Lincoln in New York

The New York Historical Society is having free admission days all this week. That is another thing about New York that I love, the museums often have free days/hours which is just the right price for me. The museum has a special exhibit on Lincoln which was pretty cool. I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention in history. My American history knowledge is seriously deficient. It was cool to walk through Lincoln’s political career. My favorite anecdote was about his decision to grow a beard. In his early days he was clean shaven in his photos. A little girl named Grace Bedell wrote him a letter assuring him of her vote but also suggesting that he grow in some whiskers.

Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860

Hon A B Lincoln
Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York

I must not write any more   answer this letter right off
Good bye
Grace Bedell

Adorable right? The best part is that Lincoln did grow in some whiskers! I loved that. The big thing I took away from the exhibit is the way that history blurs the edges of what actually happened. Lincoln is this iconic figure, stove pipe hats, unwavering morals and a farmer boy clean cut stature. I think the thing that gets diminished is the great opposition he faced even within his camp of supporters. The political cartoons were especially biting. It was just interesting to me how so many of the challenges Lincoln faced in his Presidency are the same challenges President Obama is facing. So good luck President Obama, politics is a harsh business.

It seems ridiculous now to think that slavery was a legalized way of life that under the Dred Scott Decision those imported and descended from Africans were not protected under our constitution. I won’t get into the ways slavery is still legalized today (maybe later), but it’s still baffling that we can treat our fellow human beings like cattle. The museum exhibited the lives of some of our country’s most legendary abolitionists. Now I wish I had paid more attention in history class instead of playing racing games on my TI-83 I could have properly given consideration to the people in history that risked their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Thank you New York Historical Society for properly shaming me. I’m off to add some history books to this year’s book list.


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