He Belongs to the Ages (but you can still buy a souvenir)
He's been dead for 141 years, but has never left the public eye. In fact I saw him on TV so many times in one week that I lost count - Star Trek, Family Guy, South Park, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Venture Brothers, Robot Chicken...and just now on a commercial for a sleep aid. Today is his 198th birthday. It's a pity he isn't around to enjoy it; they really knew how to make presidents back then.
Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the US of A is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. We happened to passing through Springfield last summer - Ace Jackalope, the significant other and I - and we took a little detour off Route 66 to stop in and pay our respects.
Of course, we're tourists - and very into kitsch - so we see Lincoln not just as a historic figure but as a marketing phenomenon. As we approached the cemetery we saw a tourist crap nirvana near the corner of Monument and Oak Ridge Avenues - the Lincoln Souvenir Shop. And, by the way, when I say "tourist crap", I mean that with a sense of personal excitement. I've bought tons of the stuff over the years, though the lessons of middle-aged clutter have taught me to take mostly pictures and leave mostly conversation.
There's an obvious log cabin theme in the architecture.
And that carries through to the display shelves. I believe the building is quite old. I called today to get an age, but they are closed for the season.
As usual, Ace gravitated toward a woman.
And that was just as well, for there are some things that I shudder to think of him noticing.
You could find mementos of Lincoln both classy and kitschy. I'm not sure what episode of his life the pink frogs or glass dolphins related to.
I give extra points to places that sell plastic bows and arrows - so politically incorrect...so fun.
And does anyone else find this juxtaposition rather odd? Notice that Lincoln is turned away from the confederate hats.
I was rather surprised and relieved that Elvis wasn't displayed with Jesus and Lincoln in this assortment of composite graphics. Incidentally, the collection of Lincoln souvenirs began before the man was cold. When Mary Todd Lincoln asked that a lock of the President's hair be cut for her, just after he was pronounced dead, his physicians thought it was a good idea and got locks too.
Ahh, the ubiquitous penny smashing machine. A small panel on the machine, made by Vendors Alliance, Inc., states that the first documented pressed penny was made at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. It also contains a disclaimer which mentions that although it is illegal to alter or mutilate coins, it's OK as long as there is no fraudulent intent.
I hadn't seen auto bingo cards in years. We used to play this on family vacations when I was a kid. I see that Regal Games makes Auto Bingo and Traffic Safety Auto Bingo. I think I remember another variation existing when I was young that involved farm animals. Notice the cool back scratcher behind.
The cards have been updated since I played - A satellite dish has been added. Maybe they ought to update a bit more and lose that public phone in favor of someone using a cell phone while driving.
Switching to seriously respectful mode
The swath of Illinois that we traversed - cities along Route 66 - abounded with castle-like architecture. The office for Oak Ridge Cemetery was a good example of this.
According to Wikipedia, Oak Ridge is the second-most visited cemetery in the United States, after Arlington National Cemetery. The plaque near the entrance reads:
OAK RIDGE CEMETERY
CONSECRATED TO THE
OCTOBER, 15, 1874
On the short path to Lincoln, you'll pass a few interesting monuments to other residents of Oak Ridge Cemetery. This imposing structure belongs to John R. Tanner, Governor of Illinois from 1897-1901. Work on Lincoln's tomb occurred during his administration and the body of the President was moved for the last time.
My favorite was the final resting place of Roy Bertelli, "Mr. Accordion" (1910-2003). It looks like he had a long life and had the courtesy to leave us something interesting to look at. That tall structure behind Roy is Lincoln's tomb.
Again we see a castle-like building. This one is the Custodian's residence and is President Lincoln's neighbor.
And here we are at Lincoln's tomb.
It's an impressive structure, though the upper part was under renovation while we were there.
Prominent in front of the tomb is this reproduction bronze head of Lincoln by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. The original is in the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
People rub his nose. Why? I don't know. In other cemeteries, churches and monuments I've visited, people rub feet of statues for luck, fertility, marriage prospects - you name it. Usually they rub the foot of a full-body statue or the nose of a bust. In Pere Lachase Cemetery in Paris, there is even a prone statue of man who is rubbed elsewhere by women seeking fertility.
Just inside the monument, you'll see this imposing statue in the rotunda. If it looks familiar, you're thinking of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC (below), by artist was Daniel Chester French. At first I thought this was a replica, but according to The Abraham Lincoln Observer it is one of French's working models.
A bronze plaque on wall shows the layout of the current monument. It had been altered, expanded and upgraded over the years, the last time being in 1930. In fact, Lincoln's coffin has been moved 17 times, mostly due to such reconstructions and to assure the safety of his remains. There was valid reason for such fears; one attempt to kidnap his corpse for ransom almost succeeded. The coffin itself has been opened 5 times; read about the last time in 1901.
This is a nice pattern in the tile around the upper wall of the rotunda.
And here's a neat column detail.
The corridors leading to and from Lincoln's burial chamber are decorated with miniatures of important Lincoln statues by various artists. I have arranged the following in the order you'd see them in a clock-wise walk around the outer corridor of the tomb. I'm including these for Lincoln purists and out of a sense of completism.
The original of "Lincoln the Soldier" by Leonard Crunelle is in Dixon, IL.
"Lincoln the Ranger" is by Fred M. Torrey. According to The Abraham Lincoln Observer it was created for the tomb.
The original of the tomb's miniature "Standing Lincoln" (right) is in Lincoln Park, Chicago, but I shot this full-size copy on the left in London near Westminster Abbey last October. I was puzzled at seeing a statue of Lincoln in London and it was a case of "shoot it now; explain it later." I still don't know why it was in London, but the sculptor was Augustus Saint Gaudens.
I loved the eagle detail in the chair. Again, this one is in London.
"Lincoln the Circuit Rider" is another statue by Fred M. Torrey. According to The Abraham Lincoln Observer this Torrey sculpture was also created for the tomb.
Now we're halfway through the tomb all the way to the back chamber, in which Lincoln is actually buried. There is an aire of solemnity here that does not have to be requested.
Lincoln lies buried ten feet under the floor and his coffin is encased in 4,000 pounds of cement. This was done at the request of his son, Robert, in 1901, as an attempt to thwart grave robbers.
"Now he belongs to the ages," is a quote attributed to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton at the time of Lincoln's death. It is inscribed in the wall above the U.S. Flag.
Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) and three of Lincoln's four sons are entombed in crypts across from the President.
Moving on around the structure you'll see four more miniature statues. The original of this seated Lincoln by Adolph A. Weinman is in Hodgenville, Kentucky.
The original of "Lincoln the Debater" by Leonard Crunelle is in Freeport, IL.
The original of this "Standing Lincoln" by French sculptor Daniel Chester is in Lincoln, NE.
The original of "Standing Lincoln" by Lorado Taft is in Urbana IL.
For more information on Lincoln's Tomb, see this page at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
And back to the pop-culture references:
South Park - a giant Lincoln is defeated by a giant John Wilkes Booth.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Meatwad morphs into samurai Lincoln
Venture Brothers - The Ghost of Abe Lincoln saves the President
Robot Chicken - George W. Bush, believing he is a Jedi, gets into a light saber duel with Abe (whom the dullard Bush calls "George Washington")
Family Guy - I really don't remember, but I know I saw Lincoln.
Star Trek - In the episode "Savage Curtain" it is revealed that Kirk idolized Lincoln. I never bought this; I always thought of Kirk as admiring the guy who invented the pan-species STD vaccine.
I conclude this post with two thoughts in mind:
1. Lincoln was a very impressive man, worthy of the veneration he receives. I shan't begin to tell you about the man himself because his is a life worthy of much passionate study and I haven't the time to do that right. I can just show you what I saw that day in Springfield.
2. I really should have bought those auto bingo cards.
(In 2009 I returned and did so)
For more of our exploration of Illinois, see our look at Lincoln, Illinois.
See the Mother Road wind its way through the Chicago area in The Beginning of Route 66.
We also visited Countryside, Illinois.
And shed a tear for landmarks gone by in Remembering the Riviera.
And because the Augustus St. Gaudens Lincoln statue was shot there, this can marginally be called a small installment of An American Jackalope In London:
More Easter Stuff - Easter Island moai (stone statue) in The British Museum
Good Friday - Crucifix tombstone in Highgate Cemetery and a crucifix at a church in London.
St Patrick's Day Megapost - Celtic crosses in London's Highgate Cemetery.
Red, Gold and Almost Gone - Includes photos of London's Chinatown.
He Belongs to the Ages (but you can still buy a souvenir) - We run into an Abraham Lincoln statue in, of course, London
Why Jackalopes Don't Play Soccer - Battered Buckyballs litter London.
Christmas Leftovers - An October shopping trip through Harrods, Selfridges and Hamley's, with lots of Christmas decor pictures.
Spamalot - We go to the Monty Python-based play and meet Tim Curry
London Trader Vic's - A visit to London's oldest tiki bar
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 13) - The game is afoot!
Werelopes of London - Lycanthopic jackalopes stalk places mentioned in the Warren Zevon song, plus a few pictures of the London Underground.
Dracula's London - A Halloween tribute to Bram Stoker using London locales implied in "Dracula"
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 9) - Mind the Gap