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Lincoln & His Time

If you google Abraham Lincoln, you’ll find 11.1 million documents — everything from a detailed report on the creation of the 1909 Lincoln penny to the Lincoln page for Mrs. Payton’s first grade class at Loogootee Elementary West, in Loogootee, Ind. These sites are both pretty cool. Still, it’s a thicket out there — more than most people want to hack through. The following is an annotated introduction to the web highlights on Lincoln and his time. The aim is to guide the casual student by presenting resources drawn on by serious scholars. Then, with our homework is done, we’ll have some fun (see the final category).

Category Links:


Primary Sources on Abraham Lincoln

An image of Lincoln’s January 23, 1841 letter, declaring “I am now the most miserable man
living.” This image, with others, can be seen at Illinois Legacy Online. (The crucial passage
is in the middle of the second page.)

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln A full-text, searchable edition of Lincoln’s letters, speeches, and other documents, edited by Roy P. Basler for the Abraham Lincoln Association. (To try it out, check out Lincoln’s “naturally of nervous temperament” letter to Joshua Speed, from early January 1842.)

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress  Images and transcriptions of the “Robert Todd Lincoln Collection,” so named for Lincoln’s son, who donated them to the library in the 1920s. This is the bulk of Lincoln’s presidential papers. (Here is Lincoln’s amazing “Memorandum on the Probable Failure of Re-election,” August 23, 1864.)

Lincoln Day-By-Day Assembles Lincoln’s known activities, day-by-day, from birth to death. (Start with January 1841, the fateful period that followed “that fatal first of Jany.”)

Illinois Legacy Online A joint production of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (ALPL), this site presents a “digital archive of significant and interesting historical materials from Illinois’ past.” It includes images of the many major Lincoln documents held by the ALPL.

LincolnNet The Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project offers primary material from Lincoln’s Illinois years (1830 to 1861) and from Illinois’ early years of statehood. It includes full-text of periodicals, diaries, and biographies. (Read Henry Whitney’s account of Lincoln “sitting alone in the corner of the bar ... wrapped in abstraction and gloom.”)

Lincoln and the Civil War. A searchable database of text, illustrations, and cartoons of 49 newspapers and 600 diaries from 1860 to 1865. (Here is the Cincinnati Rail-Splitter’s endorsement of Lincoln in 1860.)

Significant Lincoln Collections Vast as they are, the Lincoln offerings on the web are only a small portion of the resources available at research libraries. Make no mistake, it’s worthwhile to leave your desk, get to a library, and feel the smudge of real print, and the crinkle of actual documents. (Here’s one account of an amateur’s startling discovery.)

See also, the Lincoln documents at the Illinois State Archives, sources on Lincoln’s religion and the
Historic Furnishings Report on the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Ill., which includes a nice section on Lincoln’s books.


Contextual Material on Lincoln

A map of the route for Lincoln’s funeral train in April 1865, at the Abraham Lincoln Research Site.

Abraham Lincoln Online The top source for news and links relating to Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln Research Site A very thorough research site maintained by retired history teacher Roger Norton.

Mr. Lincoln’s White House One of five impeccable education sites created by The Lincoln Institute. The others are Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, Mr. Lincoln and Friends, Mr. Lincoln and the Founders and Mr. Lincoln and New York.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum The homepage for this major institution.

The Time of the Lincolns The companion website for “Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided,” a film by David Grubin for PBS’s The American Experience.

If you want to visit Lincoln sites, here’s a complete list. If you want to join a Lincoln group, check here. The Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago specializes in Lincolniana, material related to the Civil War and material related to U.S. presidents.

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Photographs & Images

Lincoln, photographed in Chicago by Samuel M. Fassett on October 4, 1859, from CivilWar@Smithsonian.

PictureHistory.com “An on-line archive of images and film footage illuminating more than 200 years of American history.” Includes the famous Meserve-Kunhardt Collection of 19th century photography.

CivilWar@Smithsoneon Produced by the National Portrait Gallery, this site draws on the Smithsonian Institution’s vast collection of Civil War material. The Lincoln gallery includes photographs, paintings, cartoons, and Lincoln’s beaverskin tophat.

America’s First Look into the Camera Photographs from the Library of Congress’s collection of daguerrotypes. Includes the first-known photograph of Lincoln.

America in Caricature: Abraham Lincoln 1860-1865 From the Lilly Library at Indiana University. (Another site is devoted to the work of cartoonist Thomas Nast.)

The Matthew Brady Portrait Gallery A virtual tour of the master photographer’s work.

CivilWarPhotos.Net Includes more than 1,000 Civil War images, photographs and cartes de visites.

Jack Smith Lincoln Graphics Collection A distinctive collection of photographs, lithographs, engravings, and busts of Lincoln, housed at the Indiana Historical Society. (Also take a look at the society’s gorgeous negative of Alexander Gardner’s Lincoln photograph.)

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Significant Resources on American History

Anderson and Minerva Edwards, age 93 and 87, photographed by the Federal Writer’s Project, part of the Library of Congress’s
Born Into Slavery archive.

American Memory Online collections from the Library of Congress.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. From The Making of America (see below)

Digital History A superb online encyclopedia.

A Biography of America Twenty-six online videos on American history from “New World Encounters” to contemporary history. Includes timelines, maps, and outstanding links to primary and secondary sources. Produced by Annenberg/CPB, an arm of the The Annenberg Foundation.

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938 In the 1930s, interviewers for the Federal Writers’ Project fanned out to collect oral histories from former slaves. They assembled 2,300 first-person accounts which are posted here, searchable by keyword, or by state, alongside 500 photographs. See also Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture, a multimedia archive presenting Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, along with primary documents including songs, ads, articles, illustrations and responses to the novel.

From Revoluution to Reconstruction A “Hypertext on American History from the colonial period until Modern Times.” From the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Includes an impressive list of documents.

American Civil War Portal “One of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Civil War related material available on the Internet.” See also The U. S. Civil War Center and the American Civil War Homepage.

The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War A portrait of Civil War life in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Penn. seen through diaries, letters, newspapers, census and court records. See also Documenting the American South, a collection of Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century.

The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries A subscription-only assemblage of diaries, letters and memoirs from 2,009 authors, including of Civil War politicians, generals, slaves, landowners, farmers, seaman, wives, and even spies.

North American Women’s Letters and Diaries Another subscription-only service, with material from 1,325 American women from colonial times to 1950. See also Civil War Women, an annotated list of Internet primary sources from Duke University.

And, of course: Google Print and the Yahoo-backed Internet Archive.

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Journals & Newspapers Online

President-elect Lincoln on the cover of Harper’s Weekly, November 10, 1860, from HarpWeek.

The Making of America is hosted by the University of Michigan and Cornell University, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It offers the searchable text and images of American books and journals from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

HarpWeek Provides electronic access to Harper’s Weekly, the illustrated 19th century “Journal of Civilization” from 1857 to 1912. Featured areas are open access, others required a subscription.

Historical New York Times Open access includes selected articles from 1860 to 1866; restricted access, available via Proquest — see below — includes searchable text and images of every issue of the Times from 1851 to 2001.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online Free access, via the Brooklyn Public Library, to the images and text of this seminal newspaper, from 1841 to 1902.

ProQuest A subscription-only database of articles originally published in magazines, newspapers, and journals. Includes word searchable content from The New York Times, 1851 to 2002; The Wall Street Journal, 1889 to 1987; The Washington Post, 1877 to 1988; The Christian Science Monitor, 1908 to 1991; the Los Angeles Times, 1881 to 1984; and the Chicago Tribune, 1849 to the present.

Project Muse Full-text online access to more than 300 top journals in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

The Online Books Page Listing over 20,000 free books on the web, from the University of Pennsylvania. See also Oxford Scholarship Online (700 searchable books from Oxford University Press).

Questia.com A consumer subscription database of books and magazine articles. Bills itself as the “world’s largest online library.”

JSTOR A subscription-only database of the complete runs of academic journals, primarily in the sciences and humanities.

Archives USA A subscription-only database of holdings and contact information from more than five thousand manuscript repositories. Includes the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) (a Library of Congress index of more than 103,000 collections) and the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States (NIDS).

Wilson Omni A subscription-only offering of more than 50 full-text, abstract, and index databases.

Lexis-Nexis A subscription-only database of modern magazines, newspapers, wire services, and transcripts.

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Lincoln in Popular Culture

Hard Drinkin' Lincoln Image
From “A Titanic Struggle,” the first episode of Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln.

“Hard as Rock and Soft as Drifting Fog.” Carl Sandburg’s speech on Lincoln before a Joint Session of Congress, February 12, 1969.

Johnny Cash reads the Gettysburg Address.

Americana Resources Lincoln Catalogue A good source for Lincoln kitsch. (It’s also always fun to search for Lincoln on Ebay.)

Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln, created by Mike Reiss, a series of animated shorts on “Abraham Lincoln: statesman, leader, beloved President — and America’s favorite boozehound!”

Star Trek, episode 77, “The Savage Curtain” “The U.S.S. Enterprise is scanned by a powerful energy source coming from the planet Excalbia… The image of Abraham Lincoln appears in space and requests to be beamed aboard ...”

Wendy Allen paints Lincoln exclusively.

Lincoln in Recent Cinema

In Fight Club, Tyler and Narrator are discussing ideal opponents:
Tyler Durden: OK: any historic figure.
Narrator: I’d fight Gandhi.
Tyler Durden: Good answer.
Narrator: How about you?
Tyler Durden: Lincoln.
Narrator: Lincoln?
Tyler Durden: Big guy, big reach. Skinny guys fight ’til they’re burger.

From Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure:

Abraham Lincoln: Fourscore and... [looks at his pocketwatch] seven minutes ago ... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure concieved by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to proposition which was true in my time, just as it’s true today. Be excellent to each other. And ... PARTY ON, DUDES!

From Dazed and Confused:
Tony: [describing his dream] So there I am, getting it on with this perfect female body and...
Mike: What?
Tony: I can’t say.
Mike: No, you can’t give a build-up like that and not deliver. You know, a perfect female body, it’s not a bad start.
Tony: But with the head of Abraham Lincoln. With the hat and the beard, everything.

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