If Lincoln Hadn’t Died...

Would the disastrous Reconstruction era have taken a different course?

What would have happened had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated? Every time I lecture on Lincoln, the Civil War, or Reconstruction, someone in the audience is sure to pose this question—one, of course, perfectly natural to ask but equally impossible to answer. This has not, however, deterred historians from speculating about this “counterfactual” problem.

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Lincoln & Douglass

The prairie lawyer president and outspoken abolitionist formed an unusual friendship

At dusk in early April 1866, a large crowd filed into Representatives Hall of the imposing Illinois Capitol in Springfield. Just 11 months earlier, President Lincoln’s rapidly blackening body had lain here in state as thousands of townspeople had filed past to say goodbye. Read more »

Lincoln’s Legacy

As we approach the bicentennial of his birth, leading historians look at the man and his achievements

During the campaign of 1860, and throughout what Henry Adams would justly call the “Great Secession Winter” that fell like a shadow after that year’s momentous presidential election, a convincing case could be made that Abraham Lincoln was totally unprepared to assume the nation—s highest office, particularly at the hour of its gravest domestic crisis. Read more »

Lincoln In Hawaiian Memory

On the grounds of the Ewa Plantation School just west of Honolulu stands a bronze statue of a young Abraham Lincoln with ax in hand, forearms rippling after splitting logs. Fifteen years before Hawaii became a state in 1959, school officials unveiled this statue, a symbol of Lincoln’s popularity in Hawaii during the American Civil War, when many Hawaiians enlisted in the Union Army and Navy despite the kingdom’s official neutrality. Read more »

Lincoln’s Home Away From Home Reopens

The Washington, DC, cottage where the 16th president escaped to weigh such matters as the Emancipation Proclamation has been faithfully restored

Only three miles from the White House, the house in northwest Washington, DC, offered Abraham Lincoln a refuge from the capital’s summertime heat and political pressures. The 16th president spent an estimated one-quarter of his time in office at this 34-room, brown-and-white stucco building. Now the National Trust for Historic Preservation has completed a $15 million restoration and refurbishment of the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, and the non-profit organization offers visitors an inside look at this little-known presidential dwelling. Read more »

Time Machine

50 Years Ago

April 25, 1957 The Navy sends its Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean to support King Hussein of Jordan against an uprising by pro-Egyptian army officers.

May 2, 1957 Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, one of the few non-Presidents to have a historical era named after him, dies at the age of 48 at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. He will be replaced by William Proxmire. Read more »

1832 - Lincoln: Indian Fighter


175 Years Ago On April 5 Black Hawk, a chief of the Sauk tribe, accompanied by several hundred warriors and their families, crossed the Mississippi River and set out for Rock Island, in northwestern Illinois. Back in 1804 Sauk and Fox leaders had agreed to abandon their lands east of the river, but Black Hawk and others denied the validity of that treaty. Now he and his followers hoped to reclaim their ancestral village.

Sauks and Foxes perform a war dance in a lithograph based on a late-1820s painting by Peter Rindisbacher.
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A book entitled George Nelson in the Compact Design Portfolio series succinctly summarizes its subject’s career in words and pictures. Original Nelson/Harper/Miller clocks are available from dealers who focus on vintage items. One of them, Evan Snyderman of R 20th Century ( www.r20thcentury.com / 212-343-7979), says prices range from less than $2,500 for the most common to the mid-five-figure range for rare ones.Read more »

The Gettysburg Gospel

Reading America’s Most Famous Speech

No presidential speech has been as widely analyzed, memorized, or canonized as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It has inspired more words to amplify and celebrate its mere 10 sentences than any oration since the Sermon on the Mount: articles, recitals, chapters, set pieces in films and plays, and, at last count, seven major books, most notably, until now, Garry Wills’s Pulitzer Prize– winning Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America . Read more »

The Buyable Past

George Nelson Clocks

George Nelson said he got into furniture design by accident, and indeed the architect didn’t actually create many of the mid-twentieth-century modernist icons synonymous with his name. The bubble lamp, the coconut chair, the sling sofa, and others he’s commonly credited with were styled by associates in his New York City office. Read more »