Today is the 208th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
I’m from Chicago, in the great Land of Lincoln (the informal nickname of Illinois; the official one is “The Prairie State”), so we used to get today off as a state holiday, then a day for Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. Since then, they created President’s Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February, to honor all 44 occupants of the White House. Meaning kids in Illinois have been gypped out of one holiday.
- He loved cats. He was asked once what his hobbies were, and his wife said, “Cats.” He adopted several strays while in the White House. He had a gray tabby named Tabby who ate at the table with the family. Abe allegedly fed the cat with a gold fork.
- He no longer has any direct descendants. He and Mary had four children, but only one who made it to adulthood, and his last descendant died in 1985.
- He used to keep important papers under his top hat. He’s not the inspiration for the expression, “Keep it under your hat,” but clearly he took that advice at some point.
- He was the first president with a beard.
- He was photographed with his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, at his second inauguration.
- Speaking of his second inauguration, he cut and pasted the speech from his first inauguration and gave it at his second. No word on whether anyone noticed.
- He didn’t win the popular vote in 1860, nor did he win any Southern state. Guess they knew what was coming.
- Despite only having 18 months of formal education, he was an attorney who once got a client acquitted of murder by claiming it was too dark for anyone to have recognized him.
- He served as a member of the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party. He lost both his bids for the US Senate, however.
- Despite his association with Illinois, he was born in Kentucky, the first president born outside the original 13 states. He was the first president to be assassinated. His funeral lasted over three weeks, because his body had to travel from Washington, DC to Springfield, Illinois, a little over 1,600 miles (2,575 km, for you metric fans).
In honor of his birthday, I bought Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer. I’m really looking forward to reading it. Evidently he was quite a writer.
So, that’s The Thursday Ten for this week.