Abraham Lincoln and the Smithsonian Institution

National Academy of Sciences founders

Joseph Henry was not initially impressed with Abraham Lincoln. Barely a month after Lincoln settled into his new office in “that big white house,” the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution made his introductory visit. Henry’s inherent misgivings about the frontier politician were reinforced as he waited impatiently in the anteroom for an hour while a steady stream of the lowermost job seekers filed in and out of the President’s office. When finally allowed to see him, Henry thought Lincoln appeared careworn. After exchanging routine pleasantries, Henry explained the new president’s official role as prime overseer of the Smithsonian and invited Lincoln to attend the next regents’ meeting. But the president seemed disinterested. Henry’s conversation with the Lincoln, with Secretary of State William Seward present, was uncomfortable and brief. Henry felt disappointed by this country lawyer from the West and walked away feeling the President was “withdrawn and ill at ease.” Was Lincoln the uneducated, uncultured boor rumors made him out to be, one who could never understand the high intellectual ambitions of the Smithsonian Institution? Was the open dislike of Henry’s family for the man who General McClellan would later call an uncouth “gorilla” justified?

Granted, Henry thought, Lincoln was preoccupied with more urgent matters. Fort Sumter had fallen on April 12th and, as longtime friend Captain Montgomery Meigs informed Henry while they both waited for an audience, Lincoln was weighing various options for quickly ending the rebellion of seceded states. Perhaps he should not be so quick to judge, thought Henry, and indeed, over time he would come to appreciate Lincoln’s folksy intellect. Lincoln himself would rapidly come to see the importance of the Smithsonian and science for the war effort…and the future of the Union.

This was the beginning of a remarkable relationship.

[The above is a work in progress.]

[Painting at the top by Albert Herter in 1924, depicting President Abraham Lincoln signing the Charter of the Academy of Sciences in 1863. Henry is third from left. Courtesy National Academy of Sciences.]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Win a Free Copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaYou now have a second chance to win a copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America on Gooreads. I’ll even sign it for you.

Entering is simple: Go here and scroll down to the “Win a Copy of this Book” section and click on the “Enter Giveaway” Button. This Giveaway ends August 27th.

Or just click here to reach the Giveaway page directly and enter to win.

Be sure to check the box for “Also Add this Book to My Book Shelf” so you will be automatically notified of the next free giveaway.

You can preview the book – check it out here.

It can also be purchased directly on the Barnes and Noble website as a hardcover book or a Nook e-book. If you don’t have a Nook e-reader, no problem; simply download the Nook App onto any smart device – iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, and all tablets, laptops, desktops – wherever you read your books.

A new first edition hardcover can also be ordered directly from me on this website. I’ll sign and inscribe it to your wishes. Check out my “Buy the Books” page to order all five of my books.

Thanks for all your support. Be sure to enter the Goodreads Giveaway, and watch out for more Giveaways coming soon.

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David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Creating an Abraham Lincoln Library

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaMy Abraham Lincoln library began with a few books years ago and grew slowly into several shelves, then leapfrogged into several bookcases, and in seemingly one big bang expanded exponentially into several rooms. This week I took steps to consolidate the space (somewhat) and provide adequate space for new arrivals (at least temporarily).

My basement library/office/reading room began with two glass-front barrister bookcases full of books about Abraham Lincoln. I added four short (2-shelf) bookcases, which formed a nice wall between my office area and the library/reading area. A few years ago I commandeered a room upstairs as a library annex, installing four tall bookcases of five and six shelves each. Those quickly filled up and three more tall bookcases squeezed themselves into the guest bedroom, though I admit two of them hold non-Lincoln books. And yet all this wasn’t enough; books stacked themselves onto my computer desk, my writing desk, my floors, and edges of couches. Stairways became queues of books in the process of being read. Something had to change.

Abraham Lincoln library shelves

Ikea to the rescue. The four short bookcases have been re-purposed upstairs and replaced with four 7-shelf bookcases along one side of the room. I definitely like the look of a library wall. Ah, but the shelves didn’t stay empty long. They quickly looked like this.

Abraham Lincoln library shelves

The short shelf books are in their new home along with background books on Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison (research for past book projects) and some random files, magazines, and books previously piled randomly throughout the room. The best part is that I now have room to display some of my artwork, including the Lincoln bust in the center. How long it will take to fill the remaining space is anyone’s guess, but probably less time than I think.

Now that I have some space to play around with, I am reconsidering my organizational system, which can best be described as “in the order the books arrived.” I have a spreadsheet in which the shelf location of each book is listed so I can easily locate a particular resource for research. That works well enough, but I’m thinking about categorizing books by subtopics such as “assassination,” “full biography,” “childhood,” etc. A lot of books don’t fit nicely into this type of classification scheme, but it might be useful if I’m looking for a reference on his legal career, for example, without having to run all over the house to grab related books.

These are exciting times in Lincoln library land. My own Lincoln book will be put on the shelf within a few weeks and I’m already working on the next Lincoln book. I do have one favor to ask. My Facebook author page is sitting at 999 Likes, so if anyone reading hasn’t already liked it, can you run over and push me over 1000? Thanks in advance!

Meanwhile, check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release in summer 2017. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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[Daily Post]

Remembering Abraham Lincoln at the Hill Center, Old Navy Hospital

On January 18, 2017, in celebration of the Old Naval Hospital’s 150th anniversary, Hill Center and the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia will hold a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address.  In 1864 President Lincoln authorized $25,000 for construction of the (Old) Naval Hospital, which was completed in 1866, and the building has been restored to its 1860s condition to serve as Hill Center.
You can join us by signing up here: http://hillcenterdc.org/home/programs/3039.  You can also pay at the door.
The program will recall how Abraham Lincoln faced the gravest challenge that ever confronted a new president. The program will include delivery of the First Inaugural Address and a panel discussion about its context and significance. Michelle Krowl, president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute and a Lincoln specialist at the Library of Congress, will moderate the discussion. Panelists will include Lincoln scholar John Elliff, president of the Lincoln Group of DC and former associate professor at Brandeis University, and Michael F. Bishop, Director of the National Churchill Library and Center at George Washington University and former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  Other co-sponsors are President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC and the Abraham Lincoln Association headquartered in Springfield, Illinois.
The Inaugural Address will be delivered by George Buss of Freeport, Illinois, a professional educator who has performed as President Lincoln widely in Illinois and other states. He delivers the Gettysburg Address at the annual November commemoration at the Gettysburg Cemetery. Mr. Buss portrayed President Lincoln skillfully at a mock press conference hosted by the Capitol Historical Society in 2015 where he took questions from members of the National Press Club.  Mr. Buss is admired for the depth of his knowledge of Lincoln and his ability to represent Lincoln’s principles and historical perspective in both formal and informal settings.
The following organizations are co-sponsors of this event:
The reception with light hors d’oeuvres will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the John Phillip Sousa Hall, and the program will follow in the Abraham Lincoln Hall at 7:00 p.m. Sign up here, or just show up and pay at the door.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.

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LINCOLN’S 1860 ELECTION – A Special Event sponsored by the Lincoln Group of DC

lincoln-1860-ribbonSeven score and sixteen years ago the United States experienced a contentious election. The populace was terribly divided, one campaign openly pandered to the fears of white Americans, and the survival of the Union was in question. The winner of that election in 1860 was Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President.

What does the election of Lincoln have in common with the election of 2016? Are there lessons we can learn? Are we doomed to a forever divided nation, and divisive politics?

Come join us this Saturday, August 13th to find out.

The Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia sponsors Open Discussions of events in the life of Abraham Lincoln. The events are open to the public at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

On Saturday, August 13, 2016, the group will discuss Lincoln’s 1860 Election, including his road to the Republican presidential nomination and his victory in the November election. Parallels to this year’s party nominations and the impending campaign will be explored by experienced LGDC Open Discussion leaders John O’Brien, chair of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church History Committee, and LGDC president John T. Elliff.

NY Avenue Church window

For those who don’t already know it, the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is “Lincoln’s Church.” The family maintained a pew and Reverend Phineas Gurley was spiritual adviser to Abraham Lincoln during his time in Washington. A beautiful stained glass window depicting Lincoln overlooks the main meeting room. Since the church’s History Committee is co-hosting the event, the sanctuary (Lincoln pew, stained glass window), Lincoln Parlor (Emancipation document, Rev. Gurley portrait, desk and settee), and John Quincy Adams Room (Mary Lincoln letters, Lincoln desk set, etc.) will be available for viewing.

So come join us. The event is open to the public.

The discussion will be held from 10:00-12:00 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Nearest Metro stations are McPherson Square and Metro Center; and Saturday discount parking is available nearby.

For further information and to sign up, visit the Lincoln Group website here.

David J. Kent is a Vice President of the Lincoln Group of DC. Learn more about us.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Extra!! President Abraham Lincoln is Dead

Our Dear President is Dead

Assassinated by Cowardly Actor

Watching a Play at Ford’s Theatre

Secretary Seward Attacked – Injuries Feared Fatal

Washington in Mourning

Washington City, April 15, 1865: President Abraham Lincoln is dead. He was shot last night while watching a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre and died this morning at 7:22 A.M. May he rest in the peace he struggled to achieve over the course of this long, hateful war.

Ford's Theatre decorated for President Lincoln's attendance April 14, 1865

Ford’s Theatre decorated for President Lincoln’s attendance April 14, 1865

Witnesses in the theatre immediately identified the assassin as the actor John Wilkes Booth. Booth sneaked into the Presidential box, cowardly shot the President in the back of the head, slashed Major Rathbone, who was attending the play as the President’s guest, and leaped to the stage. Several shocked theatre-goers claimed that Booth screamed Sic semper tyrannis as he landed, before seeming to limp off to stage-right to his escape. A manhunt is being directed by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Simultaneous to Booth’s shooting of the President was a vicious attack on Secretary of State William Seward. The Secretary, who has been laid up in bed since his recent serious carriage accident, was gravely wounded by the assailant. We fear the wounds may be fatal. Also severely wounded was Frederick Seward, the Secretary’s son, and other members of the family. The extent of their injuries are unknown.

Fears of a Confederate conspiracy to decapitate the Union are evident. The coordinated attacks, and the possibility that other attacks were attempted or are imminent, suggest this was a plot by the failed Confederacy to continue the war they so recently lost. The fact that Booth yelled Sic semper tyrannis, the state motto of Virginia, reinforces the likelihood that these attacks were ordered directly from Richmond. It is understood that rebel leader Jefferson Davis is on the run and presumed headed for Texas to continue guerilla warfare. The Army has been put on guard for the remaining Cabinet members and other key federal officials, by order of Secretary of War Stanton.

The scene in Ford’s Theatre was pandemonium. Witnesses claim that when they first heard the shot they assumed it was somehow part of the play. They then could see a struggle going on the Presidential box between the murderer and Major Rathbone, who had been seated nearby with his fiance, Clara Harris, and the President’s wife, Mary Lincoln. According to sources, Major Rathbone sustained a serious knife slash to his arm as he rose to protect the President. The assassin, Booth, the jumped to the stage, uttered his dastardly phrase, then escaped. Several witnesses say that Booth may have injured his leg as he landed on the stage.

Dr. Charles Leale, a young military surgeon, who was in the audience last night, rushed to our beloved President’s box to attend to his injuries. Inside sources inform this reporter that Dr. Leale immediately knew that the wound would be fatal and, desiring that the President not die in a theatre, especially on Good Friday, ordered his transport across the street in into a boarding house owned by one William Petersen, a local tailor. Leale, Cabinet members, and other doctors stood vigil over the dying President through the night until he finally breathed his last breath early this morning, just five days after Army of Virginia General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, who had been announced as the President’s guest at the theatre last night, instead traveled to New Jersey on family business and thus was not present to save the President.

Mrs. Lincoln has been escorted back to the Executive Mansion in a severely distraught condition. The Lincoln’s oldest son Robert is looking after her and his only remaining brother, Tad, who was watching a performance of Aladdin at the nearby Grover’s Theatre when the news of his father’s assassination was reported.

The search for the killer is being directed by Secretary Stanton and the City is on high alert to ensure further actions of this dastardly Confederate plot are thwarted. Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as they are made. The City is in mourning.

Meanwhile, check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release July 31, 2017. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Book Review – Lincoln Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Contemporary America by Jackie Hogan

Lincoln IncThis book is much more substantive than the colorful cover featuring a Lincoln bobblehead doll might suggest. It starts out light enough, with chapters cataloging various ways Abraham Lincoln is “sold” to the modern public. These include how Lincoln has been adopted by both current political parties, does brisk sales in memorabilia and museum visits (even if much on display is reproduction), and gets featured in a variety of sales pitches. But the book also delves into more scholarly questions such as how Lincoln is presented to the public. Hogan suggests this is mostly as a positive “boy scout” model who rose from meager beginnings to epitomize the American dream while his more negative attributes are ignored.

And she does seem to have some negative opinions. Perhaps because of her background in gender and race studies (she is a sociologist, not a Lincoln scholar), she at times appears to give undue weight to fringe opinions. For example, she laments that opinions on Lincoln’s “racial bigotry” and “suggestions of homosexuality” are largely ignored in biographies and museum displays. While she acknowledges that most public facilities have competing pressures for what they display, she disregards the main reason they are not highlighted; because scholarship tells us they are not supported by the facts.

This particular bias and some other more superficial understanding of Lincoln scholarship, however, should not dissuade people from reading the book. Each chapter ends with a section headed “An Outsider’s Perspective.” It is in these sections that Hogan most adeptly employs her sociologist perspective. Many of her insights, which Lincoln scholars may or may not always agree with, offer up substantive topics for debate that are highly worthwhile.

The book gives us a closer look not only at how we view Lincoln but in how those views reflect our desire to elevate him as an icon of the American Dream. He started low and ended high, as we all would like to believe can be achieved through hard work. This view can be inspiring, but as Hogan notes, can also set unreasonable standards not reflected by modern reality.

A short book (157 pages of text), it nonetheless has extensive endnotes (though most are to published biographies rather than primary literature). An interesting read.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Abraham Lincoln Book Acquisitions for 2015

DACOR Bacon HouseI’m still far short of the 15,000+ books published about Abraham Lincoln, but did make several great acquisitions for my collection in 2015. The following list shows 59 new additions, almost exactly the number I added last year.

Seven of the books are brand new 2015 publication dates, including Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield, which I’ll use to prepare for next September’s Lincoln Group of DC trip to Illinois. Another 2015 issue is Kathryn Canavan’s Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President. Kathryn will be the Lincoln Group’s guest speaker during one of LGDC’s March 15, 2016 dinner meeting.

Nine of the books are signed by the author. That includes my 2015 “Harold Holzer Book of the Year” (though he often has several new books come out in any given year). A Just and Generous Nation is co-written by Holzer and economist Norton Garfinkle, and Harold was nice enough to sign it for me during the annual Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg in November. You can read my review on Goodreads.

The coolest book I obtained this year is probably Villianous Compounds: Chemical Weapons and the American Civil War by Guy R. Hasagawa. Given my science and toxicology background, this especially grabbed my attention. The oldest book was published in 1894. Abraham Lincoln: The First American by D.D. Thompson was a gift by the Lincoln Group of DC after my October 2015 presentation on “Lincoln and the March of Technology.”

There are several classic books on the list, including those by Paul Angle, Noah Brooks, and the first and second supplements to the famous Roy Basler Collected Works. Some of the books examine specialty areas of Lincoln research. There’s even one by William F. Petersen that claims the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were foretold by the weather. [I haven’t read this one yet, but am eager to get the scoop.]

One never-ending problem always attends new acquisitions – where to put them. I’ve reached the point where creative rearranging of bookshelves, combined with strategic sales and library donations, are simply not enough. So my big question for 2016 is “where do I put more bookcases?”

See the list of books below my signature blurbs.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Here is the 2015 list:

A Portion of That Field: The Centennial of the Burial of Lincoln 1967
Andreasen, Bryon C. Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield 2015
Angle, Paul M. The Lincoln Reader 1947
Angle, Paul M. A Portrait of Abraham Lincoln in Letters By His Oldest Son 1968
Baber, Adin A. Lincoln With Compass and Chain 2002
Basler, Roy P. (ed) The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln: First Supplement 1832-1865 1990
Basler, Roy P. and Basler, Christian O. (ed) The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln: Second Supplement 1848-1865 1990
Brookhiser, Richard Founder’s Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln 2014
Brooks, Noah Abraham Lincoln: The Nation’s Leader in the Great Struggle through which was Maintained the Existence of the United States 1909
Brown University Books at Brown Volumes XXXI-XXXII 1985
Canavan, Kathryn Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President 2015
Carnahan, Burrus M. Lincoln On Trial: Southern Civilians and the Law of War 2010
Charles River Editors The Transcontinental Railroad: The History and Legacy of the First Rail Line Spanning the United States no date
Current, Richard N. Lincoln’s Loyalists: Union Soldiers From the Confederacy 1994
Di Bella, Anna and Chapman, Sandy (eds) Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln: A Commemorative Collage 2009
Donald, David Herbert Lincoln’s Herndon 1948
Donald, David Herbert Lincoln’s Herndon 1948
Farley, Jeremy The Civil War Out My Window: Diary of Mary Henry 2014
Fornieri, Joseph R. and Gabbard, Sara Vaughn Lincoln’s America: 1809-1865 2008
Hasagawa, Guy R. Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons & The American Civil War 2015
Hightower, C.L. Sr. (Editor-in-Chief) Hood County History in Pictures and Story 1978 1978
Hodges, Robert R., Jr. American Civil War Railroad Tactics 2009
Holden, Raymond Abraham Lincoln: The Politician and the Man 1929
Holzer, Harold and Garfinkle, Norton A Just and Generous Nation 2015
Horgan, Paul Citizen of New Salem 1961
Horwitz, Tony Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War 1998
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency On Lincoln’s Mind: Leading the Nation to the Gettysburg Address 2013
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency On Lincoln’s Side: Reelecting a Leader 2014
Jewell, Scott (Editor) Ipswich in the Civil War 2012
Kempf, Edward J. Abraham Lincoln’s Philosophy of Common Sense: An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind 1965
Knorowski, Carla (Ed.) Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address 2015
Magliocca, Gerard N. American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment 2013
Mansfield, Stephen Lincoln’s Battle With God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What It Meant for America 2012
McGinty, Brian Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, The Bridge, and the Making of America 2015
McPherson, James M. and McPherson, Patricia R. Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy 1997
Miller, Richard Lawrence Lincoln and his World: The Early Years: Birth to Illinois Legislature 2006
Oates, Stephen B. Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind The Myths 1984
Peet, Tom and Keck, David Reading Lincoln: An Annotated Bibliography 2014
Peraino, Kevin Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power 2013
Petersen, William F. Lincoln Douglas: The Weather as Destiny 1943
Quercia, Jacopo Della The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy 2014
Rayner, William Horace and Schmidt, Milton O. Elementary Surveying 1957
Reck, W. Emerson A. Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours 1987
Rothenberg, Marc (Ed) The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10: January 1858-December 1865, The Smithsonian Years 2004
Sandburg, Carl Storm Over the Land: A Profile of the Civil War 1995
Shively, Carol A. (Ed.) Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War 2015
Songini, Marc The Lost Fleet: A Yankee Whaler’s Struggle Against the Confederate Navy and Arctic Disaster 2007
Spencer, J. Ronald (Ed) A Connecticut Yankee in Lincoln’s Cabinet: Navy Secretary Gideon Welles Chronicles the Civil War 2014
Temple, Wayne C. Abraham Lincoln From Skeptic to Prophet 1995
Temple, Wayne C. Lincoln’s Connections With the Illinois Michigan Canal, His Return From Congress in ’48, and His Invention 1986
The Heritage Press The Literary Works of Abraham Lincoln 1942
Thompson, D.D. Abraham Lincoln, The First American 1894
Williams, Frank J. and Pederson, William D., eds. Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leader 2009
Winkle, Kenneth J. Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC 2013
The Invisible General 2004
Lust for Love and Battle 1984
Lee Faces Up to Gettysburg 2002
Eyewitness Account Gettysburg 2003
A.P. Hill’s Bloody Bristol Assault 2003

 

A Few New Abraham Lincoln Books

Lincoln Forum CakeI’ve just returned from the annual Lincoln Forum conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was the 20th anniversary event, complete with cake. The Forum fills two and a half days with presentations by renowned Abraham Lincoln scholars, great camaraderie, and books. A lot of books. As usual, my bag coming home is filled with new books picked up at the conference bookstore.

This year I tried to restrict my book buying, so the total was only six (yes, only). In addition to all the new books there are opportunities to buy older tomes from Chuck Hand, collector extraordinaire. And then there is the unparalleled Dan Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, who always has an amazing showing of Lincoln photos, signed documents, and other artifacts. To this elite group we can add the beautiful sculptures of John McClarey.

Villainous CompoundsNow the books. New additions to my collection include an essay compilation book edited by Frank Williams and a second similar book edited by Joseph Fornieri. I also picked up an edition of Reck’s A Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours and a book on the lost whaling fleet (which had battled the confederate navy and the Arctic during the Civil War). Perhaps the most unique acquisition is a book called Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons & The American Civil War by Guy R. Hasegawa. With my scientific background it would almost be blasphemous if I hadn’t bought it (he tells himself, in a rationalizing sort of way).

Just and Generous NationHaving already bought it beforehand, I took advantage of the conference to bring my copy of Harold Holzer’s new book A Just and Generous Nation and had him inscribe it for me. As always, Harold was gracious and generous with his time and expertise. He noted that he wrote the first section of the book (seven chapters) and his co-author, economist Norton Garfinkle, wrote the second section (five chapters) on Lincoln’s economic improvement focus and influence on modern America. I’ll have a review of the book as soon as I finish reading it.

At the end of the year I’ll update on new Lincoln book acquisitions for 2015. And now…it’s on to writing!

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Science Traveling Abraham Lincoln

Abraham LincolnIt’s been a busy 48 hours with respect to Abraham Lincoln traveling. And it’s about to get even busier.

On Saturday I attended the monthly book discussion group of the Lincoln Group of DC (where last month I gave a talk on Lincoln and Technology). Our book this year is Michael Burlingame’s “green monster,” the name stemming both as an homage to the famous left field wall at Fenway Park in Boston and the color and size of his two-volume, 2000+ page tome Abraham Lincoln: A Life. As always, the discussions were lively and informative.

That night about a dozen current and past Lincoln Group members gathered for dinner and conversation at a beautiful Victorian-style home not far from George Washington’s famed Mount Vernon. Thank you John and Linda for a wonderful event and unbeatable hospitality.

And now it’s on to Gettysburg for 2-1/12 days of immersion at the historical Civil War battlefield site. The Abraham Lincoln Forum meets each year on the anniversary week of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Some of the most well-known Lincoln historians in the U.S. will be there for lectures, discussions, and roundtables. Both old and new Lincoln books will be on sale thanks to the appearances of Daniel Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop and many current authors. This is the 20th anniversary of the Forum, which from the beginning has been chaired by retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Frank Williams and vice-chaired by renowned Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. You can read more about last year’s Forum here.

Jim Getty

This year will also serve as a transition. Jim Getty (above) has been the go-to Abraham Lincoln interpreter in the Gettysburg region for many years. People travel from miles around to hear him present the Gettysburg Address on Dedication Day of the battlefield (November 19th). Last year he received the Forum’s prestigious Richard Nelson Current Award. Jim had retired from Lincoln interpretation work this year, then unexpected passed away this summer. He will be dearly missed. A remembrance is planned at this year’s event.

Abe and Me

Taking over the Dedication Day duties is interpreter George Buss, whom I met last year here at the Forum (see above; he’s the one with the hat). George has been a long-standing Forum member and has interpreted Lincoln for many years. He resides in the Springfield, Illinois area, which makes another upcoming event even more special. George will give a press conference in Washington, D.C. on December 3rd, taking questions from the public and the national press. In addition, the Lincoln Group of DC has arranged for George to bring Lincoln to our monthly dinner meeting on December 2nd, where he’ll engage in an intimate informal conversation with Lincoln Group members. Sign up on the Lincoln Group website.

The Forum runs through Wednesday night and is followed by the dedication ceremonies on the battlefield on Thursday. I’ll have more to report, plus photos, during and after the conference.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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