Historical Profiles

The following historical profiles, featured alphabetically by last name, were originally published in the Lincoln Presidential Foundation monthly newsletter as part of the “History Spotlight” series, or on its social media accounts to mark various anniversaries, commemorations, events, and holidays. They are presented here as a compilation of stories of people whose life and legacy intersects with the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

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Captain Amy Bauernschmidt, who assumed command of the USS Abraham Lincoln last year and made history on January 3, 2022, when the USS Abraham Lincoln became the, “first-ever U.S. aircraft carrier skippered by a woman. The ship departed with its strike group for a regularly scheduled deployment in support of global maritime security operations.” Capt. Bauernschmidt, who is originally from Milwaukee, had another first aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. In 2016, she made history as, “the first female executive officer aboard a carrier.” The Foundation has ties to the USS Abraham Lincoln. In 2017, nearly 100 items from the Foundation’s collection were generously underwritten by Colonel J.N. Pritzker and ​donated for display aboard the carrier as the COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired) collection.

Matthew Brady, the “Father of Photojournalism” in recognition of World Photography Day on August 19th. Brady’s portrait photography—which included former President’s Taylor and Fillmore, in addition to Abraham Lincoln—and his studio’s battlefield photography have had a tremendous impact on how the war is viewed. The way Brady’s New York photography exhibit, “The Dead of Antietam” brought the horrors of war into sharp focus for the American public was unprecedented. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/mathew-brady

Victor David Brenner, in recognition of Jewish-American Heritage Month in May. Brenner is best known as the Lithuanian Jewish-American artist who designed the Lincoln one cent. Having first circulated in 1909, the Lincoln image on the observe is reportedly the “longest-running design in United States Mint history, and perhaps the most reproduced piece of art in world history.” In addition to potentially being the most reproduced piece of art in the world, it may well be the furthest traveled, too. A 1909 Lincoln penny was used by Nasa on Mars as a calibration target. For more about the history of the Lincoln penny’s design: https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/pages/lincoln-cent.aspx

Robert Burns, in recognition of “Burns Night,” which takes places on January 25th, the famed Scottish poet’s birthday. The first “Burns Supper” as it is also sometimes known, was held in 1801, five years after the poet died. “Auld Lang Syne” is amongst the poet’s most famous and enduring works. Abraham Lincoln attended a Burns Night celebration in Springfield, IL in 1859, 100 years after Robert Burns was born. At the time it was reported that the, "supper was splendid and abundant, and was well attended. The toasts offered on this occasion were most appropriate, and were responded to by some of the most talented men of the state, among whom were, Abraham Lincoln….” In January 1865, Lincoln wrote a message for the 106th celebration of the birth of Robert Burns. His note stated, "I can not frame a toast to Burns. I can say nothing worthy of his generous heart, and transcendent genius.”

Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, in recognition of International Literacy Day (September 8) and National Step Family Day (September 16). According to the National Park Service, after Sarah married Thomas Lincoln and moved her children to his home in Indiana, she, “soon discovered that her new stepson was very intelligent and had a passion for knowledge; he was especially fond of reading. Consequently, her gift to him of three books left an indelible impression on him. Not only was it a priceless treasure to a boy who loved to read on a frontier where books were scarce, but it was an indication to him that Sarah would pick up where his mother had left off in terms of encouraging his quest for knowledge. The two quickly developed a close, intimate, mother-son relationship that would continue for the rest of Abraham's life.”

C

Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, in honor of Clerc-Gallaudet Week in December. Gallaudet, born in Philadelphia, put his ministerial ambitions on hold to learn about deaf education methods in Europe. His trip was inspired by Alice Cogswell, his neighbor’s nine-year-old deaf daughter, who lacked adequate opportunities for education. While in Europe he met the head of the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, and two of its deaf faculty members, including Laurent Clerc, himself a graduate of the institute. According to Gallaudet University, “Having persuaded Clerc to accompany him, Gallaudet sailed for America. The two men toured New England and successfully raised private and public funds to found a school for deaf students in Hartford, which later became known as the American School for the Deaf. Young Alice was one of the seven students in the United States.”

The U.S. Congress authorized a similar school in the District of Columbia in 1857. In 1864, the “National College for the Deaf and Dumb,” was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s son, Edward Miner Gallaudet, was the first President of the college. Today the school is known as Gallaudet University, named in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

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Grandison Daniels and James Tate, in honor of Historically Black Colleges and Universities week in September. Tate and Daniels founded the school that would later evolve into Atlanta University, the first HBCU in the southern states. Although the seeds of Atlanta University preceded the Civil War, Atlanta University, today known as Clark Atlanta University, was not officially chartered until 1867, with the help of Oliver Otis Howard (namesake of Howard University) of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

G

Mary Goodwin, Alice Goodwin, and Elizabeth Hammersley, the three people credited with forming the precursor to The Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Hartford, Connecticut in 1860, in honor of National Boys & Girls Club Week in June. The goal of the clubs was and remains to provide positive structures and activities for young people. From the informal efforts of three women, the clubs have grown into a national and international model of youth programming. We are honored to help support a special Juneteenth program for Boys & Girls Club youth at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

H

Sarah Josepha Hale, a poet and editor best known for penning “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and serving as editor for the popular Godey’s Lady’s Book for 40 years (1837-1877), is credited with influencing President Lincoln to declare an annual National Day of Thanksgiving. According to the National Women’s History Museum, starting in 1846 she focused her efforts on “the president and other leading politicians to push for the national celebration of Thanksgiving, which was then only celebrated in the Northeast. Her requests for recognition were largely ignored by politicians until 1863. While the nation was in the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed into action ‘A National Day of Thanksgiving and Praise.’ Hale’s letter to Lincoln is often cited as the main factor in his decision.”

Captain James Handley, founder of National Apple Day, in honor of National Apple Month in October. Abraham Lincoln was reportedly a fan of apples and said people should eat foods that agreed with them and that apples agreed with him, so we think he would approve. James Handley was born in Rhode Island and spent much of his early years around apple orchards. He later studied botany but became involved in the press and publicity side of the fruit trade. In later years he settled in Quincy, Illinois where he helped organize the Mississippi Valley Apple Growers Association. The association was created “for the purpose of observing more closely the causes of failures in the production of fruit” and providing education and awareness on the subject.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, for her antislavery poetry in honor of both National Poetry Month in April and the anniversary of the DC Emancipation Act on April 13th. Harper, born to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland had a successful career in literature, education, and public speaking. She fought for abolition and voting rights, effectively using her talents to emphasize the many horrors of slavery and inequality and refute those who defended the same. At the age of 20, she published her first collection of poems, Forest Leaves, which includes “Bible Defence of Slavery,” an anti-slavery poem and response to a pro-slavery piece of the same name by Josiah Priest.

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Noble Johnson, in celebration of the 2021 No Malice Film Contest winners. Johnson was a successful actor, film producer, and president of The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, “considered the first all-black movie production unit in the country.” His company produced “race films,” a genre of films in the United States “consisting of films produced for black audiences, featuring black casts.” The genre itself and Johnson’s career both spanned from 1915 to the early 1950s. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0425903/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

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Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s youngest son, in honor of Worldwide Bereaved Siblings Month in November. In February 1862, both Willie and Tad Lincoln fell gravely ill with typhoid fever. Tad eventually recovered from the illness, but it claimed the life of his closest brother, Willie. Unfortunately, in addition to grieving the loss of his brother, Tad had to cope without his regular playmates, the Taft children. Mary Lincoln said the Taft boys were too painful a reminder of Willie. Tad’s oldest brother, Robert, was away at Harvard. Tad reportedly began to spend even more time with his father, when he was not traveling with his mother.

Paul James Lindberg, in honor of national Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month in June. Lindberg was a member of the 61st Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was not a medically-recognized condition or diagnosis until the 20th century, Lindberg is but one example of a Civil War veteran who wrote about a combination of symptoms that today are recognized as potential symptoms of PTSD, including intrusive memories, negative changes in thinking or mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions following trauma. As Dr. Brian Jordan chronicled in his book Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War, “On several occasions, Lindberg came perilously close to suicide. He sought a final discharge from that ‘dread sound of cannon’ and those ‘agonizing groans of the dying’ ringing in his ears, but ultimately realized that he could not take his own life.” If you or someone you know is a Veteran in crisis, resources are available at: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.

François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, the “Father of Haiti,” in recognition of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23rd. While the date is meant to acknowledge the global history of human enslavement and efforts to resist it across time and place, August 23rd is connected specifically to the first major uprising against the slave trade in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), where General Louverture had been born into slavery and later fought for independence from France. Louverture was jailed by the French and died, imprisoned in France, in 1803, prior to Haiti’s establishment as a sovereign state in 1804. Six decades later, Haiti’s Île à Vache was the site of a disastrous, failed attempt under the Lincoln administration to resettle freedmen outside the United States.

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Ely Samuel Parker, née Hasanoanda, of the Onödowáʼga (Seneca) tribe, in honor of National Native American Heritage Month in November. Parker was born on what was then called the Tonawanda Reservation. After studying engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Parker worked as a civil engineer on government projects. At the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, he attempted to establish an Iroquois volunteer regiment to fight for the Union or to enlist himself. His efforts were rejected by then-New York Governor Edwin Morgan and the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, respectively. Seemingly undaunted, he reached out to Ulysses S. Grant, whom he met and formed a friendship with while supervising government engineering projects in Illinois. Grant was in need of good engineers. Parker served with Grant throughout the war, and was present at the Surrender of Appomattox. The draft documents of surrender were written by Lieutenant Colonel Parker. Parker was later named Commissioner of Indian Affairs when Ulysses S. Grant became President years later.

Joseph Pierce, in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May. Pierce, whose adoptive father Amos Peck brought him to the United States from China, enlisted in the Union Army in July 1862. His service included major campaigns such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Pierce’s actions and those of other Asian American and Pacific Islander Civil War soldiers. The full resolution is transcribed here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/110/hres415/text

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Julius Rosenwald, in connection with Jewish American Heritage Month and National Preservation Month in May. As with Abraham Lincoln, the Rosenwald story is inextricably linked to our nation’s story of freedom, justice, and equality and the vital role education played in a healthy democracy. Rosenwald, the son of German-Jewish immigrants, helped make Sears, Roebuck & Company into a retailing powerhouse of the early twentieth century. He then used his considerable wealth to effect positive change through transformative philanthropy. In partnership with Booker T. Washington and the African American communities where schools would be located, he helped fund nearly 5,000 Rosenwald Schools in 15 states of the segregated South. Notable alumni of Rosenwald Schools include Congressman John Lewis and poet Maya Angelou. Julius Rosenwald’s childhood home is located diagonally across from the Lincoln Home, within the boundaries of the National Historic Site.

In 2022, the Lincoln Presidential Foundation officially added its name to a list of organizations that support the creation of a National Historical Park to preserve various sites connected to Rosenwald. https://www.lincolnpresidential.org/News/10/Statement-of-Support-Julius-Rosenwald-Rosenwald-Schools-National-Historical-Park/news-detail/

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Ainsworth Rand Spofford, sixth Librarian of Congress, in honor of National Library Card Sign-up Month in September. Spofford served as the Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress throughout the Civil War, under John Gould Stephenson, until President Lincoln promoted him following Stephenson’s retirement. Spofford is recognized for his efforts to dramatically expand the Library of Congress holdings, from 60,000 volumes to well over a million, and purpose, from a Congressional resource to a more national one. https://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/librs.html

Herbert Swim, in recognition of National Rose Month in June. Swim was a plant developer who held several patents for new rose cultivars, including arguably his most famous, the Mister Lincoln Rose, which is a dark red hybrid tea rose created in 1964 by crossing the Chrysler Imperial and Charles Mallerin roses. According to the National Gardening Association plant database, the Rosa “Mr. Lincoln” characteristics include being tall (up to 7’) and upright. That sounds like Mr. Lincoln to us, though we have no comment on how Lincoln-esque some of the other descriptors are, such as “showy” and “fragrant.” More information on the rose is available here: https://garden.org/plants/view/73/Rose-Rosa-Mister-Lincoln/

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Major Theodore Winthrop, a writer, lawyer, and globetrotter, in recognition of Independence Day. Winthrop favored writing about travel, American history, and social issues. One of his books, titled Edwin Brothertoft was about the American Revolution. At the beginning of the American Civil War, he wrote dispatches for The Atlantic. Sadly, Winthrop was among the first Union officers to be killed during the war. His final dispatch, Our March to Washington, was published in July 1861, shortly after his death. His obituary was published by The Atlantic the following month in place of his usual dispatch. Winthrop served under Major General Benjamin Butler at Fort Monroe, along with his younger brother William, whom Butler credited with crafting the legal rationale for protecting formerly enslaved persons who had fled to Union lines.

Richard Robert Wright Sr., in recognition of National Freedom Day on February 1st. Wright, who had been born into slavery in Georgia in 1855, founded the holiday along with an association of the same name in 1941. Among his many accomplishments, he was the first African American to serve as a U.S. Army paymaster, the first president of the first public historically black college (HBCU) in Georgia, and created and led the Philadelphia's Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust Company, which was the first trust company owned by an African American and, at the time, the only African-American-owned bank in the northern United States. Wright was also a noted Civil Rights leader who helped influence President Truman’s decision to desegregate the U.S. military.

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Bessie Woodson Yancey, a teacher, poet, and activist, in celebration of International Book Giving day on February 14th. The holiday was created by a group of volunteers who wanted every child in the world to have a book. Although Yancey published her work in periodicals, her only published book was a collection of poems titled Echoes from the Hills (1939). Her book is recognized as one of the earliest—if not the earliest—examples of “Affrilachian” children’s literature. Yancey reportedly developed her interest in poetry while she worked as a teacher in mining camps in West Virginia. According to author Katherine Capshaw Smith, Yancey’s work, “'acknowledges the pressure on youth to become race leaders, and positions the child... as the visionary who will lead the community forward.” Yancey died in 1958 in the home of her brother, Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month and The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which he created in Chicago, Illinois during the “Lincoln Jubilee.”

Captain Charles Young, the first African American superintendent of a National Park, in recognition of National Park Service Founders Day, which acknowledges the conservation and preservation efforts of the National Parks System. According to the National Park Service, Captain Young was in command of an all-Black regiment at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, when he was asked to lead his troops, known as Buffalo Soldiers, to Sequoia and General Grant national parks. Today, these locations are known as Sequoia National Park and part of Kings Canyon National Park. Captain Young served in the role of acting superintendent and made many improvements to the parks. Captain Young had been born into slavery in Kentucky during the Civil War. He was later the first African American to graduate from his high school in Ripley, Ohio, attended West Point, and had a successful and highly respected military career. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio is named in his honor.