The Journey begins...

My photo
The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lincoln meets little Grace Bedell

This morning we went to Garfield Heights Middle School in Garfield Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) for a program. Vicki Tomasheski is a teacher there. She is a participant in the teacher-ranger-teacher program with Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Karen Kopchak recommended her.

Statue of Lincoln and Grace Bedell, Westfield, NY
The 57 middle school students and teachers really enjoyed the program. Fritz does a different presentation for students. His Lincoln for kids is folksier and he tells stories of Lincoln’s childhood. Some of the phrases get a laugh, too, such as, “I was happy as a pig in a pea patch.” Fritz also includes messages that emphasize that anybody can grow up to be successful like Lincoln, if you work hard, do your best, stay honest, and never give up. In addition, Fritz has a great knack for getting across the unpleasant topic of slavery in a way that students understand and can relate to.

After the program, the students swarmed around Fritz. He shook hands and spoke to them in small groups. On the way to the van, I snapped some photos of Mr. Lincoln doffing is top hat in front of the “Garfield Heights” school sign. We then proceeded on to one of our most anticipated stops: Westfield, New York. Westfield was a very special stop for Mr. Lincoln. Grace Bedell, a young girl, had written a letter to Mr. Lincoln suggesting that he grow a beard.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her; . . . a small boy, mounted on a post, with his mouth and eyes wide open, cried out, “there she is, Mr. LINCOLN,” pointing to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, who was blushing all over her fair face. The President left the car, and the crowd making way for him, he reached for her, and gave her several hearty kisses, and amid the yells of delight from the excited crowd, he bade her good-bye.

Our program was set up in the auditorium for approximately 600 people. The audience included the student body—from elementary to high school—of the Westfield Academy and Central School as well as a fair number of townspeople. About a dozen people were attired in 1860s era reproduction clothing. They sat on stage behind Mr. Lincoln. One gentleman was portraying railroad detective Allan Pinkerton. Mr. Pinkerton stood behind the president-elect and relentlessly scanned the student body in case one of the kids decided to rush the stage and inflict bodily harm to Mr. Lincoln. The student band, which numbered about 15 or so, serenaded the audience with Civil War era songs. It was a nice touch. The upright bass player even sported an Abe Lincoln beard and stovepipe top hat. “Madison,” a young girl from Westfield, portrayed Grace Bedell. We staged several photographic sessions of her presenting yellow roses to Mr. Lincoln. She was a good sport about the whole thing.

During the set-up for the Westfield school program, I was asked by Martha Bills, our primary point of contact for our stop there, to get in touch with a Buffalo television station. I called the WGRZ studio. They couldn’t send a crew down to the event to film it. Could we send some still photographs? Sure, I said. So after the program, a secretary in the school superintendent’s office let me use her computer. I downloaded four photos that I took at the school event and emailed them. The images subsequently appeared on the six o’clock news. I also asked that they plug our public program in Buffalo the next night. Once we had squared away getting the photos to the Buffalo TV station, Tim steered our van to a reception. We stepped carefully over ice and snow and walked into to a wonderful historic home, which houses the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Everyone was so friendly.

On the second floor, we were shown through an exhibit room that featured several Lincoln images and artifacts, including two lanterns that had been on the carriage that delivered President and Mrs. Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on the tragic night of the assassination, and a Lincoln Funeral Train adornment. Lincoln’s funeral train traveled through Westfield four years after the inaugural train. At 1:00 am on April 28, 1865, the funeral train stopped briefly in Westfield “where large bonfires had been built, lights hung about, and a signal gun was fired.” Several women from Westfield were permitted on the train and they placed a wreath on the president’s casket.

Through conversations with several people and exhibits at the museum, we learned about an all but forgotten advocate for civil rights. Albion Winegar Tourgee served as an officer in the Union army. He devoted his career to making equal rights a reality for everyone. Mr. Tourgee wrote, “Justice is pictured blind and her daughter, the Law, ought at least to be color-blind.” Tourgee even argued for the plaintiff in the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson before the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost. The court decided that in a case involving segregated railroad cars in Louisiana that “separate but equal” facilities for people of color was constitutional.

At my park we interpret Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. At Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, we provide visitors with opportunities to learn how the 1954 decision became a turning point in the nation’s long struggle to provide freedom and equality for everyone.

Both Plessy and Brown impacted American history in many ways. Plessy led to the nadir of race relations in American history as states were allowed to create racially segregated public institutions—including public schools. Brown, conversely, opened the door to the modern civil rights movement; it inaugurated an opening into the light of equality and justice after a long, dark night of oppression and injustice.

Tourgee’s efforts and the history of Plessy and Brown relates to the “Civil War to Civil Rights” sub-theme that the National Park Service is interpreting during the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011 to 2015. The freedom that African Americans achieved as a result of the Civil War did not become equality. Equality would have to wait another 100 years.

By the way, we also learned that Robert H. Jackson grew up in Frewsburg, NY, about 30 miles from Westfield. Jackson was one of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Jackson also served as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials of former Nazi officials in post-World War II Germany.

As Lincoln’s train pulled into Westfield 150 years ago, a banner proclaimed prominently, “Welcome Abraham Lincoln to the Empire State.” We were also welcomed to the Empire State.
The people at Westfield were very hospitable. We had a delightful time.

Before leaving Westfield, a group of us walked over to the sight of the statues of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell. These statues are two of the primary tangible reminders of Lincoln’s inaugural journey. They’re wonderful depictions of two Americans whose lives intersected briefly, but meaningfully. We took quite a number of photographs.

I hate to leave out anyone, because I know many people made the Westfield event a memorable one. But I do wish to thank Marth Bills; John Paul Wolfe, the curator at the Chautauqua County Historical Society; and David and Sandra Brown for dressing in period clothes and being such wonderful hosts for us.

Then we proceeded on to Buffalo, NY, where we spent the night.

Remarks from Cleveland!

Today, we drove from Pittsburgh up to Hudson, Ohio. Our evening program is at the Happy Days Lodge at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 250 attended the program. National Park Service staff at Cuyahoga Valley National Park organized the event. Karen Kopchak did a great job of setting up the event and serving as the emcee for the night. Civilian Conservation Corps workers built the Happy Days Lodge in the 1930s. It’s a great old building, with a vaulted ceiling in the main hall.

Today we arrived in time to eat lunch at the “Winking Lizard.” Tim Good used to work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so he knows the area quite well. We had a great lunch, talking about the upcoming programs and about the park here. Tim says that they park has many fascinating features to it—a railroad, historic buildings, agriculture, etc. A century-and-a-half ago, the president-elect arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, at about 4:30 pm. At the train depot Lincoln boarded a carriage in a snow storm to ride in a procession to the Weddell House. From a balcony looking out to “a sea of faces,” Lincoln decided to speak about his pledge to leave slavery alone—in the south, where it already existed:

We have been marching about two miles through snow, rain and deep mud. The large numbers that have turned out under these circumstances testify that you are in earnest about something or other. What is happening now will not hurt those who are farther away from here. Have they not all their rights now as they ever have had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves returned now as ever? Have they not the same constitution that they have lived under for seventy odd years? Have they not a position as citizens of this common country, and have we any power to change that position? What then is the matter with them? Why all this excitement? Why all these complaints? As I said before, this crisis is all artificial. It has no foundation in facts. If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage, nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.

Invariably, at each of our stops, we seem to run into “Local Lincolns.” These are men who portray our 16th president. They seem to be sincere, good men, who want people to better understand who Mr. Lincoln was and what he did to preserve the Union. There were two “Local Lincolns” at the event this evening at the Happy Days Lodge.

One of the interesting people we met at the Happy Days Lodge was a woman who first met Fritz Klein ten years ago. He inspired her to do living history and she became a reenactor. They posed for a photograph tonight—and they were holding a photograph of them together taken ten years ago, which she had brought with her. I guess you could say that we’ve discovered that Abraham Lincoln has groupies—and so does Fritz Klein!

The other night a humorous incident occurred. We were checking into a hotel when Fritz gave the hotel clerk at the front desk his credit card. But the clerk said, “I need to see a photo ID.” Fritz, unfortunately, had left his driver’s license in the vehicle. Thinking quickly, Fritz asked Spirit for a five-dollar bill. Fritz then got the attention of the hotel clerk and held up the bill by his face. The clerk looked up and laughed. The clerk then waived the need for Fritz to produce photo ID.

As an aside for the things we deal with while we’re on the road, my eye glasses are about to fall apart at the bridge (nosepiece). A hotel worker back in Columbus placed some clear packing tape on the glasses. But I fear that it may not hold out. In Macedonia, Ohio, I went to Wal-Mart vision center to get fitted for contact lenses. I have worn contacts in the past, but it has been awhile. The optometrist was very nice and helpful. So now I’m set up with contact lenses for the rest of the trip (and my eye glasses are still holding up, too).

For our standard program, Spirit speaks for about five minutes while introducing Fritz as President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Then Fritz will usually start with the words Lincoln actually spoke at that city 150 years ago. But Lincoln’s remarks were often so short that they wouldn’t make much of a program. So Fritz has about a 30-minute speech that is a patchwork of all of Lincoln’s speeches during his inaugural journey. It’s very dramatic. The audience is often quite still when Mr. Lincoln is speaking.

There are some lines, though, that seem to get smiles and chuckles each time. For instance, in Pittsburgh in 1861, Lincoln said, “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there really is no crisis, springing from anything in the government itself. My advice, then, under such circumstances, is to keep cool.” (This is the line that brings a reaction from the audience. I guess they think the phrase “keep cool” sounds more like a modern term.) After the “keep cool” line, Lincoln continued, “If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character which have originated in this government have been adjusted.”

by Dave Schafer, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (NHS)

Day Five - February 15, 2011
Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH

Supt. Tim Good, Ulysses S. Grant NHS, St. Louis, MO
Park Ranger Spirit Trickey, Central High School NHS, Little Rock, Ark.
Richard F. “Fritz” Klein, nationally renowned Lincoln presenter, Springfield, IL.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lincoln's in the Big Apple!

After several days on the road and many programs presented, Lincoln and NPS staff pulled into New York City. Special programs at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historical Site and the General Grant National Memorial are scheduled for the weekend. Check back for more updates!

The journey in 1861 saw Lincoln speak from the
balcony of New York's Astor House.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Buffalo to Albany!

Lincoln and the National Park Service continue the journey east. After 8 days on the road, the team has delivered 15 programs in 11 cities to over 4300 people! Check out the event from Albany!

Columbus crowds support Lincoln!

Abraham Lincoln and NPS staff speaking at the
Ohio Statehouse in Columbus

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Four - February 14, 2011

Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, PA

While thinking about the media and getting the word out about our programs, I began to think about how we communicate. What methods do we use to spread our messages? How do political leaders communicate their messages? What happens when the tools of mass communication are turned around toward politicians and celebrities?

Fame changes lives. In our world today, celebrities and politicians try to guard their privacy. Cameras, though, record nearly everything. Technology can send images around the world in an instant. Mass communication via television, the internet, twitter, facebook, cell phones, etc., has changed the way we keep up-to-date with one another.

Lincoln speaks at the Ohio Statehouse,
But the world of 1861 was quite different. To be sure, the telegraph had transformed communications in the country. Messages could be quickly transmitted with this new technology. Most Americans, however, got their in-depth news through the newspapers.

And if you wanted to see a President of the United States (or president-elect) you had to seek him out. Photographs were reproduced as lithographs for newspapers. So people knew what the president looked like. There was no other way to hear his voice, however, other than seeing him in person.

In Cincinnati 150 years ago, for instance, the Lincoln family stayed in a fine hotel, the Burnet House. But even in the hotel the president-elect could not escape the curious and adoring crowds. Mr. Lincoln must have already felt like public property. Waves of admirers pressed around him. According to one account at the time, people were “throwing their arms around him, patting him on the back, and almost wrenching his arm off.” Another wrote that each man who greeted Lincoln believed it was “his duty to shake ‘Old Abe’s’ hand, as if it were a pump-handle.”

This morning, we drove to Indian Trail Elementary School in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The program was at 9:30 am. Beverly Downing is the wonderful principal there. She greeted us warmly at the front door. Beth Moore, a second grade teacher, was our contact. She had emailed Tim Good about setting up the program.

About 500 students, from grades one through four, gathered on the floor of the lunchroom/auditorium. Spirit Trickey spoke first. She’s wonderful with children. She asked them about her uniform. What was she? One child said a police officer another said something about “jungle” (I didn’t catch the words exactly—but I think the student was equating the uniform to some sort of wilderness ranger/game warden). The third student said, “park ranger.” Spirit got the students excited about meeting President Abraham Lincoln. So they cheered wildly when Fritz came through the curtains on the stage. Fritz’s program for the younger audience was quite different from our other programs. He told stories of Lincoln’s boyhood. In one, Lincoln returned a water-damaged book to a neighbor. To pay for the damage, Lincoln went to the farmer for several visits to do chores and other labor. The man who had loaned the book was at first upset, but seeing the effort of young Abraham, decided he would still loan books to Lincoln.

Fritz talked with the students about the importance of getting a good education, of never giving up, of achieving your dream, of treating people the way you want to be treated. Fritz is so animated and engaging as a speaker. The students kept their attention on him.Toward the end of the program, Fritz didn’t shy away from the serious topics of secession and slavery. He described these topics in words that children can understand. Like Lincoln 150 years ago, we proceeded from Columbus, OH, to Pittsburgh, PA. Lincoln’s train was pelted with rain most of the way between the two cities. Keeping in mind our journey in Lincoln’s footsteps, a cold drizzle fell on us part of the time in Pittsburgh.

Our evening event was held in the marvelous Soldiers and Sailors Museum. Built in honor of the areas Civil War veterans, the building has wonderful exhibits with fascinating artifacts that document the military service of area veterans throughout history.In the main hall, the complete Gettysburg Address is engraved on a large wall behind the stage. A balcony encircles three sides of the hall, which has a high ceiling. It’s a great venue!

Spirit and Fritz delivered excellent presentations once again. When Spirit said in her introduction that she was the daughter of one of the Little Rock Nine, you could see the audience react with nods and smiles. Fritz again quoted what Lincoln said 150 years ago. In Pittsburgh, Lincoln tried to reassure his listeners that the crisis of secession was an artificial one and that everyone should just calm down. “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there really is no crisis, springing from anything in the government itself. My advice, then, under such circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character which have originated in this government have been adjusted.”

About 120 people attended the program. The presentation included a spirited question and answer session with Mr. Lincoln (and Mr. Klein). Because it was Valentine’s Day, we wondered what the turn-out would be. After the program, I talked with a father and his four sons. It turns out, his wife was also there (she had stepped away for the moment). He convinced her that going to a program about Abraham Lincoln would be a great thing to do on Valentine’s Day! She agreed. The father said that they go to Lincoln sites when they can. In fact, one of the boys was wearing a Lincoln hat and beard that he got on a family vacation to Springfield, Illinois.

By Dave Schafer

Day Three - February 13, 2011

Cincinnati, OH to Columbus, OH

Before I talk about the events of today, I want to return to last night’s amazing program. You could sense the energy and enthusiasm in the crowd. The audience was moved. For a brief time, Cincinnati’s Civil War era past came back to life.

Last night, Bob Limoseth, the program’s moderator, opened the presentation with some powerful and relevant words. I’m going to share them now.

Mr. Limoseth:

“Good evening. Welcome to the Museum Center and the Cincinnati History Museum’s kick-off event in observance of the upcoming Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. From April 12th of 2011 to April 9th of 2015, cities and towns across the country will be commemorating events and activities associated with America’s Great Civil War.

Lincoln "Fritz Klein" and the NPS team at the Indiana State Museum
“Now, I see a number of young people in our audience tonight and we are pleased you have come to see Mr. Lincoln. I want you to note, however, that I just used the word commemorate (which means remembrance or to mark by some ceremony) --- not celebration. We do not celebrate war and we do not celebrate an event in which 620,000 Americans, both north and south, lost their lives. In order to understand the magnitude of this tragedy, I’d like to put it in perspective for you. If 2% of today’s population was to be lost in war or some other great tragedy, as it was 150 years ago, it would amount to over 6,000,000 lost American lives.”

On this trip retracing Lincoln’s inaugural route, I have to admit that Tim, Fritz, Spirit, and I are having a lot of fun. It’s been tiring, but rewarding. We’ve had some long days and we check into a different hotel every night. But this is such a great opportunity for us. We get to share a window into the past with our audiences.

And we know we’re interpreting a dramatic time in history, a turning point that helped define us as a people, as a nation. A century-and-a-half ago Americans were on the brink of taking up arms against each other. Very few Americans could have imagined the destructive forces that were about to be unleashed.

When Fritz is quoting the words Lincoln used 150 years ago, there is often a hush that drapes over the audience. It is caused, I think, by the seriousness of the material. Secession, slavery, and possible civil war are weighty topics. Sometimes we can get caught up in the color, the personalities, the pageantry—the romanticism—of the Civil War era. But we should not forget the bitter divisiveness that led to the war and how the iron heel of war left its imprint on this nation ever since.

We drove to Columbus this morning so that Fritz Klein could speak on a morning talk show. Marshall McPeek of  WCMH-TV, Channel 4, interviewed Fritz. Marshall wanted to know what it is like for Fritz to portray Lincoln all these years and the research that Fritz has done. Fritz often points out, as he did on television today, that he has learned a great deal about how to be a better person by studying Lincoln.   

This afternoon’s event in the beautiful Ohio Statehouse was one of the most memorable I’ve ever seen. The audience, which included a fair number of kids, was spell-bound. They had over 600 in the immediate audience. Gregg Dodd, the Deputy Director of Communications, Marketing, and Events at the Ohio Statehouse, played a key in organizing the event. He said another 75 people were watching via closed circuit television system. They streamed the event live. There should be a video of it on this site tomorrow: . Being in the House chamber where Lincoln spoke 150 years before made it even more special.

As a prelude to the program at the Ohio Statehouse, Steve Ball sang Civil War songs while strumming a guitar. His stories and beautiful singing voice was a great way to set the mood for the event. Men and women in period clothing helped create ambiance, too. The 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Honor Guard brought in the colors. After the program, audience members could go the rotunda and pose for photographs with Fritz as the president-elect.

In February 1861, critics of Lincoln faulted him for his silence. Southerners were voting to secede from the Union and create a new country, the Confederate States of America. With this crisis dominating the news, why didn’t he speak out more? Mr. Lincoln addressed this topic in his speech to the joint meeting of the Ohio legislature. “Allusion has been made to the interest felt in relation to the policy of the new administration. In this I have received from some a degree of credit for having kept silence, and from others some deprecation. I still think that I was right. In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the present, and without a precedent which could enable me to judge by the past, it has seemed fitting that before speaking upon the difficulties of the country, I should have gained a view of the whole field, to be sure, after all, being at liberty to modify and change the course of policy, as future events may make a change necessary.”

All in all, the event at the Ohio Statehouse was well planned and executed. I wish I could thank each person individually. But that isn’t possible. So thanks to everyone who made it possible!

By Dave Schafer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The National Park Service is recreating Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inaugural journey from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., and the Indiana State Museum will be the first stop. .Nationally-renowned Lincoln re-enactor Fritz Klein returns as Lincoln and begins Saturday activities by addressing visitors at 10 a.m. in the museum's Great Hall. . Friday Feb. 12, 2010. Alan Petersime/The Star

Onward to Ohio!

Abraham Lincoln (Fritz Klein) speaks at the Ohio Statehouse in Coulmbus, Feb. 13, 2011

Day Two - February 12, 2011

 By Dave Schafer, National Park Service

Today marks the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 202nd birthday. And yes, in honor of Lincoln we sang “Happy Birthday” in Indianapolis and ate birthday cake in Cincinnati.
We drove to the Indiana State Museum for the morning program. Spirit introduced Richard F. “Fritz” Klein as Abraham Lincoln. A group of re-enactors portrayed a color guard of the 19th U.S. Infantry, a unit which had been stationed in Indiana.

People love seeking out Abraham Lincoln. There’s something almost magical (mystical?) about it. In the museum cafeteria after the program, visitors swarmed Fritz Klein. Older couples, mothers with small children, young couples—they want to talk to Fritz and pose for photos. Fritz takes it all in good humor, much like Mr. Lincoln himself would have done.

In fact, Spirit talked with a mother who drove from her home in Michigan—five hours away—to be at the program. Her seven-year-old son is a big “Lincoln buff,” according to the mother. Another couple drove an hour-and-a-half to be at the event.

Photo by Alan Petersime/The Star
Everyone at our event locations has been great to work with along the route. Susannah Koerber, Vice President of Arts and Culture at the Indiana State Museum, organized the activities, which included a display of Civil War medicine. They had children’s activities, such as building things with Lincoln Logs and playing with Civil War soldiers. 

Fritz gave an outstanding program as Mr. Lincoln in the lobby of the Indiana State Museum. The audience numbered just over 100 people.

After his formal remarks, Mr. Lincoln took questions from the audience. He was asked, for instance, about how he would deal with the secession of several southern states. One little boy, perhaps three years old, said to Fritz that “I’m not very good at making pictures.” Then boy said slowly that he took one of him (Fritz) but that it turned out weird. Everyone laughed. Mr. Lincoln laughed the loudest.

We then drove from Indianapolis to Cincinnati.

Due to a very heavy turn-out, the Cincinnati program Friday night had to be given twice. The 300-seat theater filled up quickly—and nearly filled up for the second program nearly 90 minutes later. Plus, they had cake for Lincoln’s birthday.

Photo by Alan Petersime/The Star
Bob Limoseth, of the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, played a key role in organizing the event ( The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal housed the event in a wonderful theater. Approximately 590 people watched the programs. The program featured people in living history clothing portraying the mayor in 1860, a historical narrator, and music by a German choir (in 1861, a German choir serenaded the president). The program closely followed the script of what was said 150 years ago—with lots of huzzahs from the audience. In fact, the audience gave President-elect Lincoln a standing ovation!

During Lincoln’s stop in Cincinnati 150 years ago, he was the center of attention. The city welcomed the president-elect with a parade. Mr. Lincoln rode in a carriage pulled by a team of six white horses.

At the Burnet Hotel on February 12, 1861, Mayor Richard M. Bishop introduced the president-elect to a large crowd. Speaking from a podium, Mr. Bishop said, “In the name of the people of all classes of my fellow citizens I extend you a cordial welcome . . . . it is the earnest and united desire of our citizens, that your administration of the General Government may be marked by wisdom, patriotism, and justice to all sections of the country . . . .”

Mr. Lincoln then spoke. “Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four hours ago, at the Capital of Indiana, I said to myself I have never seen so many people assembled in winter weather. I am no longer able to say that.” Lincoln referred to the current national crisis, but also looked to the future regarding the transfer of power to each newly elected president. “I hope that, although we have some threatening National difficulties now—I hope that while these free institutions shall continue to be in the enjoyment of millions of free people of the United States, we will see repeated every four years what we now witness. . . . I hope we shall see in the streets of Cincinnati—good old Cincinnati—for centuries to come, once every four years her people give such a reception as this to the constitutionally elected President of the United States.”

I interviewed an audience member afterward and asked him what he thought of the program. He said, “I really enjoyed it. It was really well done. Everything about it . . . the introductions and the people in character. . . . It almost felt like you were back in time.” I asked him if he learned something new. He replied, “I didn’t know they had such an involved train route [for Lincoln’s inaugural journey].”

People flock to Lincoln—hotel lobbies, parking garages, elevators, etc. It’s amazing. Today we got in an elevator in the Cincinnati hotel and a woman asked Mr. Lincoln, “Isn’t your birthday tomorrow?” “No,” he replied, “It’s today.” She then exclaimed: “happy birthday!”

Day One - February 11, 2011

First, let’s start with National Park Service (NPS) team who will be re-tracing Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural route 150 years later. The team is led by Tim Good, superintendent at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (NHS).

Richard F. “Fritz” Klein is portraying President-elect Lincoln along the route. Klein will depict Lincoln in 16 cities between February 11 and February 23, ending in Washington, D.C., as Lincoln did 150 years ago.

Other team members include Spirit Trickey, acting chief of interpretation at Central High School NHS in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Dave Schafer, chief of interpretation, education, and cultural resources at Brown v. Board of Education NHS in Topeka, KS.

Special recognition also goes to Tim Townsend, the historian at Lincoln Home NHS. Tim envisioned the idea of following Lincoln’s inaugural route on the 150th anniversary of his journey. Tim also wrote a booklet, Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness. The booklets will be given out to audience members at the programs along the way.

The journey for the NPS team began, as Lincoln did, on Feb. 11 in Springfield, Illinois. We did our first program to 54 people in the Grace Lutheran Church at 9:00 am. Spirit introduced the president-elect. Mr. Lincoln spoke eloquently and emotionally. The program was about 30 minutes long.

The next event was at the Lincoln home. In a re-staging of their travel to Washington, D.C., Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln stepped out of the house with various bags and a trunk. They boarded a horse-drawn carriage for the ride to the train station. Mr. Lincoln made a comment about the weight of one of the bags. Mrs. Lincoln said that, well, he had packed it.

Lincoln speaks to crowd in Springfield, Illinois
The Lincolns rode in the carriage to the train station. An entourage followed them, stepping carefully on the frozen ice and snow for much of the route. About 600 people were gathered at the station. At 11:00 am, the crowd read Lincoln’s farewell address in unison three times in an attempt to set a world record for the simultaneous reading of the same thing at the same time.

A century-and-a-half ago, the country teetered on the brink of civil war. Seven southern states had seceded from the Union, fearing that the new Republican president from Illinois, a free state, would interfere with the institution of slavery in the south. Southerners were forming the Confederate States of America. War clouds hung ominously in the air. What would Lincoln do in response to this national emergency?

Spirit Trickey, Park Ranger from Central High School
National Historic Site, speaks to crowd.
As the president-elect reflected on his rendezvous with destiny that awaited him in the nation’s capital, he reflected, “I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.”

In 1861, a freezing drizzle caused many people to use umbrellas when they watched Lincoln say his words of farewell. During the re-enactment of Lincoln’s farewell address I (Dave Schafer) was videotaping the farewell address, as well as taking photographs. In keeping with the re-staging of the farewell address, a student standing between the president-elect and me popped open his umbrella part way through the address, which blocked my view of Mr. Lincoln.

We then walked back toward the Lincoln Home NHS visitor center. We boarded the van to start our journey.

Riding in a van with Abraham Lincoln as one of the passengers is an interesting experience. At our first stop at a convenience store to get a Subway sandwich, a man in line said he had passed us on the road. He did a double-take when he saw Mr. Lincoln riding in a van and talking on a cell phone!

In 1861, the president-elect boarded a train at about 8:00 in the morning and reached Indianapolis, Indiana, at about 5:00 pm. Our team left Springfield, Illinois, just after noon and arrived in Indianapolis about 4:30 pm.

The next event was at the Indiana State Museum at 5:00 pm. Fritz Klein rode as the president-elect in an open carriage up to the museum’s entrance. To serenade the arrival of Mr. Lincoln, the Columbia Brass Quintet performed Civil War era brass band music. Audience members were treated to a number of period tunes, including “Hail, Columbia,” “Hard Times,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and a medley of “Dixie/Bonnie Blue Flag.”

For the evening program on Friday, Feb. 11, Mr. Lincoln made some appropriate remarks. When he finished, the band played a couple of more tunes. Mr. Lincoln took some questions. Then Fritz Klein stepped out of character and mingled with the audience. About 42 people attended the program.

Several children were present, including a little girl named “Daisy.” We took a number of photos of her speaking to Mr. Lincoln.

In 1861, when Mr. Lincoln arrived in Indianapolis, he was given a 34-gun artillery salute, one for each state in the Union (which, beginning on January 29, now included my home state of Kansas). Speaking to a crowd at the train station, Lincoln said, “. . . the salvation of the Union . . . needs but one single thing—the hearts of a people like yours. When the people rise in masses on behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, truly may it be said, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them.’” 

150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Inaugural Journey

The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011, by revisiting sixteen cities and towns at which Lincoln made remarks. Those cities include Springfield, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Westfield, New York; Buffalo, New York; Albany, New York; Peekskill, New York; New York, New York; Trenton, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland; and, Washington, DC. 

The programming will feature acclaimed Lincoln actor Fritz Klein, who will present what Lincoln said in each community as he tried to reassure a nation on the verge of Civil War. The program will include National Park Service Park Rangers who will supplement Lincoln's remarks with the story of Lincoln's election, the turbulence that followed, and Lincoln's steadfast commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, despite threats to the nation and himself. The programs will also touch on how events of 150 years ago resonated through later generations up to and including today.

The National Park Service is presenting these series of events in cooperation with many local cosponsors in each community. Venues will vary by community, ranging from the places where Lincoln had actually spoken 150 years prior, to a variety of National Parks, local museums, and schools. 

In addition, the National Park Service is sponsoring an educational initiative related to the Lincoln's Inaugural Journey titled "National Park Service Memory Trail: Civil War to Civil Rights" in which students can research their local community with an eye towards how their community related to the Civil War, the subsequent Civil Rights struggles, and their vision for their community in the next generation. 

Each community, in partnership with their local National Park sites and other partners, will develop the local arrangements for the Lincoln Inaugural Route presentations as well as any additional programming that they may wish to include. In the hope that many young people will be touched by this program, an additional educational component, titled Your National Park Service Memory Trail "Civil War to Civil Rights: A National Digital History Project for High School Students" is also being offered. See separate report for a more detailed description of that project, or visit 
Program presenters include:         

Abraham Lincoln
as portrayed by Richard F. (Fritz) Klein         

National Park Service Staff:
Timothy S. Good, Superintendent,
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Dave Schafer, Chief of Interpretation and Education,
Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site
Spirit Trickey, Park Ranger,
Central High School National Historic Site