February 1, 1999 Lincoln's 1861 Inaugural Address on Display Feb. 17 - May 28 in "American Treasures"

Press Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
Public Contact: Recorded announcement (202) 707-3834

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
-- Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

Abraham Lincoln's stirring 1861 inaugural address will be on view February 17 through May 28 in "American Treasures of the Library of Congress," a permanent, rotating exhibition of more than 270 items representing a cross section of the Library's vast repository of rare books, music, manuscripts, maps, photographs, drawings, audio clips and videotapes known as "America's Memory."

In his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1861, President Lincoln appealed for the maintenance of the Union to avoid the split threatened by the South. Many of the passages, including "better angels of our nature," were actually written by William Henry Seward, Secretary of State designee. Lincoln wove them into a moving speech, the last paragraph of which is printed above.

Manuscript Historian John Sellers and Curator of Popular and Applied Graphics Harry Katz will discuss the evolution of the address and the political campaign that preceded it at noon on February 17 in one of a series of "Treasure-Talks" held every Wednesday at noon.

Other Treasure-Talks are as follows:

  • February 3
    Clark Evans (Rare Book and Special Collections Division) on the Library's Dime Novel collection
  • February 10
    Michael Grunberger (Hebraic Section) on the first Hebrew grammar printed in America
  • February 17
    John Sellers (Manuscript Division) and Harry Katz (Prints and Photographs Division) on Lincoln's 1861 inaugural address and the 1860 Lincoln campaign banner
  • February 24
    Marvin Kranz (Manuscript Division) on the Edward Harriman Expedition of May to August 1899
  • March 3
    C. Ford Peatross (Prints and Photographs Division) on the renowned architect Eero Saarinen
  • March 10
    Rosemary Plakas (Rare Book and Special Collections Division) on Elizabeth Smith Miller and the suffrage scrapbooks she compiled
  • March 17
    Mark Sweeney (Newspaper Section) on how the rotogravure changed newspapers' coverage of World War I
  • March 24
    Judith Gray (American Folklife Center) on early ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore's efforts to preserve Native American songs
  • March 31
    Lloyd Pinchback (Music Division) on legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus

The group meets outside of the "American Treasures" exhibition, where audio guides are rented, on the second level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, at 10 First St. S.E. Participants should expect to stand for the half-hour duration of the informal talk. The schedule of talks is subject to change. To confirm the speaker and subject matter, consult the Library's website at www.loc.gov/treasures/amtrtalk.html, or call Sally Livingston, coordinator of educational programs for the Interpretive Programs Office, at (202) 707-3323.

The following items also are to be added to "American Treasures" and may be seen from February 25 through May 28:

The draft of Lincoln's acceptance of the Republican nomination to run for president and the Bible used for his swearing in

  • A playbill from the performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre on the night of Lincoln's assassination
  • The set of diaries that James K. Polk kept while he was president, chronicling the workings of his office
  • Winslow Homer's print Arguments of the Chivalry (1856), which portrays the dramatic moment when South Carolina Rep. Preston S. Brooks severely caned Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner, inflaming the sectional passions of the period
  • John Glenn's historic journeys into space documented in newspapers from 1962 and 1998
  • A folio sheet of the Roseate Spoonbill from John J. Audubon's 1827 Birds of America, Vaudeville stage set sketches from the Federal Theatre Project Collection
  • Charles Mingus's music manuscript for "Good-bye Pork Pie Hat"
  • A broadside announcing a July 4, 1879, Diamond Baseball Club of Boston game
  • John Archibald Woodside's 1820s depiction of a circus
  • Circa 1945 design for the sunken portion of a living room showing open seating and built-in furniture in Case Study House No. 9 by Eero Saarinen

Other highlights of "American Treasures" include the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination, early comic books and a photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight taken at the instant of takeoff.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Xerox Foundation. The "American Treasures" exhibition is available on-line at www.loc.gov, where viewers can see 264 items and read about their significance to United States history.

An audio tour of the exhibition featuring selections from the Library's collection of sound recordings provides an array of memories, many of them drawn from the early years of radio and TV broadcasting archived in the Library's collections. Listeners can hear both narration about, and the actual voices of, presidents, poets and other famous figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Frost and Woodrow Wilson. The random-access audio device also features music, including the voices of Beverly Sills and Jelly Roll Morton. Visitors may rent the wand for $2.50. Harry N. Abrams Inc. has published a companion volume with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and a foreword by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.  American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory/Reason/Imagination ($39.95) is available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The exhibition is free. Tickets are not required. Groups of 10 or more are requested to call the Visitor Services Office at (202) 707-9779 to arrange a tour. For recorded information about the exhibition, call (202) 707-3834, (202) 707-6200 TTY.


PR 99-012
ISSN 0731-3527