Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln

Explore the Museum’s extensive collection of resources on Abraham Lincoln’s extraordinary life through this theme page.

Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life Homepage

Grade Range: 4-12
Resource Type(s): Reference Materials
Date Posted: 1/15/2009

This online exhibition commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. The website covers each major period of Lincoln's private and public life, especially his years in Washington when he made the crucial decisions that ended slavery and preserved the nation. Also included are the artifacts of Lincoln's assassination-his top hat, the prison hoods of the conspirators, and other sobering reminders of this tragic story.

Interactive Gettysburg Address

Grade Range: 4-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Lessons & Activities, Primary Source
Date Posted: 1/22/2009

Use this interactive document to bring one of the five known handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address to life! Students can zoom in on the document, click on highlighted passages that help put the famous speech into context and listen to actor Liam Neeson read the entire address. Transcripts of the manuscript are also available in English and Spanish to help students understand one the most famous speeches in American History. This resource is included in the online exhibition entitled The Gettysburg Address.

Abraham Lincoln's Patent Model: Improvement for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Source
Date Posted: 7/31/2008

Abraham Lincoln's interest in canal building, river commerce, and internal improvements not only drew him to the Whig and later Republican Party, but also led him to try his hand at designing a device for raising boats off sand bars. Undertaken while he was a 40-year-old lawyer in Illinois, Lincoln's patent illustrates an idea he had for lessening the draft of a river craft by pushing horizontal floats into the water alongside the hull when near shoal waters. On May 22, 1849, he was granted Patent No. 6469 by the U.S. Patent Office (USPO) in Washington, D.C. This boat model, submitted with the drawings of his idea, is inscribed "Pat./May 22/49/Abram Lincoln" on the surface of the upper deck. According to a Lincoln biographer, the President visited the Patent Office during his presidency (1861–1865) and inspected his model. His considerable talents lay elsewhere, and the idea he patented was never formally applied in the construction of a watercraft.

In early 1997, the original patent drawing submitted in 1846 was discovered in the director's office at the USPO, lacking only the president's autograph in the lower right corner.

This patent model is one of approximately 10,000 acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, mostly from the US Patent Office. Of that number, about 75 are of maritime inventions, including some in the Engineering Collections. The Maritime Collections hold a replica of the Lincoln patent model since the original is too fragile to loan. The NMAH Political History Collections hold a copy of the patent papers associated with this model, as well as a considerable amount of other Lincoln-related materials.

Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 9/17/2010

At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln towered over most of his contemporaries. He chose to stand out even more by wearing high top hats. He acquired this hat from J. Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker. Lincoln had the black silk mourning band added in remembrance of his son Willie. No one knows when he obtained the hat, or how often he wore it. The last time he put it on was to go to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

After Lincoln’s assassination, the War Department preserved his hat and other material left at Ford’s Theatre. With permission from Mary Lincoln, the department gave the hat to the Patent Office, which, in 1867, transferred it to the Smithsonian Institution. Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, ordered his staff not to exhibit the hat “under any circumstance, and not to mention the matter to any one, on account of there being so much excitement at the time.” It was immediately placed in a basement storage room.

The American public did not see the hat again until 1893, when the Smithsonian lent it to an exhibition hosted by the Lincoln Memorial Association. Today it is one of the Institution’s most treasured objects.

Transfer from the War Department with permission from Mary Lincoln, 1867

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.

Lincoln, Race and the American Presidency Lecture Video

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 99 Minutes
Date Posted: 4/8/2010

In this archived panel discussion, experts discuss Abraham Lincoln's views on race issues in the context of his mid-19th century contemporaries. Beyond discussing slavery and emancipation, the panel of experts explores historical and modern perspectives on colonization, voting, and interracial marriage and other political and social rights.

This lecture is one in a series about issues that Abraham Lincoln faced as president that continue to confront the nation today.

The Brass Letters of Citizenship: Lincoln, African Americans and Military Service

Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 90 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/31/2010

Delve into the issue of military segregation with this archived panel discussion. In this video recording, experts discuss the African American military experience in the Civil War and the mid-19th century. Then, take the issue into the modern day by comparing arguments surrounding the racial makeup of the United States military in the Civil War with the modern arguments around the "don't ask, don't tell policy." Compare how the military's integration of individuals with various backgrounds impacts American life.

This lecture is one in a series about issues that Abraham Lincoln faced as president that continue to confront the nation today.


A Letter to Abraham Lincoln Homepage

Grade Range: K-4
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Reference Materials
Date Posted: 1/14/2009

In this OurStory module, children will read Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers, a children's book that tells the story of Grace Bedell and the famous letter that she sent to Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The module includes links to hands-on activities and a list of recommended readings for further exploration. OurStory is a series of modules designed to help children and adults enjoy exploring history together through the use of objects from the Museum's vast collections, quality children's literature, and engaging hands-on activities. Ideal for afterschool use, OurStory resources will allow children to think critically, to be creative, and to achieve academic standards both in and out of the classroom.

Mr. Lincoln's Way

Author: Patricia Polacco
Reading Level: Late Elementary School
Genre: Fiction

Story of a young bully who learns lessons of tolerance.

Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers

Author: Karen B. Winnick
Reading Level: Pre-School, Early Elementary School
Genre: Non Fiction
Awards: Caldecott

In this true story, young Grace Bedell writes to Abraham Lincoln and asks him to grow a beard so that he can win more votes, become...

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