Major Exhibit To Open On Lincoln & New York City
(October 2009 Civil War News)
NEW YORK — The New-York Historical Society will present a major exhibition, “Lincoln and New York,” Oct. 9 to March 26. This first in-depth look at Lincoln’s connection to the city is the society’s final Lincoln Year celebration.
Exhibits in six galleries will highlight Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential campaign with a speech at Cooper Union through the unprecedented outpouring of grief at his funeral procession, and Lincoln’s impact on New York.
The exhibition will include original artifacts, iconic images and significant period documents. Lincoln scholar and author Harold Holzer, co-chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, is chief historian for “Lincoln and New York” and editor of the accompanying catalog.
He said for the first time an exhibition will show how the city’s politicians, preachers, picture-makers, publishers and citizens “continued to aid, thwart, support, undermine, promote and sabotage Lincoln and his political party.”
Holzer said, “Despite ongoing political opposition, the state provided more men and materiel to the Union war effort than any other, even as it incubated virulent, sometimes racist, occasionally violent resistance to Lincoln’s presidency. In the end, New York created something more: it created the Lincoln image we know today.”
The exhibition will begin with visitors following Lincoln eastward to his rendezvous with “the political cauldron” of New York in the winter of 1860. Visitors will learn something of his background and of the battle over the extension of slavery into the western territories.
In the six galleries that follow, visitors will discover the interconnections between Lincoln and New York.
“Is Lincoln the Man? The Campaign for the Hearts and Minds of New York (1860)” will recreate Lincoln’s entire visit in February 1860 when his address at the Cooper Union and the photograph for which he posed that same day together launched his national career. A video re-creation of the speech by actor Sam Waterston will be shown.
Objects on view will include the telegram inviting Lincoln to give his first Eastern lecture, the lectern that he used at Cooper Union, the widely distributed printed text of his speech, and political cartoons and editorial commentary generated in New York that established candidate “Honest Abe” and the “Railsplitter.”
The next gallery, “A City at Odds with the Nation (1861-62),” will register the gyrating fortunes of the Lincoln Administration’s first year among New Yorkers, especially the editors and publishers of the city’s 175 periodicals. In the wake of Lincoln’s election, and the secession of the Southern states, the New York Stock Exchange had plummeted and New York harbor was stilled.
Lincoln visited New York in February 1861 on the way to his inauguration. Eyewitness Walt Whitman described his welcome along New York’s streets as “ominous.” After the attack on Fort Sumter and war was declared, business leaders, including many powerful Democrats, pledged funds and goods to the effort and the Irish community mobilized its own battalion in response to Lincoln’s call for troops to crush the Rebellion.
From July 1861 onward for more than a year, the news was bad, with battlefield mishaps, crippling inflation, profiteering, corruption among suppliers, Confederate raiders seizing New York merchant ships right outside the harbor, the imposition of an income tax and more.
Gallery 3, titled “Civil War Within Civil War,” will illustrate the mutual animosity of New York’s pro- and anti-Lincoln forces by exhibiting large three-dimensional versions of the era’s political cartoons. The gallery will also show how some New Yorkers reaped the benefits of the war since the city was the principal home of many of the industries and services Lincoln needed, including munitions, shipbuilding, medical supplies, food supplies, money lending and more.
Gallery 4, “The Northernmost Battlefield of the War,” will re-create seven different conflicts in the city between 1862 and 1864. Visitors can choose a side, listen to the issues and locate surviving historic landmarks.
Among the political and social flashpoints were Lincoln’s issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation; the suspension of habeas corpus and press freedom; the institution of a military draft; and the bitter Presidential campaign of 1864. Visitors will learn about the July 1863 Draft Riots, the April 1864 Metropolitan Sanitary Fair and see a multitude of cartoons, engravings, pamphlets, flags, posters, lanterns and campaign memorabilia.
The evolution of Lincoln’s image — from Railsplitter to Jokester to Tyrant to Gentle Father — is the subject of Gallery 5, “Eye on Lincoln.” Four iconic portraits that have never displayed together anchor the exhibit. Interactive programs will allow visitors to learn more about the images and artists.
The last major gallery, “The Martyred President,” takes the visitor from Lincoln’s 1864 election victory to his New York funeral procession, involving hundreds of thousands of participants.
A video documents the events of March and April 1865: the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery, the delivery of the Second Inaugural Address, and the surrender of the Confederate armies. A new image emerged of a Christ-like, compassionate and brooding hero who gave his life so that the nation would enjoy a “new birth of freedom.”
The exhibition concludes with a brief tour of how New Yorkers have continued to memorialize Lincoln. The exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, full-color catalog edited by guest historian Harold Holzer, who has also contributed an introductory essay and a chapter on the city’s publishers and the making of Lincoln’s image in New York.
Additional essays have been written by historians Jean Harvey Baker, Catherine Clinton, James Horton, Michael Kammen, Barnet Schechter, Craig L. Symonds, and Frank J. Williams, with a preface by New-York Historical Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer.
Objects in the exhibition come from the New-York Historical Society’s extensive collections; the Gilder Lehrman Collection, on deposit at the New-York Historical Society;
Also, from other major institutions including the Library of Congress, The Cooper Union, Chicago History Museum, John Jay Library at Brown University, Union League Club, New York Military Museum, Cornell University, the University of Illinois, and the New York Public Library.
For additional information visit the historical society’s Web site at www.nyhistory.org.