Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1850s: Law, Politics, Debates

Lincoln in 1858 - Library of Congress
Lincoln in 1858. Library of Congress

 1850s: Law, Politics, Debates

  • Lincoln concentrated on his law practice in the early 1850s. He and his partner took on many cases, and Lincoln gained a reputation as a formidable courtroom advocate. 
  • Lincoln challenged Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois over the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. 
  • Lincoln won an election to the state legislature in 1855, but declined the seat to try for a US Senate seat the next year. At that time, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, and Lincoln lost his bid. 
  • Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by Stephen Douglas in 1858. 
  • In 1858 Lincoln and Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates throughout Illinois. The subject of each debate was slavery, specifically the issue of whether slavery should be allowed to spread to new territories and states. Lincoln lost the election, but the experience left him poised for greater things.

1840s: Lincoln Marries, Practices Law, Serves in Congress

 - Library of Congress
A daguerreotype of Lincoln probably taken in 1846 or 1847, perhaps while serving in Congress. Library of Congress

 1840s: Lincoln Marries, Practices Law, Serves in Congress

  • In 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, whom he had met in Springfield in 1839. She was wealthy and considered more sophisticated than Lincoln. 
  • Lincoln took on many sorts of legal cases, from civil matters to defending those accused of murder. 
  • Lincoln traveled throughout parts of Illinois as a lawyer, "riding the circuit." 
  • Lincoln won election to Congress in 1846 as a Whig. While serving in Washington he opposed the Mexican War
  • He chose not to run for a second term, and after two years living in a Washington boardinghouse, the Lincoln family returned to Springfield.

1830s: Abraham Lincoln as a Young Man

 - Library of Congress
An 1865 drawing of Lincoln's first home in Illinois.Library of Congress

 1830s: Abraham Lincoln as a Young Man

  • In 1830 Lincoln, who was 21, moved with his family to the town of New Salem, Illinois. 
  • In 1832 Lincoln briefly served in the Black Hawk War. This would be his only military experience. 
  • In Illinois, Lincoln tried a variety of occupations, including storekeeper. 
  • A young woman Lincoln knew, Ann Rutledge, died in 1835, and stories persist that he was thrown into a deep depression over it. Historians still debate the relationship between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. 
  • Continuing to educate himself, he read law books and in 1836 he was admitted to the bar. 
  • In 1837 he moved to Springfield, Illinois to take up a law practice. 
  • On January 27, 1838, he gave an early speech to the local Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. 
  • Lincoln served in the Illinois legislature from 1834-1841, as a member of the Whig Party.

1820s:Lincoln Rail-Splitter and Boatman

 1820s: Rail-Splitter and Boatman

  • By the age of 17 Lincoln had grown to his adult height of six feet, four inches. 
  • Lincoln was known locally for his strength and his prowess for splitting timber for fence rails. 
  • Lincoln developed a skill for storytelling. 
  • In 1828 Lincoln and a friend worked taking a boat down the Mississippi to New Orleans. It was Lincoln's first sight of the world beyond the frontier communities of his youth. 
  • On the 1828 boat trip, Lincoln and his friend Allen Gentry fought off a gang of slaves that tried to rob them. 
  • In New Orleans the 19-year-old Lincoln was said to have been offended by the sight of large slave markets.

  •  - Library of Congress
    Lincoln was often depicted splitting rails, such as in this illustration from the early 1900s. Library of Congress

1809: Abraham Lincoln Born in Kentucky

1809: Abraham Lincoln Born in Kentucky

  • Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky on February 12, 1809. 
  • Lincoln was the first president born outside the original 13 states. 
  • When Lincoln was seven, his family moved to Indiana and cleared land for a new farm. 
  • In 1818, when Lincoln was nine, his mother, Nancy Hanks, died. His father remarried. 
  • Lincoln received sporadic education as a child, walking two miles to a schoolhouse when he was not needed to work on the family farm. 
  • Despite a lack of formal schooling, Lincoln read widely, often borrowing books.
 - Library of Congress
In this print from the late 1800s, young Lincoln is depicted reading by the light of a log cabin fireplace. Library of Congress

1630s: Abraham Lincoln's Ancestors Settle in America

Abraham Lincoln rose from humble roots to be President of the United States at a time of great national crisis. His journey was perhaps the classic American success story, and the road he took to the White House was not always easy or predictable.
This timeline illustrates some of the major events of Lincoln's life up to the 1850s, when his legendary debates with Stephen Douglas began to show his potential as a presidential candidate.
St. Andrew Church - public domain
St. Andrew Church, Hingham, Norfolk, England.public domain

 1630s: Abraham Lincoln's Ancestors Settle in America

  • Ancestors of Abraham Lincoln lived in Hingham, Norfolk, England. A local church, St. Andrew in Hingham, has an alcove with a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln. 
  • In 1637, with other residents of Hingham, England, Samuel Lincoln left home to settle in the new village of Hingham, Massachusetts. 
  • Lincoln family members eventually moved from the northeast to Virginia, where Lincoln's father, Thomas, was born. 
  • Thomas Lincoln came with his family to the Kentucky frontier as a boy. 
  • Lincoln's mother was Mary Hanks. Little is known about her family or their roots, though the family is believed to be of English descent. 
  • Thomas Lincoln was successful enough to buy his own small Kentucky farm in 1803.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

C.S. Lewis Quote With Children's History Story

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” 
― C.S. Lewis
* A story about a little girl and her pony Dobbin, who travel into past history!

Chapter 16

President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd

BJ was excited as she opened the mail from the office of President Lincoln. It read: President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln invite you to join them for dinner at the President's House at 6:00 with an evening at Ford Theatre for the comedy 'Our American Cousin.'

"Oh Dobbin, can you believe it? I'm invited to go with them to the theater?" she said to her pony as she tied him to the hitching post. It was time to go inside and get ready for the evening. "What shall I wear?" she thought, as she looked through her dresses. Since it would be a very elegant evening. She chose a black and white striped silk dress.

Dobbin was already saddled up and they were off to see the President and First Lady. As they entered the long drive the stable boy was there to take him to the stables.  She told Dobbin she would return in a little while.

She then knocked on the front door and someone answered. "Hello. My name is BJ and this is my pony Dobbin. I've been invited to have dinner with the President and First Lady."
She was led into the dining room where Mary Todd was there to greet her.

"Please join us at the table BJ, we're glad you accepted our invitation for dinner and the theater tonight," said Mary Todd. Your mother had requested an invitation for you personally to see us."

"Oh thank-you, will anyone else be joining us tonight?" asked BJ, as she took her place at the table, confused that the President wasn't there.

"Yes BJ," answered President Lincoln, as he entered the room and shook hands with her. Nice that you could join us. We had invited Ulysses S. Grant and his wife tonight, but he declined because of other plans. We then decided to ask a younger couple to go in their place. Grant will be at my Cabinet meeting tomorrow, though."

"Hasn't it been a beautiful day? Did you enjoy your journey over on your pony?" asked Mary Todd Lincoln.

"Yes I certainly did. The dogwoods and the lilacs were in full bloom and gave off such a beautiful scent. The willow trees along the Potomac River also were beautiful with their branches full of green leaves. It's been a beautiful spring day."

BJ was very anxious to ask the President some questions, as they started their meal. “Mr. President, would you mind if I ask you about all the things you have on your schedule today, so I will have an idea what a President's duties are?"

"That's the only way you will learn, BJ. My day started at 8:00 when I had my breakfast of 1 egg and coffee. My wife and 2 sons, Robert 21 and Tad 12, joined me. At that time Mary told me that she had tickets to for the Grover's Theatre, but that she would rather see the comedy playing at the Ford Theatre, OUR AMERICAN COUSINS. She also wanted General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee to go with us, but they declined because they had other plans. So, Mary invited another couple in their place. After reading the newspaper at 9:00 I conducted my business as usual, meeting visitors. At 10:00 I met with the former New Hampshire Senator John P. Hale, who was recently appointed minister of Spain. His daughter Lucy is engaged to be married to John Wilkes Booth, an actor at the Ford Theatre where we will be attending tonight."

"Oh, will he be in the show tonight?" asked BJ.

"No, he is not in the show tonight. I then sent a messenger to reserve the State Box for the evening performance."

"The management was elated when they heard the news of a special guest tonight," said Mary Todd.

"The President continued about his schedule. "At 11:00 I met with my Cabinet, where lots of ideas were proposed to begin the process of reconciliation the North and South. We also discussed Confederacy. I told them that enough lives had been sacrificed. Our meeting continued until 2:00. I finished by asking Grant to describe the details of General Lee's surrender, which I can't discuss with you BJ. We were still not finished but whenVice-President Andrew Johnson arrived he decided to take a walk until we were finished with our business. Then after meeting with him, I went for a carriage ride with Mary. BJ that pretty much sums up my day," said the President.

"It sounds like a President's job is full of meetings. They sure have a hard job. Now, what can you tell me about your life Mr. President?"

"Well young lady, I was born on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both from Virginia and very poor. My mother died when I was 10 years old. Her maiden name was Hanks. At 8 my father moved us from Kentucky to Indiana, where the region was wild with bears and other wild animals."

"Did you go to school?" asked BJ.

"My pappy only let me go 1 year, because I was needed on the farm; splitting rails for fences and other chores. But, I read all the books I could get my hands on to get my education."

"Tell me about all your political interests?"

"In 1858, I ran against Stephen Douglas for Senator. I lost that election, but BJ in those debates I gained a National reputation that won me the nomination for the President in 1860."

"And what have you accomplished since?" as President?" asked BJ.

"Well, I built my party into a strong national organization. On January 1, 1863 I issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy."

"He also dedicated the military cemetery at Gettysburg. In that dedication he made the statement, 'this nation under God shall never have a new birth of freedom....... and the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth," said Mary Todd, " and in 1864 he won re-election for President of the United States."

The President continued, “and I have been flexible and generous in the planning for peace. I have given the Southerners encouragement in laying down their arms and join speedily in reunion."

Mary Todd continued, "In his second Inaugural Address he said in his speech, 'With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nations wounds,' " she said quoting the President's speech.

"And now tell me a little about your life here in the White House, Miss Mary?" asked BJ.

"Well I can tell you it has not been easy as First Lady. I came from a respected Kentucky family. It's been an uphill battle for me here. I have had to prove to Washington that I do have taste and the style of a First Lady. But, I have tried to carry on the official functions of the President's House. Some say I have spent too much money on renovation here. Then there are others who say because of the civil war going on that I shouldn't have any functions and now in this second term there are those that have seen what I do and support me."

"One of your duties is to be a hostess for the President's Cabinet and others. What are some of the foods you want prepared during those times?" asked BJ.

“The President is really not into food and very indifferent about it, so he leaves it up to me what to prepare. He prefers the simple food of the prairie he was raised on. He very seldom requests anything, except for breakfast if he remembers to eat. He then requests an egg with coffee and sometimes Nob Creek Kentucky corn cakes. His step-mother has always said that whatever is put in front of him he will eat. Once a waiter put a cup of something in front of him and after tasting it said, 'If this is coffee, then I'll have tea, but if this is tea then please bring me some coffee.' It was his polite way of saying that he didn't like it, but he never complains. He was used to prairie foods, but when he was a young man and boarded at the Rutledge Inn in New Salem, some of his friends had said he could never get enough honey."

"That is true. I want to tell you about a funny incident that happened when I was a boy. Once when we only had potatoes on the table to eat, my pappy spoke a blessing to the Lord for potatoes. After he was through, I spoke up and said, 'These are mighty poor blessings.' My pappy never let me forget that. My step-mother made them many ways and as tasty as she could get them, by steaming them in a baker."

"Do you do any of your own marketing, Mr. President?"

"I have something in common with President William Henry Harrison, who by the way only served 1 month in office, because he caught pneumonia and died. I love to do my own marketing because I sometimes like to pick out a great big beefsteak, which usually cost about 10 cents. I
save money by bringing it home myself, instead of having it delivered."

As they finished their meal May Todd said, this has been a nice conversation, but we must now start getting ready for our carriage ride to the theater,

"What are you wearing Mary Todd?" asked BJ.

"I am wearing the same colors as you are BJ. I am wearing a black and white striped silk dress with a matching bonnet."

"Oh that will be fun to be dressed alike. But, I wished I had a bonnet to wear."

"BJ, I have many bonnets. Let's go find one."

"Tell me what the President is wearing?" asked BJ.

"Brooks Brothers made a black wool overcoat for him. He will wear a black suit and white kid gloves.

After they came downstairs the President asked them to get in the carriage, because the guests were already there waiting.

"I have a note I'm leaving for the morning business and I will be right there, because it is already 8:05 and we are running late." said the President.

As the President approached the carriage, BJ told him she had to get back earlier than they did and would ride Dobbin behind the carriage. In the carriage beside the guests were the coachman and the valet. It was now foggy and misty and she hoped she wouldn't get wet.

It was now 8:30 and they had just arrived at the theater. The main doorkeeper greeted them and John Parker led them to the State Box. The play had already started but they stopped suddenly and the orchestra played, HAIL TO THE CHIEF. All 1000 people stood and clapped...  [to be cont.]

*Note: This is a portion of the chapter about Abraham Lincoln, which will be in my next children's history book: BJ and Dobbin Meet the Presidents and First Ladies. My first children's history book is The Imaginary Journeys of BJ and Dobbin, available at Amazon.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ulysses S. Grant

The Significance of President Grant
Today is the birthday of President Ulysses S. Grant, a great hero of the 19th century (despite what anyone today may say about his administration). When Grant died in the summer of 1885 his funeral procession in New York City became one of the largest public events in American history.
Robert McNamara
19th Century History Expert
President Grant's New York Funeral
The death of Ulysses S. Grant came 20 years after the end of the Civil War, and the passing of the general and former president seemed to mark the passing of an era. Public funeral observances in New York City drew more than a million people, and underscored how Grant, in his own time, was considered not only a war hero but a great president.
Ulysses S. Grant
At the beginning of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, a West Point graduate trapped in an endlessly frustrating civilian life, found his purpose. By war's end he was America's greatest military hero. And though his two presidential terms have often been maligned, he was regarded as a very effective president.


Saturday, December 20, was a splendid holiday for the school-children of Philadelphia. All through the week they had been reading of the receptions given to General Grant in honor of his return from his journey around the world, and now they were to take part in a welcome of their own.
There was, in the first place, a grand street procession of boys, to the number of nearly four thousand—quite an army, in fact—who marched in four great divisions, each headed by a band. The boys were well drilled, and stepped gayly to the music, with soldier-like bearing and precision. As the General rode between their lines he was greeted with enthusiastic cheers. No doubt he was as much gratified by this boyish welcome as by the grand military display that attended his entry into the city.
After reviewing the lads, General Grant was escorted to the Academy of Music, where almost as many school-girls as there were boys in the procession were assembled to give him a reception of a gentler kind. It must have been a pretty sight—more than three thousand lassies, all in their teens, and all in their best attire. As soon as he appeared, two thousand sweet voices joined in the grand melody of "Hail to the Chief!" which was sung with enthusiasm and fine effect. The General acknowledged the courtesy in a short address. Several other speeches were made, interspersed with patriotic songs.
Of all the festivities of the week, the one General Grant will probably remember with most pleasure will be the reception given him by the boys and girls of the public schools.
Engraved portrait of Ulysses S. Grant - Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents' Day

President Aaron Burr (Almost!)
As we celebrate Presidents' Day, one man we do not honor is Aaron Burr. But if things had gone a little differently in the unfinished Capitol building 214 years ago this week, perhaps President Burr's profile would be on the nickel.

Robert McNamara
19th Century History Expert
The Deadlocked Election of 1800
Thanks to a flaw in the Constitution, the election of 1800 resulted in a tie between two men who had been running mates, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Congress met to break the tie on February 17, 1801. It took dozens of ballots over several days to sort it all out (and the Constitution had to be amended to keep it from happening again).
Lincoln's Sons
This week marks the anniversary of the death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln in a White House bedroom. The loss of a son in 1862 devastated the Lincoln family, and his mother'sextended mourning helped spark rumors of her mental instability
The First War Photographer
The first war photographer was Roger Fenton, who lugged his clumsy camera gear from London to the Crimean War in 1855. He took some remarkable photos of soldiers in dress uniforms and exotic landscapes. But a failure to understand his potential audience led him not to focus on the war itself.
The Ice King
As people endure a relentless winter, we can admire the genius of Frederic Tudor, the New England businessman who did something truly astounding: he sold ice to people who had never seen it. Harvesting ice from New England ponds, he made a fortune shipping it as far as India.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

1789: The First US Presidential Election Takes Place

Today in History:
1789: The First US Presidential Election Takes Place

One key element was missing from this election that makes voting a national event today. »
Question: How did George Washington get elected to be the first president?
Answer: There was no popular vote in the election of 1789. Instead, the electoral college chose from a group of candidates. Each college member cast two votes with the candidate receiving the most votes becoming president and the runner-up becoming vice-president. George Washington was elected unanimously receiving all sixty-nine electoral votes. John Adams came in second and became the first Vice-President.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Thomas Jefferson's Jambalaya

Thomas Jefferson's Jambalaya
President Jefferson requested this dish frequently.

1 tablespoon shortening
1 pound ham or pork sausage
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups shrimp, peeled, cleaned and cooked
1 large onion, sliced
3 cups tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley
2 cups long grained rice
4 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper

Melt shortening in a large fry pan. Cut ham or pork into 1/2 inch cubes and add to shortening, stir for 1 minute and add green pepper ; cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in flour until smooth and cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Add shrimp, onion, tomatoes, garlic and parsley. Cook until it starts to boil, stir in rice and 4 cups water, salt, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper; cover tightly and cook for 30 minutes or until rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
* Posted by artsycook at

Rose Kennedy's Cake [Mother of President John Kennedy]

Rose Kennedy's Cake [Mother of President John Kennedy]

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda (add last)
Pinch of salt
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 1/2 cups crushed walnuts

Cream Cheese Icing:
8 ounces Cool Whip
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick margarine
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cups walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Break eggs into mixer bowl. Add sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Add vanilla extract, pineapple and walnuts; mix well.

Grease and flour an 11 x 17-inch pan.

Add baking soda to mixture and pour in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Icing: Melt margarine. Put margarine, cream cheese and Cool Whip in bowl; mix well. Add nuts. Add sugar and mix well. Pour over cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Rosalyn Carter's Chicken Supreme

Rosalyn Carter's Chicken Supreme

1 egg
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 large half chicken breasts, boned, or 1 whole chicken, cut up
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup red wine
1 (4 ounce) jar sliced mushrooms (optional)

Beat egg with milk in a pie plate. Mix bread crumbs and seasonings in another dish. Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, then into bread crumbs. Coat generously. Brown slowly in melted butter, one part at a time, in a large skillet. Place browned pieces in a large baking dish or casserole dish.

Stir flour into drippings in the pan in which chicken was browned, then stir in chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils (about one minute). Stir in brandy and wine. Add mushrooms. Pour over chicken. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.

President Reagan's Favorite Homemade Chili

President Reagan's Favorite Homemade Chili

Source: As prepared by White House Executive Chef Henry Haller

1/2 cup bacon drippings
2 cups chopped onions
4 chopped garlic cloves
2 pounds coarsely ground beef
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 cups red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon beef base
4 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 to 6 cups cooked pinto beans

Using a 1 1/2-gallon heavy pot, melt bacon drippings. When hot, sauté onions and garlic cloves. Add ground beef and chili powder. Stir until meat is well browned. Add red wine (optional). Add salt, beef base, tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar. Simmer chili meat, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Add pinto beans to the meat. Simmer chili con carne for 1 hour, covered over low heat, stirring gently from time to time. Test for flavor.

Yields 16 servings.

President Ronald Reagan's Corned Beef Hash in Bell Peppers

President Ronald Reagan's Corned Beef Hash in Bell Peppers

3 medium potatoes, cooked
1 large onion, diced
3 medium tomatoes
1 can corned beef
4 bell peppers
4 eggs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown onions and potatoes in oil. Add tomatoes, corned beef, salt, pepper andenough warm water to keep from burning. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cut off the tops of the bell peppers. Clean out seeds and remove center core. Parboil in salted water until tender limp. Drain. Fill peppers almost to the top with corned beef mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, drop raw egg in top of each pepper. Return to the oven until egg has set.

Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla-Almond Cake

Mary Todd Lincoln's Vanilla-Almond Cake

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups milk
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten
White Frosting

Cream together sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.

Stir together the cake flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in almonds. Gently fold in the egg whites. Pour into two greased and lightly floured 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans. Bake at 375 degrees F for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Fill and frost with White Frosting.

White Frosting: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and dash salt. Bring mixture to boiling, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

In mixing bowl place 2 egg whites; very slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over, beating constantly with electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.