Sunday, November 13, 2011
Tourists will find out very quickly that
, was Abraham Lincoln’s
hometown. Not only does it have the Springfield,
Illinois and Library with
mind-blowing displays and striking holographic movies that we have previously
written about, but it also has a four-block area restored to resemble the
pre-1860s during the time Abe lived here. Lincoln
The only home he ever owned has been restored along with the neighboring houses. Gaslights have been added, sidewalks replaced with wood planks and several wagons of the time are standing in the streets.
It was a pleasant step back into time especially since we were able to have two conversations with a
impersonator. Our first meeting was as
this 6-foot-4 actor paused in raking the lawn of the home where Lincoln and
Mary lived for 15 years, 1884-1861, and where their four sons were born. The actor stayed expertly in role, for
example, asked about the instrument I was pointing at him since he had heard that
the French had invented something that could capture a person’s image. Lincoln
The home tour is self guided, but so popular that visitors need a card from the nearby visitor’s center allotting an entrance time. We were impressed with the number of park rangers stationed in the building to answer questions. The house, furnished as it was when
Lincoln lived there,
has 50 of the home’s original items including ’s desk. Lincoln
He had made a comfortable living as a lawyer. The house had a maid’s room--one of very few jobs a woman could hold in that day and seen as an opportunity for a young girl to learn how to be a wife and mother.
At the visitor’s center four movies on
were playing throughout the day, one featuring Raymond Massey. When we watched another movie about Abe’s
years in Lincoln Springfield, the impersonator in the
yard was the actor playing .
Later we again talked with him. He looked very much as I expected Abe to look
at the time he lived here. He looked
more like Lincoln
than Massey did. When I told the
impersonator that I was impressed with his capturing Lincoln ’s vocal tone, he said he had worked
hard to integrate the vocal patterns into his performance. Lincoln
Abe fell in love with Mary Todd, a Southern belle from a family of higher social status, which complicated his courtship. He went into a deep depression when his first proposal of marriage to her was not accepted. I was reminded of similar problems that Presidents Grant and Truman had in their courtships. All three were noted for being firmly in love with their wives throughout their marriages. Mary was a great help to his political career using her family connections to get him national recognition. Some of the material in the
movies about his children was new to
me. One son died early from tuberculosis
and two others were known for their wild behavior. Lincoln
Our visit to the area was brought to a pleasant close by the performance of a group of costumed students singing songs of the period, particularly songs that were favorites of
We meet with Abe Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois
We meet with Abe Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Truman’s early years come to life in Lamar
When I gave a talk in Lamar Missouri, I took the opportunity to visit Harry S Truman’s birthplace, now a state historical site with a small visitors center. As he is one of our favorite presidents, Carla and I present an overview of his contributions when we teach in the Osher Lifelong Learning program.
Truman was born May 8, 1884, to a father who was a mule trader and farmer. His father announced the sale of some mules in the Lamar Democrat but did not mention his son had just been born. However, in honor of Harry’s birth, he did plant a tree that is still standing next to the house.
John Anderson Truman and his new wife, Martha Ellen Truman, had bought the Lamar house in 1882 for $685. Signs of its age are apparent. It is 20 by 28 feet — I am sure many readers have rooms in their homes that are as large. When I stepped inside, I was impressed with how many rooms had been carved out of that small space. On the first floor are a living room, a kitchen with a dining area and two bedrooms. A double bed fills half the bedroom in which Truman was born. A steep, narrow stairway, like the one I climbed to my bedroom as a child, leads to two upstairs bedrooms.
When the Trumans came, all of their furniture was on a wagon, and when they left, all of the furniture was on a wagon, so the home has been furnished with period pieces. Young people might be particularly interested in the more primitive equipment of the times: kerosene lamps, pots under the bed instead of a toilet, corn cake bakers on a black wood-fired stove in the kitchen.
The home has no electricity and has an outdoor toilet of the period and a hand-dug well next to the building. A smokehouse stands beside the well. Most homes had them because, without refrigeration, meat had to be smoked to keep it from spoiling. The lot across the way that held the barn for John Truman’s mules is now an empty lot.
When Harry was 11 months old, the family moved about 100 miles north to the
Lamar was preparing for the 127th birthday celebration of Harry Truman, but I was a day too early to take part in this annual celebration, held on the nearest Saturday to May 8, Truman’s birthday.
The major historical sites for Truman are in