Thursday, February 12, 2009
Happy Birthday, Abe Lincoln.
Two hundred years ago, the 16th president of the United States was born. There's been quite a little bit of media attention paid to this anniversary. There's a new penny, and I was excited to hear the USPS' plan to release 4 commemorative stamps –
For about a second. Then I remembered US stamp designs. Honestly, we have the worst stamps. It's embarrassing actually, when it's such a great opportunity to have someone design something cool. So I tried to remain positive until I looked them up, hoping maybe I'd be pleasantly surprised.
It is with mixed emotion that I bring these to you. At first glance, I have to say I was disappointed. They look governmental, they look like money. They look exactly how you'd expect them to. Here he is throughout his career, as a rail-splitter, lawyer, politician and finally the president.
I've really been stewing over whether or not to even post about this, Abe, these designs. I did some digging around. I heard on NPR this week about a store in Chicago called Abraham Lincoln Bookshop. During the interview with the shop's owner, I realized it's right around the corner from my office. They have all kinds of things in this store besides books, like artwork, maps, handwriting and statues. I kept wondering how on earth a store soley about Abraham Lincoln, and not attached to an Abe Lincoln Museum, could stay in business, but the owner described the build up to this birthday as a "frenzy". People are jazzed about Abe!
The shop, turns out, has been in business for 71 years, and carry thousands of books on Lincoln. He recommends two new books, listed here, by Clinton and White. He's so into it, it makes me curious. I'm going to have to walk over there, but I think I'll wait until all the hype dies down.
I found an article, 10 Things You Didn't Know About Abraham Lincoln. Did you know he was the first president born outside the original 13 states, in Kentucky, and did you know that he was the first president to wear a beard? Because he was advised to to soften his "harsh appearance"?
Now I'm back looking at the stamps. Three out of the four, no beard. I don't think I've ever seen Lincoln without the beard. Have you? I'm beginning to like the stamps. They are obvious, definitely, but the design is decent. I like the large black and white portrait over the lifestyle shot in color, and I love the signature. What I think I like most about them, though, is that it's a real tribute to Lincoln the man, rather than Lincoln the president. It gives perspective to how this man became president. I mean, look where he was born –
(I love looking at old homes and stuff like this. What it must have been like to live back then is barely imaginable.)
I read somewhere that he was the first to talk about same sex marriage. He was not religious, and managed to go through two inaugurations without a religious representative. He's also the only president to have a patent, for a device to keep boats floating in shallow conditions. I think he worked for some time on a river or something when he was young.
I remembered too that I have also heard an enthusiastic plug for visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL. The rave reviews about the "Civil War in Four Minutes" exhibit alone ensure that I will make a stop in this museum the next time I find myself in the Springfield area. (I really will!)
I think I might like to read a book on Lincoln. Or maybe I will reread Across Five Aprils. Maybe I will do both. Anyway, I like Abe.
And if you're interested, Automatism has posted about some cool stamp designs, neither from the US. One is Canadian in celebration of the Year of the Ox, the other focuses on classic British design. Wouldn't it be neat to have some cool stamps like this here?