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.

Tuesday, February 15, 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!”

1 comment:

  1. Love the blog! I was at the Cincinnati program - it was a great turn out!