoln, the sentiment of the audience affected, and the implications of Lincoln’s difficulty in separating himself from a place that had held such prominence in his life in order to no longer just display his political leadership to Illinois, but to the entire nation from his new residence in Washington D.C. Located at the end of each rendition: “I bid you an affectionate farewell.” Regarding how Lincoln has been remembered by his personality or as a politician, the collective memory of the United States has established him as inarguably respectable and inspirational. Lincoln having expressed moving sentimentality towards Springfield, allowed that city to embody and become the emotions he had for the place. Later as tourists, more so families than individual tourists, arrived to explore the Lincoln memory, they were expected to attribute a deeper meaning to Springfield in accordance with Lincoln and his encounters during his residence in Illinois.



As of today, the Great Western Depot is more privatized than it is exhibitory to the public. The site in a way was rectified yet kept with aspects of residual memory. That is to say that the location that was rectified, was put back to some use despite its historical contextual meaning. Yet there still remains the commemorative efforts to acknowledge the Great Western Depot as a more prominent location for one of Lincoln’s speeches as he had symbolically and physically made Springfield, and more exactly that Great Western Depot, the beginning of his presidential journey. Because of that sort of acknowledgment, the place still calls on tourism for the sought out commemoration of Lincoln and his farewell speech.

In order to keep that space and allow its physical presence to be transcendent of Lincoln and the memory of his speech, there have been multiple transfers of ownership of the depot. Below is the timeline recording those transfers:



1960s: A local group within Springfield purchase the Depot in an effort to maintain it as a historic site. [1]

1977: Copley Press bought the Depot and Sandamon State University operated a part of the museum. [1]

1980: Copley Press begins the sole operator of the Depot [1]

2012: The Depot sold to Pinky Noll, the wife of Jon Noll- a late descendant of William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner when he was elected for presidency. (Find more about the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices at [1]

After Lincoln’s farewell speech, ownership went from being a local effort to being proprietary to a late descendant of a man who was most likely among the close colleagues that Lincoln’s speech had been intended for. [1] Due to that coexistence of ownership within the Depot’s timeline, the collective and more personal memory are brought together. Again, initiating the idea of personal and more politically-concerned aspects associating with one another to form the memory of Lincoln as a politician that was attentive to the formalities of politics as well as reached out to the emotions of his constituents and those interactions surpassing him after death.

Currently, within the proximity of the station, the speech is performed in front of touring families and Lincoln enthusiasts. While it is obvious that these recounts are not fully representative or fully capable of inducing the emotional and motivational atmosphere of the Depot on February 11, 1861, actors are responsible for being the living memory of Lincoln and enacting his personality. The speech that was written and what was actually said the day of, are evident of the dedication Lincoln gave to his country. The qualms about his efficiency as president that he had calmed through faith in God led to two perceptions of Lincoln. His acknowledgment as a common and simple man, a characteristic that has been highly praised, and his identity as a Christian man who knows he is not all capable. His humble character is well presented in his farewell speech and its existence demonstrated through the still-standing Depot and the performances acquiesce an honorable withstanding collective memory of the late president of the United States.

Literature Sources:

[1]”The Lincoln Depot.” The Lincoln Depot. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. <>.

[2]”Three Versions of Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address.” Three Versions of Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. < farewell3.htm>.

Media Sources: 

[3]”Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address Sesquicentennial.” New Page 1. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <>.

[4]”Lincoln Depot in Springfield, Illinois  –  Travel Photos by Galen R Frysinger, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.” Lincoln Depot in Springfield, Illinois – Travel Photos by Galen R Frysinger, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <>.

[5]”Lincoln’s Farewell (Memory): American Treasures of the Library of Congress.” Lincoln’s Farewell  (Memory): American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. < exhibits/treasures/trm059.html>.

[6]Lincoln Home National Historic SitePhone: 217-391-3221. “Springfield, Illinois.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <>.

[7]”One Hundred Fifty Years Ago Today.” : February 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. <>.

[8]United States. National Park Service. “Great Western Depot.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <>.


Word Count (excluding speech insertions): ~1067

Mary Todd Lincoln House and Lincoln Memory

The Lincoln Marriage

            Mary Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln’s wife from 1842 to his assassination in 1865. Their marriage is well known for its volatility from the start. Mary was educated, intensely ambitious, loyal, and partisan. She frequently voiced her opinion in Abraham’s political affairs, so much in fact, that Abraham called off their engagement in January 1841, likely due to Mary’s criticisms.[1] He remained loyal to her, though, and they wed in November 1842. Although it almost ended their marriage, Mary’s political input and loyalty was instrumental in the events leading up to and after Abraham’s election in 1860. In fact, the term “first lady” first came into use during her tenure in the White House because of her political aptitude.[2] Because memory is processual and allows for retrospective reinterpretation of sites, her house is reinterpreted in terms of her later political accreditation, even though her political life really started when she left.

Historians agree that the pressure of war weighed heavily on the Lincoln’s, and caused their marriage to dissolve. Amidst the national and political strife Abraham dealt with, Mary faced public criticism for her questionable White House expenditures, connections to the Confederacy—or Union depending on who’s criticizing—and struggle to maintain total partisan loyalty to her husband’s policies. She lived for seventeen years after Abraham’s assassination, and in that time lost two more sons, began practicing spiritualism and became mentally ill. Her depression and erratic behavior were cited when she was institutionalized for one year in 1875. After her release, Mary faced declining mental and physical health that effected her well being until her death in 1882. [3]

The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky

MaryToddLincolnHouse_000            Affluent businessman and politician Robert Todd moved his family to the downtown Lexington brick house in 1832. Mary Todd Lincoln, then simply Mary Todd, spent her formative years in this home, from 1832 to 1839, when she moved to Springfield, Illinois and met Abraham Lincoln. These DiningRoomattheMaryToddLincolnHousemodern images of the Mary Todd Lincoln House help illustrate the type of upper-class, urban lifestyle that Mary Todd enjoyed in in this house and community. As a teenager, she attended parties with prominent Kentucky politicians such as family friend Henry Clay, and advanced her interest in Whig politics. She also studied French and literature under her private teacher Charlotte Mentelle while at the house.[4] Along with their astute political and financial education, the Todd’s possessed financial capital that solidified their place in the Lexington gentry. The 1830 and 1840 US censuses show that the Todd family owned between five and ten household slaves varying in age and gender during that time.[5] In fact, following the outbreak of Civil War, eight Todd’s joined the Confederacy, while six others, including Mary remained loyal the Union. Abraham too had relatives that sympathized with the confederacy and owned slaves. Although Mary had already left in 1839, the Todd household, much like the Lincoln’s and the Union, was a house divided. The connection between Mary’s house divided and Abraham’s house divided is one way the Mary Todd Lincoln House functions as a site of Abraham Lincoln memory. This connection will be analyzed later on.


“Death, Mourning, and Mrs. Lincoln”

            To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln, the Mary Todd Lincoln House organization will be hosting evening tours on April 14th and 15th to remember both the date of his shooting and his death. According to the organization, the guided tours feature artifacts and other primary sources from Mary that shed light on 19th century American mourning and funerary practices.[6] This event challenges the collective memory of the highly publicized national events of mourning for the assassinated president as his Funeral Train travelled to Illinois. University of Pennsylvania Journalism Professor Barbie Zelizer would argue that this event shows the partiality of memory. According to Zelizer, all collective memory is partial. There is no objective truth, and memories of events are always biased. Everyone attributes what Zelizer calls their own particular meaning to events, and together, communities create universal meaning from memories.[7] This event challenges the universal memory of Lincoln’s assassination by asserting the particular memory of it by his most intimate and loyal partner.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train carried the deceased president’s casket from Washington DC to his final resting place outside of Springfield, Illinois. The funeral events hosted along the way were highly aestheticized. Organizers relied on extensive embalming work to keep Lincoln respectable, although it was not always successful. Green patches appeared his face as his corpse withered, and would be embalmed before his next opening.[8] The Funeral Train also called for military and police escorts and the distribution of black bunting over prominent buildings to honor Lincoln’s death. Because Lincoln’s assassination was and is duly linked to his ultimate success in preserving the Union, his funeral needed to stand for his success as well. So, to portray him as the envisioned ideal that he stood for, the Funeral Train functioned more as a celebration of Lincoln’s success. Manipulation of aesthetics allowed the Funeral Train organizers to control the meaning and memory of mourning President Lincoln. Contrastingly, “Death, Mourning, and Mrs. Lincoln” represents Mary’s particular account of mourning Abraham’s death. It challenges the notion that the mourning of President Lincoln was uniform and celebratory, focusing on Mary’s mental collapse and reactionary practice of spiritualism.


The Lincolns’ House Divided

          Aside from the event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the presence of the Mary Todd Lincoln House as it stands today casts light on the issue of making and manipulating meaning in Lincoln’s memory. While it stands as a testament to the proximity and scope of Lincoln’s “house divided” threat in that it represents the Lincoln’s marital and national struggles, it also facilitates the image of Lincoln as a blue-collar, rural man. The urban, slave owning Lexington household that Mary Todd grew up in is diametrically opposed to the rural, self-reliant log cabin home that is so prevalent in Lincoln memory.

It is thus questionable that the museum, which opened in 1977, appropriates the Lincoln name in the first place, given its confederate background. Columbia University Journalism Professor Michael Schudson calls the process of naming sites or events of the past based on modern information, retrospective nominalization.[9] Any physical evidence of slave ownership at the Mary Todd Lincoln House has been effaced from the area.[10] This can be linked to Abraham’s ability to conquer the divided union over the issue of slavery. Evidence of slave ownership linked to the Lincoln family challenges the collective memory of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. So, the inclusion of the Lincoln name at the southern site could be an example of retrospective nominalization to the extent that it represents his triumph over the confederate cause of slavery and its expansion.

Given that the mTodd_House_Lexington_kentucky_markerIMG_0625useum focuses on the Lincolns’ marriage from Mary and her family’s perspective, the naming of the site can be viewed as retrospective nominalization in that it also represents Abraham Lincoln’s ability to conquer his marital ‘house divided.’ The memory site has been named the Mary Todd Lincoln House since its opening in 1977. However, until 2008 when it was corrected, a historical marker outside the museum read “Todd House.” The inclusion of the Mary’s Lincoln family name in the title infers the preservation of their union as well, despite their tumultuous relationship. Along with the name the name, symbolic ownership of the site changes hands from the Todd’s to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and in doing so, recreates the meaning and message of the site.

Once a symbol of the sectional issues that divided brothers and sisters of the Union, the meaning of the Mary Todd Lincoln House was manipulated and recreated through the appropriation of the Lincoln family name. In the end, the museum challenges collective Lincoln memory to the extent that Mary’s particular memories and experiences of mourning are juxtaposed with the collective memory of mourning for the president. Although, it also facilitates the collective memory of Lincoln to the extent that his name carries symbolic weight as the Great Emancipator and conqueror of his divided marriage and Union.


Works Cited

Caption at the Todd House. 2014. Lexington, KY. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

Clinton, Catherine. “Wife versus Widow: Clashing Perspectives on Mary Lincoln’s Legacy.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 28.1 (2007): 1-19. JSTOR. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Craddock, Sara. Mary Todd Lincoln House. 2010. Lexington, KY. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

Dining Room. N.d. Mary Todd Lincoln House, Lexington, KY. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

Marr, Timothy. Davie Hall, Chapel Hill. 15 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

“Mary Todd Lincoln House.” Mary Todd Lincoln House. Kentucky Mansions Preservation Foundation, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <>.

Mary Todd Lincoln House. N.d.

Schudson, Michael. “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory.” Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past (1995): 346-378. Sakai. Web. 9 Apr. 2015

The Mary Todd Lincoln House Faces Main Street in Downtown Lexington. N.d. Mary Todd Lincoln House, Lexington, KY. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

Zelizer, Barbie. “Reading the Past Against the Greain: The Shape of Memory Studies.” Critical Studies in Mass Communications (1995): 214-39. Sakai. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

[1] Catherine Clinton, “Wife versus Widow: Clashing Perspectives on Mary Lincoln’s Legacy,” 4.

[2] Clinton, 5.

[3] Mary Todd Lincoln House, “Biography,”

[4] Mary Todd Lincoln House, “Biography”

[5] Mary Todd Lincoln House, “African Americans in the Todd Household,”

[6] Mary Todd Lincoln House, “Events,”

[7] Barbie Zelizer, “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” 224/230.

[8] Professor Tim Marr, AMST 384 Lecture, April 15, 2015

[9] Michael Schudson, “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory,” 359.

[10] Mary Todd Lincoln House, “African Americans in the Todd Household”

The Lincoln Memorial: How It Stands Today

While the entire United States was in the midst of WWII, the construction for the Abraham Lincoln Memorial began in the District of Columbia in 1915. Seven years later, the 27,336 square-foot memorial was finally completed after an expenditure of nearly 3 million dollars. [2] Now, almost a century later, over 6 million people visit the memorial each year. [4] In comparison, 30 million visit Rome each year. [7] Although the numbers differ greatly, the Lincoln Memorial is the most visited site in D.C. and is said to bring in 204 million dollars into the local economy. [4] The importance of the monument, and the man, cannot be overstated. Even today, Lincoln’s legacy is helping stimulate our country’s economy.

Almost everything about the Lincoln Memorial is grand and memorable. It boasts a 19 foot tall President Lincoln sitting upon a massive chair looking over a nation once torn into. Memorials are inherently designed to designate a particular location in order to remember a person or event. They, in essence, immortalize the event or figure for which they were built by creating public memory in which the tourists participate and spread. This particular monument was built for Lincoln and to encourage thoughts about his legacy by spreading his two most famous speeches and apotheosizing his person. The site demonstrates his continuing importance upon American culture, and even our American identity. If you look at all the monuments within the National Mall, they commemorate wars or national figures, which recall the sacrifice that Americans have made, as well as the greatness of a few which with their power, took responsibility for leading the nation forward.

A bird's-eye view of the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and the Mall, April 1, 2010, courtesy of Kevin Ambrose.

A bird’s-eye view of the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and the Mall, April 1, 2010, courtesy of Kevin Ambrose.

At the same time, location is critical and often symbolizes the actual importance of an event or person to American history. For instance, the Washington Monument is at the center of the National Mall. In the line of power, the Lincoln Memorial is next, as only a mile separates the two, with the reflecting pool in between. The close proximity between the two memorials implies the importance of the national figures they represent. On the western end of the Mall are the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial; however, these monuments are off to the side and not centered. The location of the Lincoln Memorial perpetuates the importance of Lincoln’s legacy in American history.


When visiting the Lincoln Memorial, the viewer must first summon the strength to climb the 57 marble steps. Upon completion, the tourist is rewarded with the sight of Honest Abe sitting atop his throne. This vision is oddly regal for a nation with a phobia of kings. In appearance, Lincoln is massively large, has a calm demeanor, and possesses a clenched fist. The creator of the memorial did not want to perpetuate the image of Lincoln looking or acting like a totalitarian that suspended habeas corpus, which is the view Southerners had of him during the Antebellum and Reconstruction eras. Overall, his facial and body language promote an idea of calmness and intellectual thought. His face is incredibly calm, kind, and possibly compassionate. Furthermore, his expression almost appears as if he is subtly calculating in which way he will save the Union. No doubt the artist wished to portray his wisdom, which was the reason he was affectionately referred to as “The Ancient One” within the White House. [1]

In its appearance, the Parthenon resembles the Lincoln Memorial in both ascetics and composition.  Picture courtesy of The History Channel.

In its appearance, the Parthenon resembles the Lincoln Memorial in both ascetics and composition. Picture courtesy of The History Channel.

The classical Greek influence in the design of the Lincoln Memorial will no doubt be noticed, as the columns resemble that of many ancient temples. The similarities are striking as the overall compensation of the memorial echoes that of the Parthenon. The style is often referred to as the “Doric Order.” [6] As you can see, the columns and general construction reflect the Greek style. This was most likely done in order to create an antique appearance and to generate a sense of respect towards Lincoln and the monument. The quote behind Lincoln even refers to the memorial as a “temple,” demonstrating the apotheosis we have grown accustomed to seeing at modern, historic monuments, and there is no doubt that the designer was trying to create reverence in the same way by using such terminology.

Within the Lincoln Memorial, upon the walls are inscriptions of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, two of the most important speeches in American history. Both are carved into the surface of the memorial on opposing sides of Lincoln. Furthermore, both speeches represent pivotal moments during the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address came Gettysburg Addressduring a point in which the Confederate Army had just invaded the North, but after a coincidental battle, the North turned the tide of war in monumental fashion. The speech in its entirety is only a measly 278 words, which is rather short, but in those brief sentences, Lincoln demonstrates his mastery of language and thought. [2] He is able to completely encapsulate the true meaning of the war, and its importance to our country. Placing the Gettysburg Address upon his memorial allows us to remember how truly great he was. It breathes life into his cold, rocky body. The second speech engraved on the walls of the memorial, the Second Inaugural Address, was delivered on March 4th, 1865, just weeks before the end of the Civil War, and consequently, Lincoln’s assassination. These words would be the last time the President addressed the nation as a whole. In a way, these are his last words to his citizens. Their importance is unquestionable, which is why the inclusion of this speech in the memorial effectively immortalizes the man that is Abraham Lincoln.

The location, semblance, and speeches within the Lincoln Memorial continue to represent and perpetuate the greatness of Abraham Lincoln and his distinctly American legacy. The temple-esque appearance of the memorial is aptly fitting of a historical figure that holds such reverence and importance to our country. In every way possible, the Lincoln Memorial is truly befitting of a man who saved a nation.

Works Cited

  1. “Abraham Lincoln.” For Kids ***. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  2. “The Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.” The Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  3. “Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989.” Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  4. Austermuhle, Martin. “Lincoln Memorial Leads All Local Sites in Number of Visitors.” DCist. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  5. “DC Monuments Tour.” D.C. Monuments Tour. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  6. “Doric.” Classical Orders of Architecture. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
  7. Messia, Hada. “Tourists in Rome Face New Tax.” CNN. Cable News Network, 04 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.


Lincoln on Wheels

“American Luxury”


 A slogan, an icon, and a title – have you been able to guess what my post is about?

Henry Leland and his son Wilfred C.

The Lincoln Motor Company founded in Dearfield, Michigan and was created by Henry Leland in 1917[1]. Leland, who was a former manager for Cadillac, cited Lincoln as a hero he had personally voted for in 1864. Leland was also the head of a group of investors who had forced Henry Ford out of his second company, the Detroit Automobile Company – forming a bitter rivalry between the two[1].

Lincoln Motor Company Plant

Lincoln Motor Company Plant
Photograph by Ralph Christian

Henry Leland and his son, Wilfred C
Photograph courtesy of the Detroit News.

Originally, Lincoln Motor Company produced the Liberty L-12  [6], a 24 litre, 12 piston engine used in the Liberty fighter planes of World War I. After the war, the Lincoln Motor Company focused on making luxury vehicles, but  went bankrupt shortly after. The company was then sold to Ford Motors in 1922, which Ford himself considered a victory over his former rival.

 A conspiracy-theorist  might note that this is the second time that the name ‘Ford’ has appeared in the Living Lincoln project, as Ford’s is also the name of the theater in which President Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Boothe. If this is a mere coincidence is for the reader to determine.

Major Henry H. “Hap” Arnold with the first Liberty V12 engine complete photograph courtesy of the U.S. Airforce

Even if naming the company after the Great Emanicpator was Leland’s way of honoring a hero, the use of Lincolns name has come to represent much more. As the company evolved, so to did the this unique blending of history and Commercialism. One way to see this is the obvious use of Lincoln as a selling strategy. This function of utilizing a dominant memory to sell is known as “instrumentalization” in the words of Schudson [2]. This is process where memory is put to use to facilitate the process of selling products and services.

The most tangible way to understand the intrumentalization of memory and its interactions with business is to look at commercials. Since ads become incorporated into dominant memory, they can be a useful window into public perception. Take the following Lincoln ad with Matthew McConaughey. Personally, I used to hate this ad – bringing about vehement reactions whenever I saw it. However, my reaction is more of a testament to the ads effectiveness than my taste. According to one source, after this commercial was released, Lincolns sales raised 25% [7].

Some have used these commercials not as a way to sell product but as, “The use of history, not as memorial to the past or promotion of a particular view of it, but as fodder for amusement…”(Schudson). Take the following sketch performed recently on Saturday Night Live:

Another ad from 1957 shows that the goal of the company has been to makes its name synonymous with luxury for some time.

Interestingly, both of these commercials (and the parody) don’t even reference Lincoln directly. As this company’s name naturally brings in the ethos of Honest Abe, others are forced to reference him more clearly. Take the Toyota ad used here as an example. Also, you should check out this awesome explanation on the use of Honest Abe in Commercial Culture here.

In addition to monetizing Lincoln’s name, the Company also serves a facilitator for memory. Motors have generally come to symbolize a spreading of fame. For instance, the train which Lincoln campaigned on has become a physical manifestation of the man’s spreading legacy. So too do the cars bearing his name reinforce his dominance in today’s society, even if what exactly is remembered changes over time.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train courtesy of an unknown source

Unfortunately, the branding of cars is in many ways superficial and leads in part to a negatively ‘processual’ memory, in the words of Zelizer [3]. That is, a brand  only forces society to know a name – in this case Lincoln – without it demanding any more being known. Put another way, a foreigner would learn nothing about Uncle Abraham by reading the logo on a car.

Lincoln the Railsplitter (1965) painting by Norman Rockwell

Another effect of processual memory has been to change the meaning of the name of Lincoln to, “American Luxury”. This goes to show the unpredictable nature [3]  of memory because it is counter-intuitive to the normal characteristics associated with Lincoln. Usually, He is viewed as a tough and powerful president, a man of the frontier. The use of Lincoln as a high-end vehicle is contrary to a historians view of the President as the “Illinois Railsplitter”. It would make much more sense if Lincoln was the name for Jeeps (which has come to embody the frontier) or the name of other cheaper and more durable cars.

Comparisons of Lincoln in dominant memory may also be made to Plymouth Rock. McPhee informs us that the rock, while being viewed as a longstanding landmark, had actually been moved, broken, and pieces of it are spread across the country [4]. In a similar way, the centralized site of Lincoln’s memory is his monument at Washington DC, but like the pieces of Plymouth rock, the car is spread out over the country. In many ways, this movement keeps the history alive, forcing people all over the country to in some way confront the past.

Finally, the Lincoln brand name is subconsciously powerful because of the people who have chosen to drive them. Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, Clark Gable, President Obama – all of these powerful American figures drove (or were driven in the case of President’s) in Lincoln’s. There use of such vehicles has added to the perception of Lincoln’s as ‘classy’ or ‘high-end’ vehicles for the wealthy.

Nixon in his Lincoln Photograph courtesy of Dave Gelinas

Furthermore, JFK was shot in the back of Ford Continental [5]. Once again, I would encourage any would-be conspiracy theorists to notice that this is the second time a president was assassinated within the confines of the name “Ford”.

Kennedy in a Continental before his Assassination
Photograph courtesy of the Detroit News.

 In all these ways, the Lincoln Motor Company has served as a useful example to examine the hybridization of memory and institution. It has used the name of Lincoln to brand the car as “American Luxury” and exploited the name to make money. However, the company also serves to spread Lincoln’s fame and helps to continue his dominance as one of the most idealized  president’s of American History. How Lincoln’s name will be continued to be used in the future I can’t say, but I look forward to finding out.


1) Lincoln Motor Company Briefing Book (PDF). New York: Ford Motor Company. 2012-12-03. Archived from the original on 2012-12-03. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 1917 August – After departing a management position at the Cadillac Division of General Motors, Henry Leland and his son Wilfred Leland form the Lincoln Motor Company, which produces aircraft engines to fill World

2) Michael Schudson, “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory,” in Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past. Eds. Daniel L. Schacter et al. (1995), 346-378;

3) Barbie Zelizer, “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communications (June 1995): 214-39.

4) John McPhee, “Travels on the Rock,” in Irons in the Fire (1977), 187-216

5) McAdams, John (2012). “Changed Motorcade Route in Dallas?”. The Kennedy Assassination. Marquette University. Retrieved 2012-11-26.

6) “V-12, Liberty 12 Model A (Ford) Engine”. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 1 January 2011

7) Herman, Barbara. “Are Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Ads Working? Increased MKC Sales Announced.International Business Times. 7 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

“Abraham, Martin and John ( & Bobby)”

The memory of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, has taken many 2000-7388_Mphysical forms, which have reflected the ever-changing collective perspective of the public. His essence embodies various monuments, statues, and paintings that commemorate his legacy He is the ultimate muse and icon that has transcended history through memory. According to Schwartz, Abraham evokes “five primary images- Savior of the Union, Great Emancipator Man of the People, First (Frontier) American and Self-Made Man.” Over time, certain representations have gathered more recognition and significance than others. The revision of his legacy can be best perceived through the medium of music. The artistic flexibility that music provides broadens the range and the overall expression of the time period. Music is a snapshot that allows other generations a glimpse of what was considered important during a specific interval of time. The legacy of Abraham Lincoln has never been more omnipresent than during the Civil Right Movement of 1960. The African American experience transformed itself into a narrative, in which Lincoln was the forerunner, who began the fight for civil rights, which now fell on the hands of African Americans to finish. In this case, Lincoln embodies the “Great Emancipator.” (Schwartz) Through the image of Lincoln, the Civil Right movement unveils the invisible chains that still restrain African Americans from asserting their rights.

Lincoln has been mentioned in many songs elevating their significance. It is as if his name alone summons all the virtues and qualities of what it means to be a leader- a poor to riches story, a story of resilience and strength in which he manages to lead a fragmented nation etc. His name conjures up a grand span of images that help illustrate a greater concept of leadership, which others words fail to do. Lincoln’s name is included in the song “Abraham, Martin, and John (& Bobby)”. Written by Dick Holler in 1968, “Abraham, Martin and John (& Bobby)” made its splash debut in late 1968 with Dion DiMucci, a rock artist who was making his comeback to the music scene after rehabilitating from a heroin addiction. (Freeland) With this single, Dion placed in the No. 4 spot on the Billboard’s pop chart, reaffirming his career. After its release, the songs has been covered by many artists like Andy Williams (1969) Moms Mabley (1969), Brothers Four (1969), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1969), Marvin Gaye (1970) Mahalia Jackson (1970), Tom Clay (1971) Ray Charles (1972), Kenny Rodgers (1976), and Bob Dylan, who performed it during his tour in 1981. By the sheer number of covers, the message behind the lyrics resonates with various groups particularly with the African American community.

Narrowing the scope of the trajectory of the song to a specific artist, one can perceive the immense influence it had on the African American community. Marvin Gaye, a soul artist that covered the song, began his political mindset with “Abraham, Martin, and John (& Bobby).” Gaye reinvigorated his career in the late 1960’s. Like Dion, Gaye was going through a turbulent time in his life in which he was facing various personal demons such as drug addictions, depression, the death of a close friend etc. The song itself reflects not only his inner shift of mentality but also the social drift that was occurring internally and externally in the “black protest of African Americans and the resistance within the community.” (Neal) This song is Gaye’s first experiment with social messages in his work. “Gaye’s recording culminates an era of black protest activity as well as providing a synthesis of many narratives of protest within the African-American experience.” (Neal) In other words, Gaye’s soulful tunes act as a unifying factor in the African American community. The genre of Soul was the ideal avenue to express a communal sentiment since it is a hybrid between blues and gospel music. It is an assembly of a “hyper-community in which the church and the notions of space and community, including all the political and social meaning” (Neal) mix. Soul was the voice of African Americans. The prestige of soul granted any soul artist, like Gaye, a leadership role within the community since the represented “the dominant icon of freedom and liberation within mass culture.” (Neal) By covering this song, Gaye attempts to inculcate to the community King’s non-violence demands while participating in mass civil disobedience. Gaye became an avid interpreter of the Civil Right Movement, where, with his music he described the sentiment of the African American experience. Following this song, Gaye’s career becomes more politically and socially charged, mimicking the African American respond at the time.

During the late 60’s, the Civil Rights movement screeched to a halt due to the assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. In the same year, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy’s brother and a fervent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement was also killed. The song was written as a way to commemorate the fallen leaders, who died fighting for African American liberties. The songs significance revolves around the first man that is mentioned, Abraham Lincoln. By naming him first not only in the song, but in the song title, Lincoln’s legacy is awakened from the past, and is brought to the present where he serves as the first trailblazer in the fight for African American civil justice. In a way, he becomes the father of the rest of the men within the song. By being the first, he establishes the precedent of leading in adverse conditions and being able to make the tough decisions. He was the pioneer that demonstrated the will to do anything in order to unite the nation once again. His actions transcended beyond the representation of “Savior of the Union” and made him the “Great Emancipator” (Schwartz) From here roots the African American experience, a narrative where “[textbooks post 1965] name slavery an evil, define its psychological effects, displays pictures of human neck yokes, slaves being auctioned and laboring in the field, runaways being captured, [and] black citizens being brutalized.” (Schwartz) The African American experience becomes a more open discussion and the emancipationist change of Lincoln is reflected within textbooks that were printed during the years of the Civil Right Movement. The importance of “Lincoln’s racial attitudes, his concerns for the well being of emancipated slaves, and the accomplishments of African American leaders,” (Schwartz) are embedded within the lyrics of the song.

The memory site of “ Abraham, Martin and John (& Bobby)” provides an appropriate example of how Lincoln not only becomes the first leader that took active action on behalf of African Americans; he is the first important public figure to be assassinated. In this case, Lincoln becomes the father of the assassinated. Being the first assassinated American president, it was difficult to figure out how Lincoln was going to be commemorated since “commemorating Lincoln, America also had to face the Civil War.” (Foote 49) It is not until the mid 20th century when a collective consensus of how Lincoln was going to be remembered was agreed upon. Through retrospective nominalization, Lincoln’s vilified reputation was replaced with being the defender of the union; he is now considered one of the greatest presidents of all time. (Foote) The song mentions Bobby Kennedy “walkin’ up over the hill/With Abraham, Martin and John” (Holler), extending the illusion that in the afterlife, Lincoln was the only one present to receive John, and together they received Martin. By using Lincoln’s name, the grandeur of the former president is unleashed. His sanctification raises the status of the other three leaders in the song, unifying their beliefs. King, and both Kennedys are regarded to the point of apotheosis. However, just as they are placed on pedestals, there is also an equating factor that only death can accomplish. Even with the fame that surrounds them, there is an ease in which the community relates to them. Death humanizes these prominent figures. Their dedication to bring civil justice and their approachability drives them to be recognizable martyrs. The fascination of their assassination

The song still continues to be covered by various artists in different genres of music. However, it is hard to track down how many times the song has been covered. For many, the song has become a template to memorialize other prominent figures who died early in life. The song was once again introduced to a mainstream audience in 1997, when Whitney Houston sang a rendition of the song in concert in Washington D.C. The concert, Whitney Houston: Live Washington D.C. was aired on VH1 and HBO, extending the performance to TV viewers. Bedsides small renditions of the song through out the following years, the song resurfaced again at the White House. Smokey Robinson performed it in 2010 at the White House Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement. Robinson claims the song “reminds him of a time of great sadness, and each time [he] sings [the song], it brings back the memory of men who [the nation] has lost.” “Abraham, Martin, John (& Bobby)” gets acknowledged as a significant site of memory, where sentiments of the Civil Rights Movement are harbored within the lyrics. It is the ultimate remembrance of all the men that passed away so that somebody of color has the opportunity to be president of the United States. It marks that change indeed was possible. The martyrs are an avenue for reflection of what has been overcome as a country and what is still left undone. It is a reminder that, even though change occurred, more changes can happen.

Lincoln’s presence will continue permeate American society. His legacy will remain a constant factor, due to his status as a “Great Emancipator” (Schwartz) His change in remembrance broadens his commemoration, expanding the range in which individuals and communities relate to his memory. In the song “Abraham, Martin and John (&Bobby), Lincoln morphs into the main pioneer of the fallen, as he leads the procession of martyrs through the era of the Civil Right Movement; an era of great lost and tragedy, in which the African American experience rings out through the music and lyrics of various artists of the time. The dark theme of assassination becomes a uniting bond, which connects a previous event in history, to contemporary time, increasing the significance of the movement. By anchoring itself to Lincoln’s memory, the martyrs of the 60’s become immortalize. Placed on pedestals, they stand; over looking the on going fight against discrimination and prejudice. The song’s relevance resurfaces solemnly during the term of President Barack Obama as a response to the progress being made. The memory of Lincoln will constantly change, and those changes will dictate how his legacy will be perceived as it transcends through history.


Work Cited:

“Abraham, Martin and John by Dion Songfacts.” Songfacts. Songfacts LLC, nd. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <>.
“Abraham, Martin and John.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <,_Martin_and_John>.
“Abraham, Martin & John – Ray Charles.” YouTube. YouTube, 13 October 2007. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Abraham, Martin and John – Brothers Four.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 February 2014. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Andy Williams – Abraham, Martin and John (1969).” YouTube. YouTube, 23 October 2010. Web. 13 April 2015.

“DION- “ABRAHAM, MARTIN &JOHN” (W/LYRICS).” YouTube. YouTube, 03 September 2013. Web. 07 April 2015

Foote, Kenneth E.. Shadowed Ground : America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Revised Edition). Austin, TX, USA: University of Texas Press, 2003. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 13 April 2015
Freeland, David. “Behind The Song: “Abraham, Martin and John”” American Songwriter. ForASong Media, LLC, 02 Dec. 2009. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
Frost, Bob. “A Few Fine Pop Songs Immersed in History Part 2 – Abraham, Martina and John.” N.p., 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.

“Kenny Rogers – Abraham, Martin And John/Precious Memories.” YouTube. YouTube, 29 July 2013. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Mahalia Jackson – Abraham, Martin and John.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 January 2012. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Marvin Gaye – Abraham, Martin & John (& Bobby).” YouTube. YouTube, 21 February 2009. Web. 08 April 2015.

“Moms Mabley – “Abraham, Martin & John” (Merv Griffin Show 1969).” YouTube. YouTube, 27 April 2012. Web. 08 April 2015.

Neal, Mark Anthony. “Trouble Man: The Art And Politics Of Marvin Gaye.” Western Journal Of Black Studies 22.4 (1998): 252. America: History & Life. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.
“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.” Dion Biography. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc., 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <>.
Schuman, Howard, and Barry Schwartz. “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001.” American Sociological Review 70.2 (2005): 183-203. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

“Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “Abraham, Martin & John” (USA, 1969)” YouTube. YouTube, 29 September 2014. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Smokey Robinson Performs at the White House: 10 of 11.” YouTube. YouTube, 11 February 2010. Web. 13 April 2015.

“Tom Clay..What The World Needs Now (Abraham,Martin and John).” YouTube. YouTube, 19 January 2008. Web. 14 April 2015.

“Whitney Houston ~ Live in 1997 (Pt. 6/14) ~ Abraham, Martin & John.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 January 2011. Web. 14 April 2015.

Mourning Culture Following the Assassination


Today, when thinking upon America’s response after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, one’s predominant recollection is that of a nation united in mourning. This is largely due to present-day America’s outlook on the president. How could our nation respond to the killing of our ‘great emancipator’ and ‘savior of the union’ in any other way? In this remembrance, we largely forget the enormous shock that the news imparted upon our country, especially in such temporal proximity to the end of the Civil War. We forget the humanity of the citizens of America whose feelings about Lincoln’s death were coupled with attempting to reconcile feelings about the outcome of the war itself. In reality, the assassination of Lincoln was a ”key moment of confusion and conflict” in America. It provoked a far more multifaceted response that has been largely “glossed over with generalities” and forgotten with time (Hodes 8).

When the news of the assassination broke, the first reaction was one of resounding shock and fear. In a time when the spread of news relied on Telegrams, it was difficult to circulate and confirm the story. Because of this, many Americans first turned to disbelief. It was quite a lot to swallow that such a tremendous event could strike so soon after the massive conflict of the civil war had finally been resolved. A report from the Twenty-Fifth U.S. Colored troops who had fought in the war stated “they refused to believe the report until absolutely confirmed” (56). . Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, so it is easy to imagine the alarm that this news caused. Especially for the recently freed African Americans – who had the most to lose after Lincoln’s death- it must have been difficult to accept the humanity and fallibility of their godlike emancipator.

As time passed, the shocking news ceased to be a rumor and Americans were forced to recognize Lincoln’s passing. There is a reason that our predominant memory of mourning Lincoln is that of weeping nation; many adored and venerated the president and were largely distraught. These mourners included African Americans and the majority of White northerners who saw the assassination as a heart-wrenching antithesis to their recent victory. Sarah Brown of Salem Massachusetts, an abolitionist and avid Lincoln supporter, is a perfect representation of these Lincoln-mourners. In a letter to her husband she wrote, “The terrible news came to us in the midst of our great rejoicing. On the very day too when the eyes of the nation were turned towards Fort Sumter- What a change! From frantic joy to frantic grief!”(Hodes 47). She went on in her letter to note the way women in her neighborhood had sewn black borders onto American flags that been recently hung from their houses to celebrate the Union victory. This atmosphere of celebration-turned-mourning was not unique to Salem. Starting with the Nation’s capital, a sense of gloom began to pervade the cities of the Union. Where days before there had been parades and fireworks, candlelight vigils were held and businesses shut their doors early. State buildings were covered in black fabric and supporters of Lincoln donned morning emblems of white or black ‘Crape’ fabric pinned to their bonnets or sleeves (Hodes 64).


Conversely, there was a different type of mourning by Lincoln-antagonists that has been largely forgotten over time. Though many, such as the confederate general Robert E. Lee, respected the president, there were those who viewed his death as pay back for confederate losses. Losing was still a fresh wound, and “it was this surrender that remained immediate and disastrous”.(Hodes 76) Because of this world-altering loss, many antagonists took the assassination as “God’s plan to vindicate their downfall” and as a temporary reprieve from their suffering. Still, many of these people were forced to mourn publicly out of fear. Union troops were stationed throughout southern cities and watching for any sign of civil disobedience. A man’s journal from Raleigh North Carolina, recounts his fear that anyone “would’ve been served the same way as Lincoln” -meaning slain- “if he had shown any pleasure about [Lincoln’s Death]” (Hodes 76). Today, it is hard to imagine viewing Lincoln’s death as anything other than a tragedy. That is because as time marched on, Lincoln has been apotheosized and has become a great American hero to all. Satisfaction over Lincoln’s death is now something that would be largely viewed as backwards and racist. Yet in this memory, we forget the reality of the lives of those who lived back in the time of his death. What about the Confederates who lost sons, brothers and husbands to Lincoln’s Armies? Were they evil for refusing to express sorrow for a man who commanded the troops who killed their loved ones? There are many cases where those who refused to grieve Lincoln were indeed driven by spiteful and racist agendas. However, many Confederate sympathizers suffered personal losses and — as a product of the times– were justifiably reticent while being forced to mourn a man that had defeated their cause.

“ASSASSINATION & MOURNING MATERIAL.” Assassination & Mourning Material. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
Hodes, Martha Elizabeth. Mourning Lincoln. New Haven: Yale UP, 2015. Print.
Lepore, Jill. “‘Mourning Lincoln’ and ‘Lincoln’s Body’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

High on a hilltop, ‘mid sand and sea,
Abraham Lincoln, we will honor thee forever.
Thy sons and daughters, however long the trail,
Always will remember thee. Hail! Hail! Hail!


Abraham Lincoln High School, named after President Abraham Lincoln, was establish on August 27, 1940 in San Francisco, California. The institute was built because of the tremendous population growth in the city, so the citizens of San Francisco voted in favor of starting a new school. Lincoln High School began with 50 classrooms, a library, cafeteria, and a football field. Over the years, two gymnasiums and an auditorium have been added to the building to facilitate extracurricular activities. [3]

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ALHS on August 27, 1940 [1]

Admission to Abraham Lincoln High School is not solely an option for the elite, but rather promotes a diverse academic learning environment. Future students do not complete special auditions, applications, or tests for enrollment at Lincoln High School [3]. The admission board approaches the process on enrollment through a “diversity index,” which considers applicants’ socioeconomic background, their parents’ educational background, and academic achievement [3]. Lincoln High School approaches enrollment in this fashion with the goal of fostering a diverse environment of students. By doing this, the High School continues to carry out Abraham Lincoln’s legacy of promoting fairness, equality, and having a hospitable attitude towards people of different backgrounds, race, and socioeconomic status. Lincoln’s legacy is shown in the High School’s student/teacher demographics, where Latino, African-American, and Chinese students are greater in number that White Students. In fact, Chinese students make up 52.1% of the student/teacher population [3]. Lincoln is appropriately commemorated at Lincoln High School, where the majority of students are not originally descendants of white Americans, and their enrollment is appreciated and encouraged. Abraham Lincoln fought for African Americans and welcomed them into the Union. Lincoln fought for fairness, equality, and justice— this memory of Lincoln continues to live at Abraham Lincoln High School.



Abraham Lincoln High School acted as a safe haven for many students because the school’s doors opened during WWII. Many of the older students had to leave and fight in the war, leaving their family and friends behind. William Mason, a former student at LincolnHigh during the war, explained that “Lincoln was a place he felt familiar with” and “Lincoln High School was calm, even if it was during the war” [1]

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A photo of Williams Mason and his wife as students at ALHS [1]

AbrahamLincoln was a man who had an “ordinary person” demeanor. Most people saw him as a symbol of familiarity and someone they could relate to. For many, he was a symbol of safety, hope, and serenity. This image of Lincoln has continued to live through Abraham Lincoln High School, as they were a safe haven for many students during the war who watched their friends, brothers, and fathers leave for the war. William Mason recalls having to practice for war preparation drills by evacuating the building, however even during the chaos, the institute remained a place of safety [1]. William Mason also saw Abraham Lincoln High School as a place that brought people together, just like President Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War [1]. Mason actually met his wife at Lincoln high school and they dated through high school until marriage. [1]

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A picture from a ALHS year book in the 1970’s shows black and white students interacting in extracurriculars together. [3]

After the Civil Rights Act, Abraham Lincoln High School enrolled African American students at their institute. In Lincoln High School’s yearbook from the 1970’s, one can see pictures of White students interacting with African American students and African American Students holding positions of authority and holding membership to clubs and sports teams [3]. When segregation was implemented, many schools “tolerated” the African American students, but never gave them spotlight or encouraged their involvement in school activities. Abraham Lincoln High School carried out President Lincoln’s legacy of hospitality, grace, and equality by accepting them into their student body and encouraging their involvement and interaction with White students. [3]


The traditions and core beliefs of Abraham Lincoln High School accurately represent and remember Abraham Lincoln. Their mascot, which is the mustang, embodies the attributes of hardiness, grace, speed, and independence [2]. One can see these that these attributes guided President Abraham Lincoln’s actions from when he took office, until the day he was assassinated. Abraham Lincoln was a President who never took the easy option— he always took a stand on what he thought was right and just and went the great lengths to execute his plans. In fact, he sparked the bloodiest conflict in American history, the Civil War, because of his convictions. After the Civil War, he graciously welcomed the South to their side, despite how they opposed him. Abraham Lincoln High School “Lets Lincoln Live” through their enrollment procedures, diverse student body, acting as a safe haven, and bringing people together of all backgrounds. President Abraham Lincoln fought for independence and equality, however he was gracious to those who opposed him. This is the mission statement that Abraham Lincoln High School promotes in its community and among its student body, and continues to carry on the legacy and memory of Abraham Lincoln.



1) “Abraham Lincoln High School History Project.” Abraham Lincoln High School.

2) “Abraham Lincoln High School; Mission Statement.” San Francisco Unified School District.

3) “History of ALHS Overview.” San Francisco Unified School District.




The Origination of the Lincoln Penny

Lincoln penny - obverse ("heads") hesign used since inception.

The Lincoln penny design since 1909

 The Lincoln penny has become an American icon after it was first minted in 1909 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. The introduction of the Lincoln penny marked a significant change in the imagery on American currency when Lincoln became the first President to have his image immortalized on a coin. To be honored in such a way is especially ironic in light of how public perception of Lincoln transformed from being a fairly controversial and even unpopular public figure during his lifetime, to a celebrated American hero by the turn of the twentieth century.

Indian Head Penny

The Indian Head penny was minted between 1859-1909. The image is of Lady Liberty wearing an Indian headdress.

A Brief History of the Penny

Since it was first minted in 1787, the penny has always been symbolically important in America despite its small value, representing the spirit of the nation, often depicting images like lady Liberty or the flying eagle.[1] The penny was the first currency to be officially minted by the United States of America, giving it added importance, and the small value made it the currency of the people; although inflation has since caused it to lose its value, the penny was once a very commonly used mode of currency – over 300 billion one cent coins have been minted since 1787. The design for America’s one-cent coin was initially suggested by Benjamin Franklin. During the first century and a half of its existence, the penny had no single set design or make. The design and the material that the mints used to produce the penny changed periodically – there have been eleven different designs minted since the penny was first introduced almost two and a half centuries ago. The first penny was copper, fifty percent larger, and over five times heavier, but by the turn of the twentieth century when they introduced the Lincoln penny for the first time it was
smaller (the size that it is today) and made of a combination of both copper and zinc. By that time, the penny displaying lady liberty wearing an Indian headdress – the image has often been mistaken for an Indian Chief – had been in circulation since 1859.[2] The length of time the coin with this image had been in circulation created some added controversy to the decision to change it and create the Lincoln penny.

Controversy Surrounding the Lincoln Penny

The decision to create the Lincoln penny was controversial in multiple ways; one was because of the long history of having Lady Liberty on the coin and of how emblematic her image was of the American spirit and ideal of freedom; but the primary reason for dispute was due to the longstanding tradition of never putting a President’s image on a coin. George Washington had initially been offered the honor of having his face on a coin; however, it refused because it was too reminiscent of the custom for European monarchs to venerate themselves through putting their likeness on coins.[3] Like Washington’s decision not to run for more than two terms in office, this had become an unspoken tradition in America and deciding to put a president’s face on a coin after over a century of refraining from doing so was considered taboo.

The New Lincoln Penny

Image of the third Philadelphia building, in 1901.

The 3rd Philadelphia Mint, built in 1901. This mint alone produced 22 million Lincoln pennies in 1909.

The person responsible for authorizing the creation of the Lincoln penny was President Theodore Roosevelt. For years, Roosevelt had believed that the art on American coins was bland and uninspiring, particularly in comparison with their European counterparts.[4] Favoring classically influenced sculpture and art, Roosevelt initially commissioned the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign all American coins, but Saint-Gaudens died before he could finish his work. Then, enamored with a portrait plaque of Lincoln created by Victor David Brenner in 1907, Franklin commissioned the artist to create the Lincoln penny in time for the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 1909.[5] Brenner used virtually the same design for the penny that he had on the plaque, which had been based on a photograph of the President taken by Anthony Berger in 1864 (which is why the image on this coin is facing in the opposite direction from all of the others). The Lincoln penny was supposed to simply be a commemorative penny, only produced for that year, but the popularity of the coin among the American public was such that the design remained in production and has not changed to this day. By this time, enough years had gone by since America won its independence that old customs of European monarchs no longer mattered as much and this concern did not register with the American public. It also helped that the mints have kept the integrity of the tradition, which is that no living president be memorialized on a coin. It has since become a federal law that a president must be dead at least two years before he is eligible to be put on a coin.

The Lincoln Penny and American Memory

By the turn of the twentieth century, our culture had come to revere President Lincoln for his role in keeping the Union together and ending slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. It is these two accomplishments that our public memory primarily revolves around and the reason that his image on the coin was received with such high approval. The reality is that this public memory is only a partial one. We like to forget, for instance, that Lincoln did not initially seek to end slavery, even though he understood the institution to be morally wrong, or that, despite his censure of slavery, he still did not believe in equality or true integration between the races.[6] We have chosen, instead, to remember the end result of his Presidency and, in light of those remembered accomplishments, Americans deemed it only right that he be the face of the penny, if not a more valuable coin. In becoming the face of the penny, Lincoln in a way, became the new symbol for the ‘spirit of America.’

Lincoln’s popularity since the twentieth century is also evidence of processual memory. During Lincoln’s lifetime, he was a fairly unpopular figure because of the high political tensions the nation was caught in. Opinions about him had formed along both racial and regional lines and there were even disagreements within his own party – some opposed his decision to end slavery while others thought he was too slow to act. Part of the reason for the extreme reversal in popularity between his life and the turn of the twentieth century is due to the manner of his death. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination made him a martyr for both the Union and the end of slavery. People came together in both shock and mourning and a much more positive image of Lincoln was nurtured in public memory. Today, retrospective nominalization and the civil rights movement allows us to see Abraham Lincoln more clearly and honestly. He is not the unpopular or controversial figure that we was during this lifetime, nor does the public blindly idolize him the way they did a century ago – civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and a growing awareness of Lincoln’s true political stance has allowed us to apply a present understanding to him. He remains and iconic image to this day, and whether he was forced into the role or not, Lincoln is still responsible for keeping the Union together and putting an end to slavery. This is evident in the current situation with the penny – inflation has made it so that the coin costs more to make than it is worth, yet Americans are still reticent to get rid of the penny because of Abraham Lincoln’s image on it (see the attached link for more information on that debate).


Works Cited

[1] “A Brief History of the U.S. Cent.” A Brief History of the U.S. Cent. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <>

[2] “The Lincoln Penny.” The Lincoln Penny. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. <>

[3] Soniak, Matt. “On the Money: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coin Portraits.” Mental_Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. <>

[4] Headley, Susan. “Lincoln Cents – History of the Lincoln Penny.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <>

[5] Soniak, Matt. “On the Money: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coin Portraits.” Mental_Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. <>

[6] “The Shifting Terrain of Attitudes Toward Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation.” The Shifting Terrain of Attitudes Toward Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <–shifting-terrain-of-attitudes-toward-abraham-lincoln?rgn=main;view=fulltext>

Lincoln in Caricature

Lincoln in caricature is a serious of cartoon collected explained and written by Rufus Rockwell Wilson, a prominent writer and recognized Lincoln scholar.[1] In the book, Wilson collected thirty-two plate of caricatures that described Abraham Lincoln though different perspectives. There are English perspectives from the Punch magazine that shows the Great Britain cynical view included; meanwhile there are counterpart view from Vanity Fair, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and from Harper’s Weekly caricatures from United States publishers.

Lincoln in Caricature[2]

Caricatures are so important to the society because what they described in a small picture was not only about the people inside the picture. However, they used few hands of drawing and limited imagination to metaphors the group of people’s mind, to waken citizen’s thought and spoke out the words that they waited and afraid to express. Just like what Wilson said in the book himself, “Thus the thirty-two plates from these sources here brought together have a value and interest already important and sure to increase with the passage of time, for they reflect with unconscious vividness, and as nothing else can do, the life and color of an historic era, and how his fellows regarded the grandest figure of that era” [2]Lincoln: Winding off the Tangled Skein[2]

Winding off the Tangled Skein

This is the Forth plate of carton recorded in the book. The Winding off the tangled skein was first published in March, 30th, 1961 in Harper’s Weekly. Person on the left is President Lincoln and person on the right hand side is President Buchanan. [3] They are untangling a skein of yarn labeled as “union”. The ax and split logs in front of the chair refer to Lincoln’s nickname, “Rail Splitter.” [4]. Click on the link from UT Arlington Library video for more information.

without title[2]

Without Title

This is a caricature without title that were first published in Vanity Fair (Nov.16.1961). It is easy for us to find the place of this caricature is in front of Mexico. We have Lincoln holding a sword and sitting confidently by a canon facing to there typical old European country which was believed to be England, France and Spain. [2] The pound below contains trout like people.

The Vanity Fair was established for the purpose to find something to laugh at the same time we worried most. This caricature shows that the start of the war and Lincoln were confident.[5]

The Overdue Bill[2]

The Overdue Bill

Not all the features of Lincoln in the caricature are confident and positive. The overdue Bill was first publish in Punch at (Sep.27 1862). In the caricature, Lincoln was sitting on a chair while losing his wits. The chair was in front of a speaking desk and Lincoln is looking desperately on the note that was hand by Union soldiers. The note has following words on it “I promise to subdue the South in ninety days —A. Lincoln.”

This caricature was published just few days after Lincoln issued the preliminary proclamation. The Punch Magazine had publish this caricature to mock that the Northern side wish to end the war in ninety days. Punch stated to focus on Lincoln and the Civil War after (1861). Between the year (1861-1865) almost (20%) of the pages on Punch were related to Lincoln and Civil war. [6]


Lincoln’s Last Warning

This is the fifteen in the book, coming from Harper’s Weekly on (Oct.11.1862). Lincoln is looking firmly and persistently while holding an ax toward the “Slavery Tree”. On the tree is Jefferson Davis hiding and avoiding Lincoln. Davis is holding firmly on the Slavery Tree which is supposed to be his life-saving straw.

The caricature is correspond to the war at the time. The north side finally realized what could make them win the fight towards the south. The caricature was accorded to Lincoln’s speech which would announce formally to abolish the slavery on (Jan.1st.1863). And the ax hanging by Lincoln is just the Last Warning to the South and Davis.

Why are the Caricatures an important memory of Lincoln?

Regardless of other memorial of Lincoln, we finally came to an important focus about the site. How do we in the modern world value the caricatures of Lincoln that was published more than a hundreds years ago? What are the difference between Caricatures as a memory and other memories like houses, memorial museum, status?

According to the definition of caricatures “A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way……Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose or be drawn solely for entertainment.”[7]

I think what makes caricature difference with other memorial way is that caricature are comprehensive. It includes Lincoln person as a general with his all-sides. It shows to us and let us remember President Lincoln is not a god, not a perfect great person; It shows that that Lincoln is just a normal person as we do. And it tells us Lincoln are always with us, lived by our sides.

Just like my classmate Alexi post said “There are parts of Lincoln that are not remembered because people want to think of him as someone who was a perfect leader.” However in the caricature, what we have is not a perfect leader, but a normal person. We could see sometimes he is confidence, sometime he is losing his wits, we could also see a Lincoln who is “just as political as many other presidents and did not want to hear from the radical factions of marginalized groups of people” in my group member Carolyn’s post on cartoon.

Just as what I said early before, caricatures have the ability to express more meaning and background than what is drawn on a piece of paper. What we need is to remember Lincoln as a normal person, not a perfect leader.


Works Cited.

[1]Rufus Rockwell Wilson
[2] Lincoln in Caricature, Rufus Rockwell Wilson, printed for private distribution.
[3] Winding off the tangled skein, Brown Digital Repository
[4] Lincoln: Winding off the Tangled Skein, Special Collections, UT Arlington Library
[5] Civil War Humor: The War in Vanity Fair
Civil War History Volume (2), Number (3), September (1956), Kent State University Press
[6]The English View of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War

“Abe” at The University of Wisconsin

On the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus there is a statue of Abraham Lincoln who is sometimes seen as a friend, sometimes as a judge, and sometimes as a symbol of the university to be judged for the university’s wrongs. Each of these treatments of the statue interacts with the way that Lincoln is remembered by the larger community.

Statue of Lincoln at the University of Wisconsin

Statue of Lincoln at the University of Wisconsin [10]

The statue of Abraham Lincoln on the campus of the University of Wisconsin was added in 1909 [1]. It is seven feet tall and sits on a pedestal that is six feet and six inches tall [3]. It is made of bronze and its base is made of granite [2] [3]. It features Lincoln sitting back in an ornate chair with a solemn expression. It resembles the seated Lincoln on the mall in Washington DC enough that some writers feel the need to point out that they are not the same [3]. The original version of the statue, made by Adolph Weinman, resides in Hodgenville, Kentucky where Lincoln was born [1]. Many wanted a copy of the sculpture after it went up in Kentucky [3] [7]. Richard Lloyd Jones is credited for convincing the sculptor to give the statue to the University of Wisconsin and no one else [3]. He was a UW graduate who had already developed a working relationship with Weinman. This understanding of how the statue came to the university seems almost coincidental and does little to affect illustrate the ways that Lincoln can be remembered as a president and a man. Instead he becomes an item that was won and a conquest. This view is extended and augmented in Lincoln’s relationship with the university students.

Some choose to see the statues presence on the campus in terms of Lincoln’s relationship with the state and the university, but in an article on the cleaning of the statue a University official is quoted as saying “any direct connection of Lincoln to Wisconsin is pretty minimal” despite the fact that his statue is very much a part of the university’s campus and the way the students identify [3]. Lincoln was popular in Wisconsin, and his contemporary elected officials there supported the abolishing of slavery, which can be used to support his relationship to the area [4]. The university claims him as a “patron” because of his support for the Morrill Act which gave the University and others land [1] [7]. These ties make Lincoln’s memory, embodied in the statue, more concerned with his actions and morals.

The statue holds a prominent space on the campus and is given a particular importance by both students and the larger community [1] [2]. Lincoln looks out sternly from his ornate chair, which imbues him with a certain amount of authority and reverence. His expression appears serious, contemplative, and perhaps judging. If he is passing judgement there is a question of who he would judge. Some rub his boots for luck on exams [1]. Lincoln the academic may be judging the progress of the students who pass him. Others do the same to ask for strength for an athletic event [5]. Lincoln the hard working frontier man may be judging them. President Lincoln may be judging politicians as he does in the country’s capitol [2]. The recognition of any type of judgement or power that the statue may hold is to remember Lincoln in connection with those traits. Students who rub his boot for luck at either sports or academics are giving to the memory of Lincoln some power in those fields.

When the statue was placed it was hoped by university officials that the statue would remind students of what it means to be American and the values associated with that [3]. The Lincoln the imagined is one who watches over the university and passed judgement. The judging Lincoln acts as a voice of reason, but for some the statue of “Abe” is more like a friend described as “watching over” and being “the big guy” who lends support [5]. Students reaching out to touch him ask for support, and they whisper their hopes to him [7]. This is a relationship of trust. When some students pull pranks that involve Lincoln he can be seen as either a complicit friend or as the butt of the joke. When the trusting relationship that so many students seem to build with the statue is considered it seems more likely that Abe is seen by most as a trickster who plays along with the pranks pulled by students. Lincoln memory on campus becomes the memory of someone to be trusted, talked to, and to have fun with.

Student Posing on Lincoln Statue

Student Posing on Lincoln Statue [2]

When a student graduates from UW they are given an opportunity to have their photo taken while sitting on Lincoln’s lap. These photos are taken by a professional photographer and according to the schools official site on commencement photos there is a suggested donation for these pictures, but no charge [6]. The money collected goes towards the Student Philanthropy Campaign. Many students also whisper to Lincoln about their hopes for the future [5]. Sitting on the lap of an older man and whispering what you want calls to mind the image of Santa, but does this image make Lincoln seem kinder or more judging? There is no implication that Lincoln will judge you unworthy of your dreams as Santa might. He hears you, he supports your body on his and he helps you. There is also an aspect of the posing people do on his lap that seems to be only about identifying with their university, and in some ways Lincoln has become a symbol of the university where both reputations affect each other. Some kiss Lincoln on the cheek as a thank you and for luck [5]. Part of the legend is that if you go to Lincoln before your graduation (as some do) you will not graduate [5]. The Lincoln who would deny someone their graduation is more similar to the Santa image. Lincoln is transformed through this practice of sitting on his lap, into a trusted judge of worth.

Student posing on Lincoln Statue

Student posing on Lincoln Statue [5]

There is also a legend that if a virgin walks past the Lincoln statue he will stand up [5] [3] [8]. Standing up for someone can be seen as a sign of respect, so the legend is indicative of a belief that the Lincoln stature may have “old fashioned” values. There is also the joke that since the statue has never stood up before there are no virgins at the university. This depicts a Lincoln who is omniscient and who to a certain degree does judge based on what he knows, but this judgment does not cancel out the collective memory of Lincoln, as a friend to the students, that is enacted by the trust they put in him to help them.

Lincoln is also a figure in holiday celebrations and protests on campus. On holidays he is given hats to fit the theme. In the recent past Abe was draped with clothing to protest sweat shops [3] [7]. He was painted red to protest McCarthyism [9]. In these protests Lincoln becomes both judge and judged. Through his relationship with the university, as a symbol of it, he is judged with it. Any failing of the university can be reflected on him, but some protesters use Lincoln’s image in support of their cause. They claim him to be on their side. He can be their friend but he is also sometimes more than that.

Memory of Lincoln at the University of Wisconsin is enacted through interactions with the statue. The students create a memory of Lincoln as their trusted friend over the course of their academic experience. He is the silent stoic guard of their success. Lincoln’s memory has also become involved in the reputation of the university as his statue has become a symbol the university.

Works Cited

1. “Campus Traditions.” University of Wisconsin–Madison. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

2. “Slideshow: Madison in 100 Objects.The Cap Times. Wisconsin State Journal, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

3. Finkelmeyer, Todd. “The Lincoln Statue Atop Bascom Hall Gets Scrubbed.The Cap Times. 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

4. Mentzer, Robert. “Why Wisconsin Loved Abraham Lincoln.Daily Herald Media. 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

5. Price, Jenny. “On Wisconsin Magazine.On Wisconsin Magazine. Spring 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

6. “Photography.Commencement. University of Wisconsin, Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

7. Waitrak, Kierra. “UW-Madison’s Lincoln Statue Turns 100.University of Wisconsin-Madison News. 22 June 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.\

8. “University of Wisconsin Traditions.Surrounded by Reality. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

9. Peckinpaugh, Timothy. “Monuments in Madison, Wisconsin.Travel Tips. USA Today. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

10. “Abraham Lincoln Statue at Bascom Hall.” Photo Library. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.