Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln Bicentennial’

Uncle Sam's Menagerie

Uncle Sam's Menagerie

Issued in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, the political cartoon, “Uncle Sam’s Menagerie,” conveys the Northern hostility toward the conspirators, whom the public associated with former president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis. Uncle Sam stands before a cage in which a hyena with the bonneted head of Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), president of the Confederacy, claws at a skull. Davis’ neck is in a noose, which will begin to tighten as a man at right turns the crank of a gallows. The bonnet on Davis’  head alludes to the embarrassing circumstances of his recent capture. As the Civil War drew to a close, Davis fled Richmond with his cabinet in early April 1865 and began a trek southward with federal troops in hot pursuit. While still weighing the merits of forming a government in exile,  Davis was captured by Union soldiers near Irwinville, Georgia, in early May 1865. Whether by accident or design, Davis was wearing his wife’s dark gray short-sleeved cloak and black shawl when captured.  

Below the caricature of Davis as a cross-dressing hyena, a man grinds out the song “Yankee Doodle” on a hand organ. Above, the Lincoln conspirators are portrayed as “Gallow’s Bird’s,” with their heads in nooses. From left to right they are: Michael O’Laughlin, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, Mary Elizabeth Surratt, Samuel Arnold, Edman Spangler, and Dr. Samuel Mudd. At left, Uncle Sam points his stick at a skull “Booth,” on which sits a black crow. John Wilkes Booth was killed during a government raid on his hideout on April 26, 1865.

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In one week, the nation will celebrate the 200th birthday of our most revered president, Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 14, 1865). To commemorate the birthday of our 16th president and the issuing of the first penny a century ago, the U.S. Mint is issuing four new pennies. The “heads” side of the penny bearing Lincoln’s image remains the same while the “tails” side will alternate four new designs which represent the four major aspects of President Lincoln’s life:

Birth and early childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816)
Formative years in Indiana (1816-1830)
Professional Life in Illinois (1830-1861)
Presidency in Washington, DC (1861-1865)

Click here to see the unveiling of the images of the new coins at a ceremony held last September in Washington, D.C.

I hadn’t intended to write about Abe Lincoln today. Rather, for days now, I’ve gorged myself reading about his wife Mary, hoping soon to come to the end of the book and Internet material on her and get down to blogging. Well that is an impossible task. There is no end of Lincolnology. At last count, there were upward of 15,000 books about Abe and Mary, more than about any other person except Jesus.

A visit to the official website of the Lincoln Bicentennial assures me that I can blog all year on the Lincolns and be in step with the rest of the country, as celebrations and exhibits go on for the next eleven months.

While I was googling the image of the Lincoln Memorial which I present here, I got all misty-eyed.

Lincoln statue within the Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln statue within the Lincoln Memorial

What a great man Abraham Lincoln was. After reading about his life with Mary, I come away with even more admiration. What a difficult woman Mary was and so selfish, too (see my Feb. 3, 2009 blog below). I’ll give her credit for her abolitionist efforts but what a drag she was on our president during the darkest time of our nation’s history! She was jealous of his time away from her. He was running the country!

When I was in elementary school, February was the month we celebrated two presidents’ birthdays – Lincoln’s on the 12th and Washington’s on the 22nd. This was before there was an official “Presidents’ Day,” a day set aside to celebrate the birth of all presidents and before February became “Black History Month.” My teachers would always have a beautiful bulletin board displayed with a calendar, white doilies with red hearts for Valentine’s Day, and black cardboard cut-outs of Lincoln’s and Washington’s silhouettes. I love February.

I learned that Lincoln was poor and lived in a log cabin, that he was humble, gave speeches outdoors, and chopped firewood. We heard the Mason Weems fable that Washington could not lie to his father about chopping down a cherry tree.


My birthday comes two days after Washington’s. As a result, I’ve always had cherry pie instead of cake for my special dessert, because of George chopping down that cherry tree. On one birthday, my grandmother Mimi made cherry tarts for my guests and me and we went to the movies to see Lucille Ball and Bob Hope in the comedy, “Fancy Pants.”

Back to the Lincoln penny, isn’t it ironic that a president who grew up “friendless, uneducated, penniless…” should find himself commemorated on a penny? Happy Early Birthday, Abe. You rock.


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