It’s birthday week here at the Historic America Journal - but not for me and Rachel. Instead, we’re looking to honor a trio of historic Americans with February birthdays. We begin the week with a real “A”-lister.
Abraham Lincoln (get it? … A-braham is an A -lister! amiright?!) came into the world on February 12th, 1809 in Hogedenville, Kentucky. Yes, he was ACTUALLY born in a log cabin. He’s also known for other exploits like the Emancipation Proclamation and shepherding the nation through a catastrophic Civil War.
For generations, Americans have been making a fuss about Lincoln’s big day. The very first commemoration of Lincoln’s birth was held in Buffalo, New York in 1874. It’s a strangely sweet story.
A local drugstore owner named Julius Francis was besotted with the memory of Lincoln, so he began holding an annual event to honor the Abe’s life & legacy. Francis went to great personal expense; he rented a hall, recruited the aid of speakers & musicians, and charged no admittance fee as he believed Lincoln’s memory was a gift every American should enjoy. He even tried lobbying Congress to create a federal holiday in Lincoln’s honor (you can read all about the story here).
In subsequent years, celebrations of Lincoln’s birth were often paired with commemorations of another February baby - Frederick Douglass. Ultimately these celebrations expanded and metamorphosed into February’s designation as Black History Month. In the 1960s, President’s Day was born - a fusion holiday celebrating the birthdays of both Lincoln & George Washington.
I know what you’re thinking, “How can I honor Abraham Lincoln today, on the 208th anniversary of his birth?” How about going to see his memorial? We’ve got just the tour …