"Book of the Year" Numismatic Literary Guild; D.C. Wismer "Book of the Year" Society of Paper Money Collectors; Literary Award "Book of the Year" Professional Currency Dealers Association; Honorable Mention, Sandra Rae Mishler Award Token & Medal Society: invited Candidate for The Lincoln Group of New York’s 2009 annual Award of Achievement.
Abraham Lincoln, the Image of His Greatness
"Fred Reed has produced a well-researched and thoroughly detailed book that supports the importance of numismatics in creating history and subsequently in understanding history. The sheer beauty of the production and the importance and popularity of Lincoln strongly support this as Reed's most important and broadly appealing book."
"With a second week of reading Fred Reed's new book, Abraham Lincoln: The Image of His Greatness I am even more impressed with this work. If ever there was one book to establish an author's star position in the numismatic firmament, this is it. Reed's
reputation will be forever assured as a numismatic authority with this one publication."
– Dick Johnson, E-Sylum
"Fred Reed understands the crucial role artifacts play in our memory and understanding of the 16th president."
– Daniel Weinberg, Abraham Lincoln Book Shop.
Two short excerpts from Abraham Lincoln, the Image of His Greatness:
Lincoln the Man, 1809-1865
The image of Abraham Lincoln in the minds of his fellow countrymen has been anything but static. Rather, his persona has been an evolving drama in several acts unfolding over two centuries. . . . The dominant Lincoln image during his presidency was based on photographs taken by Christopher S. German in Springfield, Illinois, on January 13, 1861 (Ostendorf-41). It was widely replicated on cartes de visite (CDVs). However, it was from its translation to security engravings employed on government bonds and Treasury Notes that most people came to know Lincoln's image during his lifetime. The President in the White House became the Lincoln on the money.
At the commencement of Lincoln’s administration, his political adversary, Salmon P. Chase, whom Lincoln wisely brought to the capital as his Treasury secretary, deferentially chose his boss to appear on $500 bonds, which were the largest of three denominations issued. The Lincoln vignette is a large full bust based on the Springfield photographs. Chase also selected himself for the $50 denomination and the Army general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, for the $100 certificates. Selection of these three figures was important. It sent a positive message to the capital marketplace: Lincoln was captain; Scott, the military leader, was first mate; and, Chase, the paymaster, was boson of the nation’s ship of state in the critical times ahead. Capital loaned was still in good hands. The Union and the marketplace would be preserved and the bondholder would get his vigorish, to boot. Tables turned when hostilities began with the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12. The ante was upped a hundredfold. Congress authorized $250 million in six-percent, 20-year bonds, which appeared for sale that summer. . . . Again Lincoln appeared on the largest denomination. More government bonds with Lincoln’s portrait would follow as the government sought to satisfy the demands of its creditors.
That summer, to provide cash, Congress authorized the issue of $50 million non-interest-bearing Treasury Notes. Six months later, on February 12, 1862 (Lincoln’s 53rd birthday), Congress extended this issue to $60 million. A similar Lincoln portrait was prepared from the same photographic model by Charles Burt. These two portraits were so similar that their distinctiveness was probably lost on most observers at the time . . . With the nation splintering following Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861, it was important for people to see their new President. The choice of presidential portraiture for the money markets was an important one, but the choice of portraits for the Treasury Notes was even more important. The former would be squirreled away by capitalists and bankers; the latter would be carried by the man in the street. Patriotism was necessary to bind popular will to the war effort. Chase selected Lincoln to appear on the $10 bill—the now-familiar Demand Notes that became the first U.S. “greenbacks.” The following year, the same image was extended to the $10 Legal Tender Notes. Late in the war Lincoln's bond portrait was adapted for use on $20 notes bearing interest. It was originally intended that Navy Secretary Gideon Welles appear on these notes, but Treasury Secretary Chase insisted that Lincoln’s portrait appear instead.
Government greenbacks circulated by the millions, but the importance of Lincoln's portrait is more than numbers. The stature of all this imagery on official government emissions must not be underestimated. Not only did these Lincoln images bear official sanction, but their repeated use on subsequent large emissions created constant reinforcement for its acceptance by the public and popular media as well. The cumulative effect was to flood the populace with an iconic Lincoln image of powerful persuasion. . . . . In the short span of four years, Abraham Lincoln’s portrait had gone from an unknown face of a relatively obscure Western lawyer “to the best-known face” of his age, in the words of Harold Holzer, eminent Lincoln pictorial scholar. Lincoln’s presidential image on official federal obligations had represented him splendidly as resolute and patriarchal. . . . Circulated on U.S. currency by the millions of impressions, it crystallized perception of Lincoln in the public’s mind. As poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg recalled years later: “On the $10 bill a steel engraving representing Lincoln’s face became familiar to all who looked at it.” The Lincoln on the money was the Lincoln everybody knew.
Lincoln the Idol, 1909-1959
Reverence of Lincoln, which had blossomed during the previous half century, was raised to the level of worship in the five decades that followed. Admiration and emulation turned to veneration. The civil religion of Lincoln’s cult had its high priests, its liturgy, its rites, its holy sites, its feast days, its sacraments, its pilgrimages, and—of course—its venerated idol. Lincoln’s image was emblazoned on our country’s money, both cent and $5 bill. Every man, woman, and child carried these amulets daily. The Lincoln idol sat on his Grecian throne at the west end of the Capitol Mall flanked by the tablets of his divine revelations, his “Gettysburg Address” and “Second Inaugural Address.” There the government also inscribed his mantra: “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” The immortal, deified Lincoln was omnipresent. He gazed protectively from the granite pantheon in the Black Hills and from monuments across the nation. Pilgrims could walk in Lincoln’s earthly steps from log cabin to executive mansion to sepulcher. America’s Main Street, the Lincoln Highway, bound the country from sea to shining sea. Lincoln’s words were compiled and bound as holy writ. His passion plays lit up silver screens. Enclaves of true believers celebrated his mortal rites of passage: his birth, his death, his resurrection. His birthplace was ensconced in a Greek temple. Replica cabins were constructed for the edification of tourists at world’s fairs. Schoolrooms, youth clubs, church pews, and civic groups indoctrinated novitiates in the Lincoln catechism, awarded laurels for achievement, and distributed tracts to the unwashed needing conversion. A commemorative half dollar bore his portrait. Lincoln’s literature, monuments, shrines, and other trappings of divinity became the fabric of daily life. Not just here in America, mind you: missionary zeal spread his gospel increasingly abroad, too. Monuments went up in Oslo and London. Upholding the idyllic Lincoln image almost brought parties to blows over selection of a statue for the latter city. . . .
The years 1909 to 1959 could well be called the “Lincoln half century.” During that time more than 8,500 books on Lincoln were published, including important works by Albert Beveridge, Lord Charnwood, Carl Sandburg, and Benjamin P. Thomas. Lincoln appeared as a character in more than 100 films on the silver screen, including portrayals by Walter Huston, Raymond Massey, and Henry Fonda. The brand Lincoln was appropriated for everything from cigarettes to life insurance companies to automobiles. Many numismatists started their collections as youths, as did the author, with the Lincoln cent. It was desirable to learn about the man depicted on the coin. But it was not just collectors who were pennywise: Lincoln’s birthday celebrations were observed by Lincoln clubs, Lincoln associations, and Lincoln leagues. In most states, Lincoln’s birthday was declared a holiday. The federal government declared it a holiday in the District of Columbia, too. . . .
Entire contents Copyright © Fred Reed 2010, 2011, 2012 All Rights Reserved