Skip to main content

Frank J. Williams

June 2024
1min read


My name begins with W , so when I started sixth grade, I was placed in the last seat in the last row, right beneath a large print of Abraham Lincoln. Years before, my mother had read aloud to me a Lincoln entry from a children’s encyclopedia, so I was already prepared. Now I was inspired. I began using my lunch money to buy Lincoln books. In 1951 twenty-five cents could buy used copies of Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years or Dale Carnegie’s Lincoln the Unknown , two of my earliest purchases. At first I would bring them into the house secretly. We weren’t a collecting family.

While still a teenager, I decided to become a lawyer—just like Lincoln. When I was a college junior, a friend and I spent spring recess camping out at Lincoln sites. In Gettysburg Mr. and Mrs. William Barriga allowed us to pitch our tent near their house, then and now the only privately owned home on the battlefield. That night they felt so sorry for us that they invited us to stay indoors. Inside we saw a bullet that had pierced a door during the battle and had been lodged there ever since. I was hooked, firmly and forever. I’ve been collecting and studying Lincoln ever since.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.