Monday, October 31, 2016

Harry Houdini and the Ghost of Abraham Lincoln

Mary Lincoln passed away on July 16, 1882, but it appears that, even as late as 1924, there was some curiosity about the spirit realm still surrounding Mary’s descendants. Enough curiosity, it seems, that world-renowned magician Harry Houdini helped to dispel the notion of at least one “spirit photograph” featuring himself and Abraham Lincoln.
On Feb. 13, 1924, just one day after what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 115th birthday, Houdini typed out a letter to Mary Edwards Lincoln Brown, the grand-daughter of Ninian and Elizabeth Edwards, Mary Lincoln’s sister. The letter reads:
State Lake Theatre, Chicago, Ill. Feb. 13, 1924.
Mrs. Mary Edwards Lincoln Brown,Lincoln Homestead,Springfield, Ill.
My dear Mrs. Brown:
Enclosed you will find Spirit Photograph of your renowned ancestor, and although the Theomonistic Society in Washington, D.C. claim that it is a genuine spirit photograph, as I made this one, you have my word for it, that it is only a trick effect.
Mrs. Houdini joins me in sending you kindest regards,
Sincerely yours,Houdini

[From Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum]

Monday, October 17, 2016

Today in 1859: John Brown at Harpers Ferry

From the National Museum of American History:

Today in 1859: Abolitionist John Brown seizes the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, hoping to spark a slave uprising. This pike was among 950 pikes that John Brown acquired to arm slaves incited to rebel by his raid on Harpers Ferry.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ronald White’s magisterial new biography offers a fresh view of Ulysses S. Grant (Boston Globe)

By Jordan Michael Smith GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  9/29/16

Ronald White’s magisterial new biography, weighing in at over 800 pages, is the newest heavyweight champion in this movement. White doesn’t explicitly say that Grant was a great president, but instead approvingly cites the favorable judgments of Frederick Douglass and Teddy Roosevelt. The latter, in fact, perhaps overexuberantly ranked Grant with Washington and Lincoln as leaders, ahead of Jefferson, Jackson, and Hamilton. [REVIEW]