The first presentation of the day was from Robert Wilson on “Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation.” He discussed the photographer’s career, telling us that Brady was the sole source for the claim that Lincoln once said “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President.” He told us about how Brady organized his studio, with his assistants doing the vast majority of the photography. Brady gave starts to photographers like Alexander Gardner, who later became his rival, and Timothy O’Sullivan, who later worked for Gardner when Gardner was Brady’s rival. C-SPAN was there to film this presentation, and I’ll try to attach it when they put it on their website. In the meantime, you can see another presentation that covers many of the same points here.
There’s additional information here:
The next presentation was from Professor Catherine Clinton on “Teeming with Rivals: Women’s Parlor Politics During the Civil War.” Professor Clinton is an excellent speaker and had the audience enthralled with her discussion of how Mary Lincoln [as she was known during her lifetime. Her descendants referred to her as “Mary Todd Lincoln” to emphasize her connection with the Todds and also with Dolly Todd Madison] struggled against the rigid social snobbery of Washington and the “cave dwellers,” which was the term for the women social leaders of the time. We learned that at the Inaugural Ball, Lincoln left at midnight but Mary stayed. She held a salon in the White House where her friends would come to discuss the issues of the day. Later, Kate Chase set up a rival “court” just ten blocks from the White House. There’s a book out on Kate Chase called American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague–Civil War “Belle of the North” and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal. C-SPAN also filmed this segment, and I’ll post it when it’s available. We learned from Professor Clinton that Mary had proposed dropping state dinners in favor of holding receptions, which would cost less money. The Lincolns were at one of these receptions when their son Willie was very ill and eventually died, and Professor Clinton painted a good picture for us of the Lincolns going up to check on Willie during the reception.
Next was a panel moderated by Professor Matt Pinsker of Dickinson College on “The Campaign of ’64 in Politics and Print.” The panel consisted of Harold Holzer, Thomas Horrocks, and Frank Williams. Matt asked very incisive questions of the panel. They recommended John Waugh’s book, Reelecting Lincoln, and David Long’s book, The Jewel of Liberty. I asked a question based on Larry Nelson’s Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric, but it seems like Matt was the only one who understood the question.
After lunch we had our breakout sessions. One group went on a tour of the Seminary Ridge Museum. Another joined Frank Williams and the chef of the Marriott Hotel for a program on White House cooking. I was in a session with Professor Joe Fornieri of Rochester Institute of Technology and Don McCue of the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, California. We had a great session discussing Lincoln and statesmanship. Joe’s recently published a new book on Lincoln called Abraham Lincoln, Philosopher Statesman about how Lincoln’s political philosophy and actions illustrate the values of a statesman. It’s not a narrative history but rather a call for a return to statesmanship and uses Lincoln to illustrate what’s meant by statesmanship. The group was supposed to meet for an hour, but we ended up discussing this for almost three hours. This was really an outstanding discussion.
After dinner we were treated to some “Words from Lincoln” performed by Jim Getty, the dean of Lincoln impersonators, and later we had the great pleasure of listening to a performance of a variety of songs from the Civil War by Bobby Horton. A special treat I had was meeting the actor and journalist David Hartman, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Gettysburg Foundation. His voice is unmistakable, and he looks very much the same except for having all white hair and glasses now.
So ended another terrific Lincoln Forum symposium. I’m already looking forward to next year’s symposium.