Saturday, January 31, 2009
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Rare opportunity: Three key Lincoln documents to be displayed at presidential museum

Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery

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[January 31, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD -- Three of the world's most significant, original Abraham Lincoln documents will be displayed in the overnight hours leading up to his 200th birthday, a first-of-its-kind vigil in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum that will remind visitors why our 16th president's legacy continues to fascinate and inspire people from around the globe.

Entitled "Now he belongs to the ages," after a phrase uttered by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton upon Lincoln's death, the vigil will feature the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. All three original documents from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be viewed overnight, beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday through 8 a.m. on Lincoln's 200th birthday, Feb. 12.

The viewing is free and open to the public and will take place in a dramatic setting in the plaza of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

Boy Scout Troop 222 from Buffalo and Girl Scout Troop 5505 from Ashland will participate in opening and closing flag ceremonies during the vigil. Members of the U.S. armed services will also take part. Michael Krebs of Chicago, as Abraham Lincoln, will present readings of Lincoln's words from 9 to 11 p.m. Wednesday in the museum's Union Theater.

"Museum visitors often tell us the facility makes them proud to be Illinoisans. It's our mission to raise awareness, but during the bicentennial we also want to raise a few goose bumps. After all, what we do isn't just about making good citizens, it's also about making family memories based on awe and inspiration. Those who come to the museum for the vigil are in for a special night," said Jan Grimes, acting director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The Gettysburg Address is one of five original copies of the famous speech written in Lincoln's hand. He wrote this one for Edward Everett, the principal speaker on Nov. 19, 1863, and it was the first to include the phrase "under God." The two-page address is mounted inside its own specially designed frame, which measures approximately 30 by 22 inches.

The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the officially printed commemorative copies that Lincoln signed in full, along with Secretary of State William Seward and Lincoln's private secretary, John G. Nicolay. It is fortunate that the commemorative printing was ordered, because Lincoln's original manuscript was lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871. The proclamation measures approximately 27 by 20 inches.

The 13th Amendment is the fully signed manuscript resolution from the House of Representatives, bearing signatures from Lincoln, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and 142 members of the House. From there it went to the state legislatures for ratification, and the amendment became a formal part of the U.S. Constitution in December 1865, after enough states passed it. The document is approximately 20 inches tall by 15 inches wide.

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Full transcripts of each document, with brief descriptions, will be available for all visitors.

The museum plaza, where the three documents will be displayed, is a grand venue with a 70-foot ceiling and full-size reproductions of a log cabin and the 1861 White House. Ambient light accented by exhibit lighting of less than 15 footcandles of illumination will make for a dramatic, moving and reverent display of these three important pieces of world history.

"Now he belongs to the ages" will be the first event of Lincoln's 200th birthday on Feb. 12. Springfield visitors are encouraged to take part in the other Lincoln Bicentennial events of that day, including:

  • 9:30 a.m. -- A simultaneous, nationwide reading of the Gettysburg Address, originating from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and featuring Illinois schoolchildren.

  • 10:30 a.m. -- The 75th annual National American Legion Pilgrimage to Lincoln Tomb.

  • All day -- The Lincoln Authors Book Fair, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, featuring more than 20 authors signing copies of their Lincoln books.

  • 6 p.m. -- 1860s Period Ball, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, featuring Civil War-era music, dancing and fashions, and the cutting of Lincoln's birthday cake.

For more information on Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial activities or the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, visit or

[Text from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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