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Tag: abraham lincoln

On Exhibit: John Wilkes Booth’s Calling Card

Today’s post comes from Emma Rothberg, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

John Wilkes Booth's Calling Card, 04/14/1865. (National Archives Identifier 7873510)

John Wilkes Booth’s Calling Card, 04/14/1865. (National Archives Identifier 7873510)

Tucked in a corner in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, is a rectangular piece of paper faded grey with time. It is unobtrusive and, due to its small size, could easily be missed among the larger and flashier documents and artifacts. But this card is a reminder of one of the most resonant and well known stories of American history—that of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination by the actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

Vice President Andrew Johnson, undated. (National Archives Identifier 530496)

Vice President Andrew Johnson, undated. (National Archives Identifier 530496)

On April 14, 1865, Vice President Johnson was staying at the Kirkwood House—a hotel that stood at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.  Also in the hotel, and in a room directly one floor above the Vice President’s suite, was George Atzerodt. He was a fellow conspirator in Booth’s larger plot to murder President Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice President Johnson and thus throwing the recently victorious North into chaos and disarray. Atzerodt—a German carriage painter from Maryland who had spent the Civil War years ferrying Confederates across the Potomac—arrived at the Kirkwood House on the morning of the 14th. His task: to assassinate Vice President Johnson.… [ Read all ]

John Russell Pope’s Lincoln Memorial designs

Today’s post comes from Christina James, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

John Russell Pope's Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6087981)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier
6087981)

Walking through our nation’s capital, you will inevitably come across at least one structure adorned with triangular pediments, massive columns, or a majestic dome. Many of Washington, DC’s most iconic buildings and monuments feature these elements and exemplify neoclassical architecture.

John Russell Pope, one of the most famous American neoclassical architects, believed that a democracy’s public buildings should be designed in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Pope’s designs are scattered throughout the city and include the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives.

However, one of the most recognizable neoclassical structures in the capital, the Lincoln Memorial, is not one of Pope’s designs. If Pope had been chosen to design the memorial, the National Mall would look very different.

The construction of a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC, was first approved by Congress in 1911. The bill authorizing the construction created the Lincoln Memorial Commission to approve a site and a design for a memorial honoring the 16th President. The Committee was given a budget of $2 million dollars, the largest amount to ever be provided for a national memorial at … [ Read all ]

Celebrating a commitment to civil rights at the Johnson Presidential Library

Throughout the month of April, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library will be exhibiting four cornerstone documents of civil rights. The “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit will run from April 1 through 30.

The exhibit will feature two documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln: an authorized, printed edition of the Emancipation Proclamation; and a copy of the Senate resolution proposing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.  

It will also include two documents signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965These are the four “cornerstone” documents on which modern civil rights legislation is enacted.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

The exhibit links Lincoln and Johnson as two great civil rights champions in the nation’s history. Their conviction, commitment, and force of will to secure equal rights for all fundamentally changed American society.

In the exhibit are two hats owned and worn by the two Presidents—a Resistol beaver cowboy hat that accentuated Johnson’s Texas roots, and one of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hats.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

The exhibit coincides with the Civil Rights Summit, this year’s premiere event of a multi-year anniversary celebration of President Johnson’s prodigious … [ Read all ]

The 17th Amendment Observes Its Centennial

When Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas traveled around Illinois in 1858 debating each other while vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate, they weren’t looking for votes from the masses.

They were seeking votes in the Illinois legislature. Douglas was the incumbent senator, and Lincoln, who had served one term in the House in the 1840s, was a railroad attorney.

In the 1850s, U.S. senators were selected by the state legislatures as directed by Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution, which says: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”

Lincoln Douglas debate marker

Historical marker commemorating one of the Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debates, 06/03/1938

According to the Senate Historical Office, the framers thought that having senators elected by the legislatures would aid senators because they would be less subject to pressure and have more time to do business. And, they felt, direct election would strengthen ties between the national and state governments.

But opposition to this arrangement began long before the Lincoln–Douglas debates. Political problems in states resulted in many seats going empty for long periods. Support grew slowly for popular, or direct, election of senators by voters.

Strong resistance in the Senate to a proposed Constitutional amendment calling for direct … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: William and William (A Tale of Two Neck Beards)

Why were neck beards ever socially acceptable? In my humble opinion, they are the facial equivalent of mullets or bowl cuts. Unlike bad haircuts, however, they may have had some useful characteristics. Maybe they kept cold wind from blowing in men’s collars. Maybe their wives objected to prickly beards and mustaches but the husbands still wanted facial hair?

At any rate, two of President Lincoln’s cabinet members had neck beards.

William Fessenden, circa 1860–1865, ARC Identifier 529980

William Fessenden, whose neck hair is on the less-offensive side of neck beards, served as President Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury from July 1864 to March 1865. Prior to his appointment, he served as a Whig Representative and then a Republican Senator for Maine, during which time he strongly opposed slavery. Part of the Peace Congress in 1861, he was appointed as Head of the Finance Committee. His fantastic performance on the Committee prompted his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. He stabilized the national financial situation, then resigned to return to the Senate.

Fessenden headed the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and was responsible for readmitting Southern states to the Union. He recommended procedures based on the Constitution and the Law of Nations and recommended safeguards to prevent future rebellion. He was widely considered the leader of the Senate Republicans. However, during President Johnson’s impeachment trial, he bravely … [ Read all ]