Friday, October 11, 2013

Textile Icons of American History

We finally had to chance to view Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln...both he and the movie are amazing. If you get the chance to rent the movie, do it -- you'll learn so much.

 For example: know what Lincoln's final words were, spoken even while John Wilkes Booth was shooting? From author Stephen Mansfield:
     " enjoying a newfound tenderness with his wife, Lincoln returned happily to the theme he and Mary had touched upon during their lovely afternoon carriage ride. In a gentle whisper, the president assured that after the war, “we will not return immediately to Springfield. We will go abroad among strangers where I can rest.”
“We will visit the Holy Land,” Lincoln continued, leaning toward Mary so as not to disturb the others... In the sacred seconds that remained, Lincoln spoke again—before the assassin’s shot entered his brain just inches behind the left ear...
“We will visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior,” the president said.
And then, nearly as the Derringer ball cracked the air, “There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem.”
Surely, critics will say [Mansfield continues], to insist that these words are true or that they are any reflection of Lincoln’s faith is part of a religious re-working of his life, part of a misguided attempt by the pious...
      Yet there the words are, and they are no invention. They come to us, indirectly, from the only person who could know with certainty: Mary Lincoln. Apparently, in 1882, Mrs. Lincoln reported her husband’s last utterances to Noyes W. Miner, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Springfield, Illinois. Miner reported his conversations with Mary Lincoln in a manuscript entitled “Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln,” now kept at the Illinois State Historical Library... 
     Respected scholarly volumes, such as the oft-consulted Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, include the Lincoln/Miner version of Lincoln’s final words in its pages. Eminent Lincoln scholars—such as Allen C. Guelzo in Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Wayne Temple in Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet—regard the words as true. The popular Doris Kearns Goodwin alludes to them as well in her best-selling Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. [the book the movie Lincoln was partly based on]...
     Dr. James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois... has said, “We believe the words to be substantiated.”

While wandering around afterwards, I came across Mary Lincoln's inaugural gown, along with four other pages of distinctive textiles and other mementos, including Marilyn Monroe's kidskin evening gowns, Andrew Jackson's military coat, one of Babe Ruth's baseballs, and so on. Five full pages of items, including, of course,

      ...Mary's purple velvet gown, trimmed in imported French lace.

Thought to have been made by Elizabeth Keckley, her longtime seamstress
(Elizabeth made a quilt from dressmaking scraps, too -- more in this article.)

These items are from the National Museum of American History; take a look. Don't rush: they're worth savoring, page by page.


Louise said...

The dress is gorgeous...thanks for the link. It's nice to know that these rare historic items are being well taken care of.

Cindy Brick said...

I love these old textiles...and they give a direct, can't-be-argued-with link to these famous people.

Thanks for writing, Louise.