Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Prizes from Years of Lincoln Collecting Went to Auction Last Month

Over Thanksgiving weekend, an Ohio man downsized his extensive Lincoln memorabilia collection.

Eighty-five year old Georg Hoffman of Delaware, Ohio has a collection that includes stacks of old photographs, paintings and other works of art, but the star of his collection is a funeral wreath that lay on the casket of President Abraham Lincoln while he lay in state at the Ohio statehouse in Columbia.

The story is that the town of Piqua, Ohio, held a funeral before the train even arrived. One of the speakers at the service was Dr. Godwin Volney Dorsey, a well-respected area physician and one who was known for his oratory skills.

When Lincoln's casket was placed in the Columbus Statehouse, it was covered by funeral wreaths, one of which was purchased by Dr. Dorsey. Once the funeral train continued its journey, Dorsey reclaimed his wreath and it was passed on within the family for generations until 1975 when George Hoffman's family acquired it.

Dr. Dorsey had the wreath encased in a wooden shadow box frame and the paper backing reads "This Wreath lay upon the Breast of Abraham Lincoln while his body was lying in State at Columbus, O. April 29, 1865." Auctioneers were hoping to get $5,000 to $10,000 for the wreath, but it's been difficult to find published word on what the final purchase price was.

There was a photo of the Statehouse in Columbus taken while Lincoln lay in state there. Whether that's Dr. Dorsey's wreath visible in the picture we don't know. But we happened to have a copy of this photo in our files because of the painting above the coffin.

It depicts Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry leading the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Perry was assisted by a group of Ashtabula, Ohio, settlers known as the "old grey men," one of which supposedly was Benjamin Napier. Benjamin was the older brother of Joseph Naper who went on to found the town of Naperville in Illinois and of Amy Naper who was the mother of the main character in Kate's book Ruth by Lake and Prairie. One story has it that the meaty white-shirted oarsman in the picture is actually Benjamin Napier.

Experts at the Put-In-Bay historical museum say that nearly every family with a connection claims to have an ancestor in the painting, so the research is ongoing!

Do-It-Yourself Historical Sites

This sounds like the perfect project for long winter nights! The Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission offers Build Your Own Lincoln Sites that you can print out on card stock from your own computer, cut out and glue together.

Models include Lincoln's Tomb, his home in Springfield and the store he worked at in New Salem among many others.

One model is of the Old Main building at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, one of the sites of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the only site still standing. Kate knows the building well, having worked there in the college president's office as her campus job during her years attending Knox College.

If anyone actually builds one of these models, please send a photograph and we'll share your artistry with the rest of our readers!

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln's Illinois 1830-1861

Ends Sunday,
January 10, 2010

To celebrate the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, the Illinois State Museum showcases an original exhibition, From Humble Beginnings, Lincoln's Illinois 1830 - 1861, exploring all aspects of the state that Lincoln called home between 1830 and 1861.

Hinckley Historical Society Show and Share Night

Monday, January 11
7:00 pm until 10:00 pm

Join fellow history buffs at the Hinckley Community Building for a chance to share in a piece of Hinckley history!

Members of the community that have items such as postcards, photos, business premiums, yearbooks, documents, etc., that are part of Hinckley's past are encouraged to bring them to share. The historical society will display some of the items that have been donated. Tables will be set up for displays. You will have an opportunity to share your bit of Hinckley history.

For information, call Kristy Skelly-Sternes at 815-286-3356 or Kris Kestilla-Ohnstad at 815-286-7992.

Michigan Historical Collectibles Show

Saturday, January 23
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday, January 24
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

2 Day extravaganza with the largest gathering of Historical & Military collectors and enthusiasts in the Midwest. The only show in the world that features under one Roof 200 tables displaying and selling Toy Soldier and Historical Figures, Militaria & Historical Books.
Michigan Historical Collectibles Show offers free tables for the purpose of historical education to
historical groups and clubs, historical museums, living history/re-enacting groups and veterans groups

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oregon, IL's Black Hawk Statue Now Officially Historic

Long a favorite landmark along the Rock River, the fifty-foot tall statue of Black Hawk was honored with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service in November. The poured concrete statue was created in 1910 by Lorado Taft, which means it will celebrate it's one hundredth anniversary this coming year. Officials figure almost half a million visitors come to Oregon to see the huge monument in Lowden State Park. Taft operated an artists' colony in Oregon called The Eagle's Nest during the early 1900's where he and his colleagues could think and dream and work. Northern Illinois University continues that vision today at the Lorado Taft Field Campus by providing outdoor education programs. In the picture above is another popular Lorado Taft sculpture known as Eternal Silence. Found in the beautiful Chicago cemetery Graceland, it was commissioned by Henry Graves as a marker for himself, his wife Clementine, his brother Loren and his parents Dexter and Olive Graves. Kate's first book Ruth by Lake and Prairie was based on research prompted by a visit to this statue. If you go around to the back of the black marble block, you will find a large brass plate inscribed: "Erected by Henry Graves, son of Dexter Graves, one of the pioneers of Chicago. Dexter Graves brought the first colony to Chicago consisting of thirteen families arriving here July 15th 1831 from Ashtabula, Ohio on the schooner Telegraph." The "Telegraph" happens to be the ship belonging to Joseph Naper, Ruth's uncle, on which Ruth sailed with her family from her old home in Ashtabula to Chicago. Researching who the other thirteen families might have been led to developing the characters in Ruth by Lake and Prairie. Kate discussed that research in an article published by the DuPage County Genealogical Society. If you are interested in learning more about tracking down these early pioneers, please see "Naperville's Original Thirteen" in the November 2006 edition of The Review. A final note of interest about the Eternal Silence monument: It frequently appears in Chicago ghost story books. Of course it is an impressively creepy image for a book about haunts, but there is also a legend that goes along with the creepiness. Supposedly you should avoid looking under the statue's hood and into his eyes. If you do meet his gaze, they say you will see the manner of your own death!

Dexter Graves' Grave Is a Popular Hang-Out!

Because of Kate's connection to Lorado Taft's monument for Dexter Graves, it was interesting to read about the Black Hawk statue receiving historic landmark recognition.

Coming right on the heels of that news, Kate was interviewed by Scotti Cohn, author of It Happened in Chicago. Coincidentally, Scotti was visiting Chicago to do some research for her newest book and contacted Kate the day after strolling by Dexter Graves' grave.

Graceland Cemetery is a treasure trove of art and history, but the Eternal Silence monument does benefit from being situated very close to the office and parking lot, so you really can't miss it!

If you'd like to read Scotti Cohn's interview with Kate and find out more about Scotti's Chicago books, please see her "It Happened in Chicago" blog.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Civil War Symposium

January 23, 2010
10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Midway Village Museum in Rockford hosts an entire day of exploring a variety of topics of America's Civil War period with local historians. Advance registration is required. Cost for the symposium includes lunch. $25.00 per person ($15.00 for members and students). You must make reservations by Wednesday, January 20. See their web site for the list of topics.

Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago

Until January 18

Chicago is still celebrating Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago and the Art Institute will be closing their exhibit of maps and drawings next month. Daniel "Make No Little Plans" Burnham was also the architect for the 1893 World's Fair portrayed in Erik Larson's book Devil in the White City.
An online version of the exhibition can be viewed at the Art Institute's web site.

C.D. Arnold's Photographs of 1893 Colombian Exhbition

Until Sunday, February, 28, 2010

The Art Institute features highlights from the Ryerson Library's archive of large platinum prints made by the official photographer of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition also known as the Chicago World's Fair. Nearly half the population of the United States came to the city during its six-month run. Arnold's photographic project, begun two years earlier and completed in 1894, traces the fair's development, particularly the architectural concept put in place by Daniel H. Burnham, who is best known for his 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lincoln's Bicentennial Winding Down

Abraham Lincoln was born February 9, 1809, and the state of Illinois has been celebrating all year. Lincoln has always generated a lot of interest and will continue to do so, but the festivities for this his bicentennial year have been extra special. Before the birthday candles are completely blown out, here are a few celebrations you may have missed.
  • Get Lincolnized! at the Chicago History Museum web site. Upload a photo of your face and they'll slap a beard and stovepipe hat on it so you'll look just like the President's twin. Silly, but fun. According to The Lincoln Log, Abraham started his political service today as he took his seat as one of 55 members of the Illinois House of Representatives in Vandalia. You can check what he was doing any day of year on this web site.
  • President and Mrs. Lincoln have been seen all over Illinois. Kate's chatted with them herself at least twice at different venues. Max and Donna Daniels have been perfecting their reflection of the Lincolns for years, but they have been especially busy during 2009. If you haven't seen them in person, you can order a video of their most popular presentation "An Evening with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln" at their web site which is creatively named AbeAndThebBabe.com.

Kate's "Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln" book and presentation has also had a workout this year, but there are still dates available if your church or community group would like to commemorate Lincoln's 200th birthday with a fun and interesting program. Contact Kate for booking information.

Everything You and Your Child or Grandchild Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas Trees

The University of Illinois Extension offers all sorts of interesting facts to know and places to go on their education web site "Christmas Trees and More."

The page was created for use by teachers in the classroom, but children and their families at home will find much to learn and do as well. Web site links include a virtual Christmas tree farm, holiday history and traditions, and the "Nation's Christmas Tree" in General Grant National Park.

Even if you don't have children to educate and entertain you will enjoy browsing the information available. It will provide you with some great cocktail party conversation at your next holiday event!

Check on the Restoration of a Mansion

In 1992, voters agreed to let the DuPage Forest Preserve District purchase the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois, and take on its operation and restoration.

The Tudor Revival mansion is huge and beautiful, built in 1921 for F.S. Peabody. Unfortunately, Mr. Peabody died soon after its completion and his surviving family decided not to keep the house.

It was sold in 1924 to the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic men's religious community. The Franciscans added a spartan two-story retreat building and turned the living room into a beautiful chapel. The mansion served as a religious retreat up until the Forest Preserve acquired it.

After so many years of hard use, Mayslake was overdue for basic maintenance, let alone restoring it to its 1920's glory. Of course the repair bills have been staggering, but progress is being made. It's actually quite fascinating to see the walls stained and peeling in one room and then see what wonderful refurbishment has taken place in the next.

Classes, performances and programs take place at Mayslake all year round, but if you want to take the Restoration in Progress Tour, there are only two tours left this year: Wednesday, December 2 and Wednesday, December 9. Tours will resume again in late January.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Nights of Luminaria

December 19

One of the most beautiful and romantic visions of the year. The streets, steps, and sidewalks of Galena are lined with nearly 5,000 candle-lit luminaries that burn from approximately 6 pm to 9 pm. Locations include: Old Train Depot, along the riverbanks, Park Avenue, Grant Park, Bouthillier Street, footbridge, Post Office, Old Market House, and steps between Main and Prospect Streets.

Postville Courthouse State Historic Site Christmas Open House

Saturday, December 5
12 pm to 4 pm.

The courthouse at 914 Fifth Street, Lincoln, will be decorated in the style of the mid 1800's and its Christmas tree will feature prairie dolls, wooden decorations and grape vines. Tour guides explain the ornaments and how they were crafted in the 1840's. Period music will fill the historic building and Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln impersonators will greet visitors as they arrive. Cake and punch will also be served.

Belvidere Hometown Christmas

Friday, December 4
Saturday, December 5

Horse drawn carriage rides, food, crafts, music, storytellers, and a petting zoo. And if that's not enough there's also a parade, a holiday lights display and "Christmas in the Cabins" at the Conservation District. A full calendar of events is at their web site or in the local paper.