History, Celluloid and Folklore – A Strange Continuum of Abraham Lincoln


February 4, 2013 by vishfulthinking

The year 2013 has just begun and I have an invitation to an event. I get down from the taxi in front of a building on East Edward’s street. It is a cold, dark evening in the winter of Springfield, a relatively quiet city and the capital of the state of Illinois. It looks like a very old, brittle but a pretty house.

Let me first take you back to 2011, the plane lands on the runway of Abraham Lincoln Capital airport and I arrive in Springfield as a graduate student. I make my way to a student housing colony that’s on the western side of the old Herndon street, which is very close to a serene park, called, the Douglas park. As days turn in to weeks, I realize that the 16th president of America, Mr. Abraham Lincoln’s tomb is within a mile from my house and so is the highly well maintained Lincoln museum in the downtown area. The day I visit the tomb and the museum, the occasion coincides with a local cultural-historical fair, that brings in various Midwest folk artistes and not mention an Abraham Lincoln lookalike! He, along with other men and women dressed in the style of the 1800s, at the old Capitol building, do the famous ‘House divided’ speech:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

Although, I absorb the rich culture and a sense of historical memory of the land of Lincoln, I still find myself to be just an appreciative spectator and not a full-fledged emotional participant that the people around me are. So, I tuck this thought within me and begin to walk back to my home. On the way, it hits me, that the name of the street I live in and the park that is nearby are both names of Lincoln’s close friends and associates, Mr. Herndon and Mr. Douglas! Even though, I am a foreign spectator to the traditions of the city, my connection to the hero of this land is closely intertwined with my local address, I simply cannot be ignorant of this.

It is November 2012, Mr.Steven Spielberg is nervous to find out the result of his long and painstaking attempt. An attempt that has taken birth from Doris Goodwin’s work and a think tank of world-class historians and museum curators from Springfield and elsewhere, resulting first, in a 550 page ‘brief’ draft, further cut down to a 200 page summary, of the last few months in the life of a political genius, called, Abraham Lincoln. It is Steven Spielberg’s dream to experience and bring to life, Mr.President, through the phenomenal method acting ability of Daniel-Day-Lewis.The movie even recreates the background sounds that existed in the Lincoln era. Never has a biopic been so thoroughly executed on celluloid.

I go and experience the magic and the myth of Lincoln, in a local AMC theater in Springfield. I come out after the movie, spellbound by the sheer genius of Spielberg’s imagination, that not only brings Lincoln to character but makes parliamentary democracy so damn exciting! I say to myself, “My Lincoln experience has come a full circle.”

Anyway, I am now here at East Edward’s street, inside the old house for a birthday party. While I sip my red wine, I am told, that the house was built in the year 1858. It is built right across, what was once Abraham Lincoln’s house! The owner of this house in 1858, was a neighbor and a lesser known friend of Lincoln. Mr.Lincoln could have once walked in to the living room of this house, where we are now seated, to have a cup of tea and discuss American politics and slavery! I hear this and find myself in a grey area, a strange continuum of rich history, celluloid magic and haunting folklore of one great man who I am constantly enveloped by. I say to myself, “My Lincoln experience will go on.”

Abraham Lincoln’s last speech in Springfield, Illinois in the 1858 campaign, October 30th 1958:

” I stand here surrounded by friends –  some political, all personal friends, I trust. May I be indulged, in this closing scene, to say a few words of myself….”





2 thoughts on “History, Celluloid and Folklore – A Strange Continuum of Abraham Lincoln

  1. A.R.Satyanarayan says:

    Very interesting.Did you feel you were a part of entourage of Abraham Lincoln? Could you connect any major event in A.L.’s city?

    • Thanks. No, not an entourage exactly. It is a general involuntary obsession of the great man. Comparable to Shivaji in Maharashtra. A.L was brought dead to the local railway station from Washington D.C after his assassination. So, the local railway station also strongly resonates with Lincoln’s legacy and myth. So, the older part of the city is completed ‘Lincolnized’ if i can say so.

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