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Tag: abraham lincoln

John Russell Pope’s Lincoln Memorial designs

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

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 the time.

Coming off of his enormously popular and celebrated design for the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington, DC, John … [ 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.

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.

The exhibit coincides with the Civil Rights Summit, this year’s premiere event of a multi-year anniversary celebration of President Johnson’s prodigious legislative legacy running from April 8 to 10.

The Summit will feature reflections on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today. President … [ 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.”

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 elections meant the idea got nowhere for many years.

Finally, in 1911, the Senate … [ 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, 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 contradicted his fellow Republicans and voted for … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: The Curiously Facial Hairless Members of Lincoln’s Cabinet

In the late 1700s, as Americans fought for their independence, most men were clean-shaven. As we moved into the 1800s, however, facial hair—elaborate facial hair, at that—came back into style.

Despite this shift, many men remained clean-shaven. A smooth face was often considered more professional and refined, but facial hair denoted ruggedness.

It is not a huge surprise, therefore, that many of President Lincoln’s cabinet members had no facial hair.

Montgomery Blair was an abolitionist despite his upbringing in a prominent slave-holding family in Franklin County, Kentucky. He was also one of the founders of the Republican party. President Lincoln appointed Blair as his Postmaster General in 1861, then replaced him in 1864, following Blair’s own suggestion. Blair told his wife that the President “acted from the best motives” and that “it is for the best all around.” He campaigned for Lincoln’s reelection and remained close with Lincoln’s family.

Simon Cameron was orphaned at age nine and apprenticed to printer and editor Andrew Kennedy. He entered into journalism, and later rail line construction and banking, among other business enterprises. He was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1844, but eventually switched to the Republican party. Although Cameron was nominated as a presidential candidate in the 1860 election, he gave his support to Lincoln at the Republican National Convention. President Lincoln named Cameron … [ Read all ]