150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered brief remarks at the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln spoke for only two minutes, but this short speech is now considered one of the most eloquent and important in American history. Famed orator Edward Everett was the first speaker, and the day after the dedication, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
There are five known manuscripts of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: the Nicolay copy, Hay copy, Everett copy, Bancroft copy, and Bliss copy. It is still unclear which of these versions Lincoln actually read at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery that day, but the Bliss copy, which was handwritten by Lincoln as a souvenir draft later, has become the standard version of the address and the source for most facsimile reproductions. It is the version that is inscribed on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial.
You don’t need me to recommend books that contain the Gettysburg Address: all five versions are easily available to read online. The text from each is available here: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm. Lincoln’s two secretaries were John Nicolay and John Hay, and he gave them the first two copies he created. The Library of Congress owns both the Nicolay and Hay copies. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. A copy created for Edward Everett is at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Historian George Bancroft received the fourth copy, which resides at Cornell University. Bancroft’s stepson, Alexander Bliss, received the fifth and final copy, which is on display in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. This fantastic article on Forbes.com answered many of my questions about the various Gettysburg Address manuscripts: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanraab/2013/11/19/5-unanswered-questions-about-the-gettysburg-address/
Just because you don’t need library books to read the actual speech doesn’t mean I’m not going to recommend supplementary material. Today I’m focusing on books with beautiful artwork. I’m a firm believer that picture books and graphic novels are not just for kids, so don’t be afraid to go into the KidsSpace or young adult section for these books. I’m also including an academic book published by the University of Illinois Press and available at the Genealogy & Local History Library.