Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spielberg's Lincoln Movie May Shoot in Fall 2011

The long-gestating Steven Spielberg movie about Abraham Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's acclaimed Team of Rivals, has lost one Lincoln (Liam Neeson) and hired another (Daniel Day-Lewis).

There are rumors that Spielberg plans to begin shooting in the fall of 2011. Toward this end, a production team including "the man who would be Lincoln" recently met with a representative of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency doing research. Evidently they toured Lincoln sites and viewed some Lincoln artifacts.

Neeson was reported to have done such research during his several years of association with the project, so development scouting does not mean that the film will definitely be shot. However, there are some indications that this effort may finally come to fruition. Spielberg's calendar is open for shooting this fall -- before beginning his anticipated sci-fi Robopocalypse in early 2012; Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter, has been publicly touting his screenplay in recent months; Day-Lewis is the sort of actor whose prestige projects are always taken seriously (this will only be his fifth film in the past decade). More important than all of these, though, is the slate of other Lincoln films in production, especially Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which means that several studios believe there is a market for Lincoln right now.

I hope the film will one day be shot, as a new Lincoln-related movie is long overdue. However, I am sad that Neeson withdrew from the project. Unlike others who believe the project has awards written all over it, I think that Neeson (even at age 59) would be a better fit for Lincoln than Day-Lewis. Some point to Day-Lewis' obvious -- even extraordinary -- talents, and his performance may be compelling, but after seeing Neeson in Kinsey, I became convinced that he could offer a definitive Lincoln.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

National Park Service Celebrates 150 Years

The National Park Service has created a webpage honoring the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. Evidently the current page is a rough place-holder that will soon be replaced by a more complete site with timelines and ways to plan a visit to one of the many Civil War battlefields and Civil War-related sites preserved by the Park Service.

Perhaps the most helpful piece will be a calendar of scheduled events throughout the park system and in conjunction with the various state commissions planning Civil War Sesquicentennial activities.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Election

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Presidential election of 1860, when a former one-term Congressman defeated three other candidates, each of whom had previously served in the US Senate, and one who was the current vice-president. Abraham Lincoln, a dark horse candidate who gained the nomination of the nascent Republican Party as much for who and what he was not as for who and what he was.

By election day, though, his election was almost a foregone conclusion. The Republican coalition was united around him, while the larger Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson had split geographically between Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge. Of course, given Lincoln's recent experiences in attempting to gain election to the US Senate, he seemed reluctant to view his election as inevitable. Instead he patiently and deliberately worked behind the scenes to do all he could to achieve election. On election day, he was calm but refused to accept any congratulations until the returns proved his election.

The Gray Lady has two excellent web postings about the 1860 election, including a reprint of the 1932 reminiscences of a reporter who spent much of that election day with Lincoln, including the hours in the telegraph office where Lincoln waited for all of the election returns to be transmitted. They are an excellent account of that fateful day, which continued events in motion toward secession and civil war.

The first relates Lincoln's careful strategic silence during the election and the period leading up to his inauguration. The second records Lincoln's activities on November 6, 1860.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lincoln on TV

This weekend, C-SPAN is featuring three Lincoln-related lectures as part of American History TV. The lectures will focus on the 1860 and 1864 elections. (Evidently the theme of the weekend is 'presidential elections.')

Two of the lectures are from previous Lincoln Forum events: one by David Long on the 1860 election and one by Joseph Glatthar on the 1864 election. There is also a lecture on Lincoln and Jefferson Davis by Bruce Chadwick, whose most recent book is on the 1860 election.

The lectures will run several times this weekend on C-SPAN 3.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dueling Civil War Sesquicentennial Blogs Debut

Last week, The Washington Post and The New York Times rolled out blogs that will cover the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War over the next five years. (Coincidence, co-dependence, or healthy competition? Who can say?)

They take slightly different approaches. The Post has gathered a panel of 25 experts to answer questions about the war, the politics of the era, and the consequence. Among the experts are noted Lincoln authors such as Harold Holzer and recent Lincoln Prize-winner Craig Symonds. The first question, answered by six panelists, is "Would there have been a war if Lincoln hadn't won the 1860 election?" The answers (none of them particularly earth-shattering or provocative, sadly) are posted on the blog, entitled "A House Divided."

The Times is evidently planning to refight the war day-by-day by offering posts of events that occurred exactly 150 years before. Some of the posts will be written in a "You are there" style; others are reflections on the past events. The Times has called their blog "Disunion" -- well, actually, "DISUNION," but I'm unclear why they feel the need to shout.

Hopefully there will be some good material here in the coming years. At the very least, let's hope that there is sufficient interest to sustain the efforts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recent New Lincoln Book

On Sunday, The Washington Post published a review of the new book by James Swanson, Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse. In the review, John Waugh (author of several Lincoln and Civil War era books) attests that Swanson's book is 'riveting, absorbing, and meticulous.'

Given the popularity of Swanson's previous book, the bestselling Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, it is easy to understand the expectation for this latest book. The two books detail virtually the same period of time (April 1865). Perhaps the unexpected thing is the counterpoint Swanson is attempting between the pursuit of Jefferson Davis as he tried to move the Confederate Government (such as it was at that point) from Richmond further south and the more parade-like journey of Lincoln's body from Washington to Springfield for burial.

I enjoyed reading Swanson's Manhunt. It was fast-paced and very well-written, and Swanson marshaled the facts in a dramatic way, making the book seem more like a novel than a work of nonfiction. Swanson's book didn't add any new details to the story, but certainly told "The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth" in a compelling way. I expect the same from Bloody Crimes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vampire Hunter Movie Finds Studio Home

Evidently 20th Century Fox believes that they can make money with the forthcoming film version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. According to Variety, they put out quite the effort, along with ponying up an undisclosed amount of cash, to win the rights to the Tim Burton-produced movie.

Despite Burton's name, it seems to me that a $69 million film (plus a "who knows how much" amount to spend on advertising) featuring Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires needs more than 3-D gimmickry -- it needs the cast of Twilight too if it's going to make any money. Imagine this juicy tidbit: the most difficult decision Lincoln faced during the war wasn't whether or not to free the slaves; it was deciding between Team Edward and Team Jacob.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eric Foner Interview about New Lincoln Book

Eric Foner, the well-respected historian who teaches at Columbia University, has recently written a book that focuses on Lincoln's views of slavery. Having focused on broad issues of slavery and emancipation in his recent book Forever Free, he now is focusing on Lincoln's personal views on the subject in a new book: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.

There is an interview promoting the new book on Columbia's website, including video clips of Foner explaining some of his thoughts on Lincoln, including why he felt the book was a necessary addition to the Lincoln bookshelf. He also has a pretty good answer on one of the key 'what-if' Lincoln questions: What if Lincoln had lived into Reconstruction?

I don't know how much new ground there is for Foner to till in this topic, though his recent study writ large of Reconstruction might allow insights into some of Lincoln's contradictions on the subject. I have little doubt that the book is well written and worth reading for someone interested in reading about Lincoln and slavery for the first time.

House Where Lincoln('s Stuff) Slept for Sale

According to The LA Times, Louise Taper is selling her large mansion. Taper is well known in Lincoln circles as an avid collector of all things Lincoln, amassing a large and valuable collection over the years. She has been a huge supporter of The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield -- the museum's first temporary exhibit on the assassination was mostly drawn from her vast collection, as well as the Peterson House furniture owned by the Chicago History Museum (or whatever they're calling themselves this month).

Three years ago, she sold (some say at a reduced price) her collection to the museum, including several gems: a Lincoln hat, the gloves Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, and the famous arithmetic book that has Lincoln's famous scribble: "Abraham Lincoln/ His hand and his pen/ He will be good/ But God knows when."

For years, this collection was housed in this mansion. Andrew Ferguson, in Land of Lincoln (which I've reviewed before), tells of his visit to the Taper residence to view the collection, including the gloves and the book. Now the Lincolniana has moved to Springfield, and evidently Taper is moving on as well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Lincoln Book

A new Lincoln-related book was released today, the second recent book focusing on the 1860 presidential election, which was a wild free-for-all, with no fewer than a dozen serious candidates for nominations and four candidates in the November election.

Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R. Egerton (Bloomsbury Press, hardcover, 416 pages)

Doris Kearns Goodwin's prize-winning Team of Rivals revealed to many that Lincoln faced several better known Republicans for the 1860 presidential nomination, before inviting several of them to serve in his cabinet after his election. It should come as no surprise that the Democratic nomination was just as fiercely contested -- so much so that the party actually split into regional factions, each nominating a candidate. Steven Douglas, who had worked tirelessly over the past decade to position himself as the front-runner (including his assertive chairmanship on the Senate committee on territories), had positioned himself as the only Democrat acceptable to both North and South, only to discover that he wasn't acceptable to both regions either.

This book has only gotten a couple of reviews today, but one is in The Wall Street Journal. It seems that Egerton focuses more on Douglas than Lincoln, which certainly is an accurate portrayal of the year 1860 -- Lincoln won the election, but Douglas was the central personality of the year.

John Waugh's Reelecting Lincoln offers an entertaining portrayal of the 1864 election. The 1860 contest was much more action packed, with plenty of tension and lots of big personalities. So Egerton has plenty of material to work with -- here's hoping that he does it justice.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Blog on Statues and Monuments of Lincoln

While catching up on things Lincoln this evening -- after some time focused on other things, including a vacation -- I was pleased to discover a new Lincoln blog. "Lincolning," by Lincoln enthusiast Dave Wiegers, will focus statues and memorials dedicated to the 16th president.

Having corresponded with Dave occasionally since I began this blog, I know that Lincoln statuary has long been a passion. Currently, he is working on a book filled with photographs and information about Lincoln statues across the country. No doubt his blog will be filled with the insights gleaned from his travels and his photographer's eye.

I wish Dave all the best as he begins his blog and continues working on his book.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More about the New Donner Party-related Lincoln Document

After yesterday's post, I received a friendly email with additional information from Kristin Johnson, a librarian who has studied the Donner Party for almost 20 years. Kristin sent the joint press release of the California State Library and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which details the story of how this document came to the attention of Lincoln experts who studied the handwriting and other details. Evidently, it was Kristin herself who brought the documents to the attention of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project, as she writes on her own blog.

In addition, Kristin passed along the newspaper article that caught her eyes a few years ago, alerting her to the possible existence of these materials. Published in The San Francisco Call as part of its special coverage of the Lincoln centennial in 1909, there is even a photograph of one muster roll.

Two thoughts. This is how many discoveries are made in archived materials. Someone researching one topic comes across items which may very much interest someone studying a different topic. The Donner Party and Abraham Lincoln are two largely unrelated focuses within US History -- though clearly we now see they is a relationship between the two. An experienced researcher about the Donner Party realized that it might interest experienced Lincoln researchers, and discovering an online way of sharing these documents, passed it along. I hope that I and other Lincoln students are as sensitive when we conduct our research if we come across material that might interest people studying other, seemingly unrelated, historical subjects.

Second, after reading the newspaper article, I am a bit disturbed that no Lincoln researchers had discovered these materials, or at least pursued them. Given the extensive coverage of Lincoln during the 1909 centennial celebration of his birth, this newspaper article should have been read by at least some Lincoln researchers. Certainly much of the centennial coverage was redundant, and some of it was probably exaggerated; this does not diminish the need to carefully pore over the extant resources when doing research, even recognizing the huge Lincoln bibliography. The obvious sources, such as periodicals published around February 1909, should have come to someone's attention in the Lincoln field -- which hasn't lacked for participants -- in the subsequent years long before the 2009 bicentennial. [Perhaps my frustration over this is heightened by my current reading of a Lincoln-related book -- which I will not name -- that has a very disappointing and limited bibliography.]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lincoln and the Donner Party

Earlier today, I noticed that a very odd search was lighting up Internet search engines: Abraham Lincoln Donner Party. As interested as I am with all things Lincoln, I ignored it, assuming that it had something to do with a random subplot in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which I have not yet read).

I was wrong.

Proving yet again that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, researchers have discovered a document associated with Lincoln that was carried to California by members of the infamous Donner Party. James Reed, who was a member of the Donner Party (before being exiled for killing someone else in the group during an argument), was also a volunteer in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War, serving in the same unit as Abraham Lincoln. Somehow Reed came to possess muster rolls from that time, including some with Lincoln's name and possessions, and one that experts say has a heading written in Lincoln's own hand.

During these years, Lincoln was frequently called upon in New Salem to be a recording clerk during elections (as is evident if you browse the early documents in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln). So it seems likely that Lincoln, among the volunteers, might have served as a clerk in this situation too. The news stories are silent on whether Lincoln wrote out the muster itself or just the title. In the CNN video, which shows Lincoln's name on one such muster, I must confess that I see similarities of Lincoln's handwriting with his famous signature -- of course, it does not have the familiar tie between the initial "A" and "L" of Lincoln, that are so famous. A cursory search of early documents in the Library of Congress shows at least one nearly contemporaneous example of a Lincoln signature without that tie. But I'm not a handwriting expert.

Surely in the coming months, experts will posit the extent of Lincoln's involvement in the production of the newly recognized document -- which has been in the California State Library for decades. They will also, no doubt, comment on the $85 horse and $15 of equipment he evidently owned at the time. And one can only imagine what they might speculate about the military tent given to Lincoln for the duration of the conflict.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brief Video on Lincoln's Leadership

I had planned a formal mea culpa for my lengthy silence on this blog, but that is beyond my patience tonight. Instead, enjoy this video, courtesy of The Washington Post, in which Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn comments on Abraham Lincoln's search for meaning as the key to his effective leadership as president.

In particular, I like Koehn's opening comments about how Lincoln used the process of writing to carefully develop his ideas and understanding of the situation. Surely leaders may gain information and insight in different ways, but this was one of the central ways Lincoln gained his. Usually his best decisions emerge after he had carefully written about them, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, which Koehn rightly highlights.

Of course, Lincoln's process was not limited to a private act of writing. There is much anecdotal evidence that he liked to bounce ideas off of people as he was mulling them over. Perhaps the best of this is lost to history -- in particular the many private evening conversations he had with William Seward, who fancied himself a powerful prime minister in the early days, but who instead may have become a capable confidant and adviser to Lincoln -- unlike others, he seems to have told few stories about his evening chats with Lincoln in his home.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union Address

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's historic address at New York City's Cooper Institute. A few years ago, no less than Harold Holzer boldly claimed that this speech -- and perhaps a photograph by Matthew Brady taken during this visit -- made Lincoln president.

Holzer is likely right. Certainly, Lincoln at Cooper Union, his book examining the speech, its preparation, context, and consequences is one of the best recent books on Lincoln (and was a finalist for the 2005 Lincoln Prize). At length, Holzer details Lincoln's preparation for this speech. Lincoln began with a simple question: What did the founders' believe was the role of the federal government in regulating slavery? Many in the slavery debate claimed that the founders were on their side. Lincoln painstakingly studied records in the Illinois State Law Library to determine how the founders actually voted on the issue of regulating slavery in the American territories. He determined that the Republican Party position correlated with the votes of the vast majority of the founders. In his Cooper Union address, Lincoln carefully presented these findings and then argued consequences based on them.

The speech proved that Lincoln, who had built the beginnings of a national reputation as the man who challenged Stephen Douglas to seven fierce debates, had intellectual power. The Cooper Union address is not built on wit or homespun stories, but on thoughtful analysis. But if we simply marvel at it today, without recognizing the habitual preparation behind it, we are like those Eastern crowds -- amazed that the backwoods, frontier lawyer could make such a smart, polished speech, but expecting him to return to his coarse jokes and rough ways, even as he goes to the White House.

Perhaps more interesting, and less commented on, is that this speech capably demonstrates one of Lincoln's greatest attributes -- his dogged preparation -- that is glimpsed throughout his life, and likely made Lincoln a great president. In fairness, much effort has been exhausted on examining certain aspects of Lincoln's meticulous personality. Douglas Wilson, in his remarkable book Lincoln's Sword, shows how Lincoln carefully edited his words before delivery or publication. Allen Guelzo, in Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (oddly, the book that bested Holzer's for the 2005 Lincoln Prize), shows how carefully Lincoln considered the issue of emancipation and how he delicately, but determinedly, shaped the issue over the first 15 months of his presidency. In my estimation, though, no one has demonstrated Lincoln's similar deliberate instincts in his role as commander-in-chief. The onetime militiaman studied textbooks on military strategy and viewed demonstrations of modern military weapons in order to better understand how much his army could accomplish. As he became more confident in his military thinking, Lincoln became more proactive, and more effective, in dealing with his generals.

In short, I would argue (and this argument could be a book, so I'll be brief here) that Lincoln's preparation, which made his address at Cooper Union so important in his ascent to the presidency, was the same thing that had brought a frontier boy with little education from the backwoods of Kentucky and Indiana to the leadership of Illinois Republicans in 1860. This preparation also made Lincoln's presidency great, allowing him to lead effectively in the things he is most remembered for: saving the union, ending slavery, and his timeless words defending both those things.

The speech is well worth reading or re-reading. The full text is available in several places, including Holzer's book and countless collections of Lincoln speeches. It is also available online, courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Association and the University of Michigan Library, in their full-text Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Lincoln Prize Announced

Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute have announced the 2010 Lincoln Prize will be awarded to Michael Burlingame for his 2000+ page two volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Life. Burlingame, now the Chair of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield, is reputed to have spent two decades working on the first major multi-volume biography of Lincoln in over a generation.

Needless to say, I have yet to read Burlingame's now award-winning book. I've twenty-some pages of the original unedited draft, which has more extensive footnotes and is available at the Lincoln Studies Center's website. It is impressive, but I know that I need to read it in old-fashioned book form.

Even without reading Burlingame's work, it is not surprising that it was recognized. Burlingame is frequently seen as one of the foremost Lincoln scholars alive, with a reputation for an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Lincoln-related source materials. More surprising was the scholarly nature of the other finalists, which overlooked some other high profile Lincoln releases in the bicentennial year.

Burlingame will receive the award at a ceremony on April 27.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lincoln Model Homes

A few weeks ago, after I posted a note about the scale model kits of various Lincoln sites offered online by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Mike Kienzler of The Abraham Lincoln Observer challenged me to a "build-off" of simple models. Today, we are posting our results.

Mike has constructed the model of the Berry-Lincoln Store (in historic New Salem). Take a look at his post to see his effort, which also has some information on how the models came to be.

I built the model of the Thomas Lincoln cabin outside of Charleston, Illinois. Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product.

Here's the best photo I can find of real location, part of the Wikipedia entry on the Lincoln historical site.

I never imagined I'd need to do an art project again, at least until I had kids, but I must say that I enjoyed this little one (enough that I'm thinking about trying another model). Getting the hang of craft glue again, particularly with some of the model's small tabs, was a bit of a challenge, but otherwise the model was pretty straight-forward. For someone who is artistically challenged, it was a pretty good experience.

Hopefully this will encourage others to give these projects a try. Thanks to Mike the challenge to do this.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lincoln's Award-Winning Weekend

The year of Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial is at an end, but the former president's influence on popular culture remains. This weekend, as Mike over at The Abraham Lincoln Observer writes (I knew I should have burned the midnight oil to post this), a full CD recording of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category. The 14-CD set, released by BBC audio, features David Strathairn (Oscar-nominated actor for Good Night and Good Luck) as Abraham Lincoln and Richard Dreyfuss (Oscar-winning actor for The Goodbye Girl) as Stephen Douglas. The other nominees include another president -- Jimmy Carter reading his book We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land -- a reading of The Maltese Falcon, two autobiographies by famous people -- Michael J. Fox (the sentimental choice) and Carrie Fisher, and Jonathan Winters.

Even if Lincoln comes up short at the Grammys on Sunday, he's already won this weekend. At a 2010 Sundance Film Festival ceremony Saturday, "Drunk History: Douglass and Lincoln," a six-minute live-action short film directed by Jeremy Konner, will receive the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking. The movie, which follows the fractured narrative given by a drunk historian, features Will Ferrell as Abraham Lincoln and Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglass. I have been unable to find the complete film online (there are others in the "Drunk History" series on YouTube), but there is a clip here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On Lincoln and Depression

Over the weekend, Stanton Peele, whose blog is hosted on the Psychology Today website, posted an interesting essay on Abraham Lincoln and depression. In this, he considered the evidence of Lincoln's well-known bouts with melancholy/depression, coupled with the tragedies and stresses of his life. Given this, and Lincoln's supposed fatalistic religious outlook on life -- and his life in particular -- Peele is amazed at the strength Lincoln displayed in his life.

While I would quibble with a few details in the essay (I'm not entirely sure that Peele represents Lincoln's fatalism accurately, which went beyond simple issues of mortality), I think that Peele hits on a topic that accounts for part of the Lincoln mystique. It is difficult to imagine how Lincoln could endure all of the hard times in his life (his dissatisfied childhood, numerous career frustrations, difficulties with women, stresses of a wartime presidency) and keep going, making strong decisions (often with inspired words).

On the other hand, I wish Peele had gone further, particularly when he admits, "It is hard for modern psychology to fathom how a depressed person was confident and energized enough to guide the most powerful country in the world through the chasm of its self-destruction, while never losing his humanity." Personally, I have a long-held suspicion about modern psychology's understanding of depression, overstating the debilitating effects in many people. Lincoln's biography might be a good case study to push the understanding of depression.

One recent well-publicized book took on this topic: Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. As the subtitle suggests, Shenk tends toward the opposite pole from Peele. It is an interesting book, and one hesitates to challenge Shenk's slightly unusual approach given that he draws on his personal experiences with depression, but it is not a completely realized -- or completely balanced -- argument. But there is room for a more extensive study.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, New Lincoln Projects

As the new year begins, we bid an affectionate farewell to 2009 and the extended celebration of the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial. If the decrease in Lincoln-related activities depresses you, and if you are the sort of person who likes to start big projects with the start of the new year, the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, along with the Old State Capitol Foundation and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, has the perfect activity for you.

For those --like myself -- who live outside of central Illinois, it can be difficult to visit the Lincoln related sites. Now you can bring some Lincoln-related sites into your home. The IHPA website included instructions for making scale models of several Lincoln sites, including the Lincoln home, the Lincoln gravesite, two of the three state capitol buildings Lincoln knew (the second Vandalia capitol and the Old State Capitol in Springfield), and the Western Depot.

Evidently, you simply print out the color patterns on cardstock, and carefully cut and glue as directed. The log cabins look small, but fairly easy. The impressive Old State Capitol requires 41 pages of cardstock (.pdf takes a bit to download) and is, even according to the IHPA, "not for the faint-hearted."

I suppose that few people would display all of these buildings (though they would be fun to make with kids of the right age). But if you wanted to surprise your friends, you could make the models, adorn them model wreaths and greenery, and display them next Christmas instead of the more expensive New England villages that so many people now have. It could be the next part of a themed Lincoln Christmas display, with a tree featuring Lincoln ornaments (such as these recent ones: here, here, here, and here), a Lincoln nutcracker (mine looks similar to this one), and a Lincoln village. I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone creates a kitschy Lincoln nativity set to complete the ensemble. (Having imagined that, I know envision a gangly teenage Dennis Hanks in place of the wise men, though I imagine he didn't bring gold, frankincense, or myrrh. If he did, I'm sure he would have told people about it later in life. But I digress into heretical flights of fancy.)

Because now, having finished putting the decorations back in storage, is the perfect time to prepare for Christmas 2010: A Very Lincoln Christmas. On a more serious note, the models are a good idea. Happy New Year!