Finding Abraham Lincoln at AAS

Lincoln Cartoon
Detail from a political cartoon depicting an admirer of Lincoln. Click on the image to see the entire Currier & Ives print, The Republican Party Going to the Right House (1860)

Abraham Lincoln is a hot topic these days.  From renowned historians to local students, everyone is interested in learning more about the man who once declared: “I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life.” While Lincoln has been a perennial favorite for researchers at AAS, recently interest in him has picked up even more due to a confluence of anniversaries. Two years ago, on February 12, 2009, we celebrated the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and this year marks the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  The Washington Post has even devoted an entire blog to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, A House Divided, and in a recent post commented on how Lincoln (not surprisingly) remains an important part of that commemoration.

For our part, AAS will be hosting two free public lectures this May related to Lincoln and the Civil War. On Thursday, May 12, James O. and Lois E. Horton will present: “Liberty and Justice for All: The Civil War as Blacks’ Second American Revolution.” The Hortons are currently Mellon Distinguished Scholars in Residence at AAS and are in the reading room each day working primarily on a project titled: “A Documentary History of African Americans from 1619 to the Civil War.” Later in the month, on Tuesday, May 24th, David S. Reynolds will present: “Igniting the War: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Antislavery Politics, and the Rise of Lincoln.” So be sure to mark your calendars or read more about these and other upcoming public programs here.

It is not only scholars who are excited about Lincoln. Currently at AAS we have a Worcester Polytechnic Institute student working on an online exhibition and inventory of the Lincoln portrait prints from our American Portrait Prints collection.  As part of a semester-long project for Professor Jim Cocola’s “Textual Engineering” course, Amber Truhanovitch is photographing, describing, and tracking down sources for the 116 prints of Lincoln in the collection.  Stay tuned for an update when her project is finished.  Her work will complement our growing collection of online finding aids that assist researchers in finding materials not yet in our online catalog.

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet (1866). Click on the image to enlarge.

Indeed, the Graphic Arts collections generally at AAS are vital for any researcher hoping to understand Lincoln’s life and times.  When Bancroft-award-winning historian William Freehling gave the 2009 Baron lecture at AAS, he displayed one of our prized prints, The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet.  The Graphic Arts department houses not only the print, which was sold as a premium plate to New York Independent subscribers, but also the proof for the plate (click here to see the online catalog records for both).  AAS’s sizable collections of other graphics — including Civil War cartoons, Civil War envelopes, and cartes-de-visite — often feature Lincoln.

Additional AAS collections — including other prints, broadsides, political cartoons, songsters, ephemera, newspapers, and children’s literature — all supply the Lincoln scholar with endless sources for research and study. Most of these materials can be found by searching the AAS online catalog for “Abraham Lincoln” as a phrase. This search results in over 750 hits (click here to see for yourself), all of which goes to show just how easy it is to find Abraham Lincoln at AAS!

Published by

Elizabeth Watts Pope

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

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