Tag Archives: Nineteenth Century

The Life of Lincoln

As this weekend marks Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, February 12 (as opposed to the consolidated “Presidents’ Day” which seems to be a holiday of convenience rather than commemoration) I sought out some images of his life in the vast collections of the Library of Congress.  In assembling these images, I  focused on his life as opposed to his death, as my initial impression is that many Lincolniana collections are rather macabrely-focused on the latter, constituting a “cult of remembrance” for the martyred President.  I’m more interested in the man than his death, but I did include a photograph of a late nineteenth-century Smithsonian exhibit featuring only Lincoln’s suit and hat.  The photograph of the President, Allan Pinkerton and General McClellan on the battlefield at Antietam in October of 1862 has been reproduced many times and is widely available, but I could not resist including it as it is such a striking image:  the iconic figure of Lincoln with other people.  He is so often alone.

My collection of images is organized chronologically, beginning with the first photograph of Lincoln as a newly elected congressman in 1846-47, through his presidency.  The two crowd photographs are from his first and second inaugurals in 1861 and 1865, and the last two images (oddly clothing-related) are from the later nineteenth century.

Photography credits:  all images but the last two from the Library of Congress Digital Collections; the remainder from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

New Year’s Greetings

In its infancy and adolescence, the period from about 1840 through the 1880s, the greetings card industry in Britain and America clearly differentiated between the two holidays of the “holiday season” and produced distinct Christmas and New Year’s Day cards rather than the combined Seasons’ Greetings and Happy Holidays cards of today.  Below are examples of New Year’s Day cards from the 1870s and 1880s, from the manuscript collection s of the Lilly Library of Indiana University.   Most are British, with the exception of the first calendar card, which was published by Louis Prang & Company of Boston in 1883.

Embargo Act and Witch City

President Jefferson being held up by King George and Napoleon, 1809: a contemporary critique of the Embargo Act

The US Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807 today, restricting American ships—-SALEM ships—-from engaging in foreign trade.  This act, in conjunction with the oddly-named “Nonintercourse Acts” and the War of 1812, was devestating to the port of Salem and its merchants.  Anyone who walks the streets of Salem can see the architectural legacy of the massive wealth accumulated in the Federal era, and the Embargo Act led Salem into a new era and identity:  from cosmopolitan port to “Witch City” .  I am not an American historian so it’s easy for me to be somewhat cavalier about this transition:  Salem lost its economic foundation and so created a somewhat superficial and tawdry new one based on the dark events of 1692. 

Today Salem seems to be embracing and emphasizing its comprehensive past and leaving “Witch City” somewhat behind, but it will never shed that label completely.  I am a fierce critic of witchcraft tourism and the pseudo-“museums” downtown, but even I was tempted to purchase an adorable, locally-made witch hat at Pamplemousse on Essex Street!


%d bloggers like this: