Friday, October 13, 2006


ABRAHAM LINCOLNremains our country's most beloved president. Why? Nearly 200 after his birth, we're still trying to piece together a true picture of this man who never fails to fascinate surprise and enlighten us. Scholars and historians examine: how did this man become a myth?

Every American believes they know Lincoln's face. We touch it every day, on pennies and dollars. Still, two portraits claiming to be Lincoln raise questions on just how sure we are of knowing one of America's most famous faces. To say these pictures are heis to alter history, to change the very face of the myth of Lincoln-who understood the new medium of photography's impact on mythmaking.

We see how Grant Romer, an expert on 19th century photography at the George Eastman House, authenticated these alleged photos of Lincoln as being the proper period. We hear of work examining facial structure of these photos to known photos of Lincoln.

Lincoln's gift for the written word is undisputed. Still, his works-including the Bixby letter and the Gettysburg address-come under fire. The famous Bixby letter, Lincoln's note of condolence to a mother who allegedly lost 5 sons in the Civil War, isquestioned by Michael Burlingame.

The Connecticut College scholar believes Lincoln's secretary John Hay wrote the letter. Because no known copy exists, the handwriting, paper and other clues aren't available.

We see how Burlingame's work comparing the twomen's work. Also, we see how an alleged page of the Gettysburg Address is believed to the missing reading copy. However, John Sellers at the Library of Congress debunks that myth, showing his work of how the page is a forgery.

There's no dispute the John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln. We hear Dr. John Lattimer debunk the myth that the attending physician pushed the bullet into Lincoln's skull, making a serious wound fatal.

Was he really the great emancipator, who deeply wanted to free slaves. or was he a racist, a white supremacist? Did the writings that inspired a nation really come from his pen. or his secretary? Was he a coward, afraid of death or brave, foregoing personal safety? And, do we even know what he really looked like?

Does the image of Honest Abe reflect the facts? Or, is it a fallacy created the media of his day, and ours?What can we learn about Lincoln, our country and ourselves by examining this great man's life and death, inside and out?


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