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Handwritten Gettysburg Address on Display this Month in Springfield

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National Geographic, Getty Images

It’s arguably the most famous speech in American history, and from November 13th through November 26th, you can check out one of 5 surviving copies of the Gettysburg Address (handwritten by Abraham Lincoln) at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

To mark the 154th anniversary of Lincoln’s speech, which was delivered by Lincoln during the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, there will be a special commemoration of the anniversary at the Lincoln Library in Springfield.

From WREX News:

Museum executive director Alan Lowe says the handwritten copy of the speech “is a physical link to that key moment in history.” The museum plans other events to mark the anniversary. The 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band will perform Nov. 18.

On Nov. 18 and 19 historic interpreters will portray Civil War soldiers for museum visitors.

 

Here are a few “did you know” facts about Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address:

(From HistoryNet):

  • Invited to give a “few appropriate remarks,” Lincoln was not the featured speaker at the dedication; Edward Everett, a famous orator and former politician and educator, was. Everett spoke for two hours, from memory, before Lincoln took the podium. In about 260 words, beginning with the famous phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” Lincoln honored the Union dead and reminded the listeners of the purpose of the soldier’s sacrifice: equality, freedom, and national unity. The following day, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
  • Lincoln’s speech did not garner much attention during his lifetime; in many ways, it was forgotten and lost to popular memory until the U.S. centennial in 1876, when its significance was reconsidered in light of the war’s outcome and in the larger context of the young country’s history. The Gettysburg Address is now recognized as one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and as one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history.

(From Legacy.com):

  • While Lincoln is often credited with creating the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” it is actually centuries older than America. The earliest usage can be found in the introduction to an English translation of the Bible by John Wycliffe in 1384 (“This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”) The phrase also turns up in the 1850s in a book of sermons by abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker, a book which Lincoln received as a gift in the first months of the Civil War.
  • Lincoln was captured in a photo of the crowd at the ceremony, with his head visible in the mass of people. Historians speculate that the brevity of Lincoln’s remarks prevented photographers from setting up their complicated equipment in time to catch the president while still on stage. The photograph was taken by 18-year-old David Bachrach, who would later be notable as the uncle of writer Gertrude Stein.

If you’d like to play the 19th century version of “Where’s Waldo,” see if you can spot Abraham Lincoln in the photo. He’s NOT wearing his trademark stovepipe hat:

Abraham Lincoln Giving Gettysburg Address
Bettmann Archive, Getty Images

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