This Week's Hidden Treasure is an exciting opportunity to examine some of the Library of Congress' most historically meaningful and culturally relevant artifacts from its treasured collections. It's a unique chance to learn more about some of the pieces of history that have shaped our nation.
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Did You Know?
The historic 1903 flight by the Wright Brothers lasted only twelve seconds and went 120 feet; it was followed by three more flights that day, each longer than the previous flight.
Watch a President Age: Lincoln Life Mask (1860)
The first bronze casting of the life mask of Abraham Lincoln was made in Chicago by Leonard Wells Volk in the spring of 1860. The process began with an application of wet plaster on Lincoln's face that became the basis for the bronze casting. The mask captures the musculature of Lincoln's face, and when Lincoln saw the finished mask, he remarked: "There is the animal himself." Copies of this mask were influential in the creation of Lincoln statuary by other sculptors, and Volk himself used it as the model for his statue of Lincoln for the Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. The mask was given to the Library by Lincoln collector Albert Whital Stern in 1953.
Leonard Wells Volk, Lincoln Life Mask (1860). Alfred Whital Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
Watch a President Age: Lincoln Life Mask (1865)
The second and final life mask of Abraham Lincoln was made in Washington, DC by Clark Mills in February, 1865. This is the first casting made in bronze and was a gift to John Hay, Lincoln's secretary during the Civil War. The difference in Lincoln's appearance, only five years after the 1860 mask and two months before his death, is striking. When sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens first viewed it, he thought it was a death mask. John Hay wrote in 1890 that "the nose is thin, and lengthened by the emaciation of the cheeks; the mouth is fixed like that of an archaic statue; a look as of one whom sorrow and care had done their worst without victory ... the whole expression is of unspeakable sadness and all-sufficing strength." The 1865 mask was a gift to the Library in 1965 from Clarence L. Hay, the son of John Hay.
Clark Mills, Lincoln Life Mask (1865). Alfred Whital Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
More from the Library of Congress:
How a President Learned to Read: Lincoln's Grammar Book
Abraham Lincoln considered his formal education to be "defective" from an early age, and he compensated by devoting intense effort to self-education through reading. In his twenties, while serving as New Salem Postmaster and a member of the Illinois State Assembly, Lincoln studied the law and taught himself surveying. After mastering Kirkham's Grammar, he gave his copy of the book to Ann Rutledge, in whom some believe Lincoln had a romantic interest, inscribing it: "Ann M. Rutledge is now learning grammar." Ann died tragically a short time later from typhoid fever.
The Most Wanted Man in America- John Wilkes Booth Poster
The suspicion that John Wilkes Booth had acted as part of a conspiracy of Southern sympathizers in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln reignited Northern rancor and helped doom Lincoln's plans for a relatively generous peace. This was one of the earliest "Wanted" posters to bear a fugitive's photograph. Hastily assembled and issued during the few days that Booth was at large, this poster incorporated carte-de-visite photographs of the conspirators, including one of Booth that had been produced as a publicity shot for the actor.
What Was in Lincoln's Pockets?
When Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865, he was carrying two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note, and nine newspaper clippings, including several favorable to the president and his policies. Given to his son Robert Todd upon Lincoln's death, these everyday items, which through association with tragedy had become like relics, were kept in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. Because it is quite unusual for the Library to keep personal artifacts among its holdings, they were not put on display until 1976 when then Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin thought their exposure would humanize a man who had become "mythologically engulfed."
The Book Lincoln and Obama Have in Common: Lincoln Inaugural Bible
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the oath of office to Abraham Lincoln using the Bible of a court clerk. With the brief words, "I, Abraham Lincoln, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," Lincoln was sworn in as the sixteenth President. The ceremony was witnessed by Clerk of the Supreme Court, William Thomas Carroll, who recorded the occasion in the back of this Bible. On January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama chose this same Bible for his historic inauguration ceremony.
More from the Library of Congress:
273 Words to a New America: Gettysburg Address
President Lincoln gave a copy of the Gettysburg Address to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. According to Nicolay, Lincoln had written the first part of the speech on Executive Mansion stationery, and the second page in pencil on lined paper right before the dedication on November 19, 1863. Matching folds are still evident on the two pages of the Nicolay draft, supporting the eyewitness' argument that Lincoln kept it in his coat pocket before the ceremony.
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This Day in History
Lawrence of Arabia dies, 1935
T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a retired Royal Air Force mechanic living under an assumed name. The legendary war hero,…
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