November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address: 150th Birthday



and other


Today, the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, is also the 70th anniversary of a period of time that school children in Illinois pooled their pennies to purchase the Everett copy of that speech.

This copy is the only one of five existing copies that includes the phrase “under God.”*

The school children sacrificed their movie money and candy money for the cause, to raise the majority of the $60,000 needed to purchase one of the five known copies of the 272 word speech written in Lincoln’s hand.

“It meant something to us, being part of something like that,” said Gene Rubley, one of the students involved. “We were acquiring a piece of history.”*


I can attest to the fact that dealing with original documents has the effect of “acquiring a piece of history.” I’ve had the opportunity to handling such documents at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) library in Worcester, Massachusetts; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and the Lemoyne House in Washington, Pennsylvania. For the AAS and the Pennsylvania Historical Society you had to demonstrate a legitimate research project and participate in an orientation before being allowed to enter the hallowed halls to handle documents in the 1990-1824 time era of my under-construction historical romance novel.

Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia

I’ve handled documents on handwritten parchment, on paper so thin as to make them unreadable because the black ink produces a double exposure effect. Some of the documents have beautifully handcrafted script, while others may be totally undecipherable.

Old original deeds in the Ellsworth Maine courthouse have similar characteristics.

Perhaps the most impressive of documents I’ve examined was found in the Lutheran Archives Center at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. My husband and I had gone there to find a description of the church where Madame, a Frenchwoman who is a main character in my novel, was married. After discussing the situation with us the curator took us to a room that had models of the church. Then he asked me if I wanted to see the wedding log book.

He disappeared for a few minutes before returning with a large volume. In it we found handwritten the record of Madame’s marriage to the second Dutch ambassador to the United States, Franco Van Berckle.

Back to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Two copies of the speech remain at the Library of Congress, another at the White House and the last at Cornell University.*

The Everett copy is in the best condition because of its years being sandwiched between other pages in the Gettysburg commemorative volume, according to James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln collection at Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. *

Children were asked to make an average donation of 5 cents apiece, and they raised more than $50,000 by March, state records show. Chicago department store heir Marshall Field III later donated the remainder.*



The Antiquarian Library: Worcester, Mass.



(A NaBloPoMo post)


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