The Journey, Part II -
The White House Years
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The Journey, Part II – The White House Years
The White House South Portico features the Lincoln family in the Plaza. Generals McClellan and Grant stand on the veranda and suspiciously eye each other. On the other side of the portico stand Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth waiting for the opportunity to speak to the president. A menacing John Wilkes Booth keeps watch on Lincoln's back.
What Are They Wearing in Washington?shows the "Blue Room" with Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, her dressmaker on a center platform. Mary is being fitted for a gown. Around are reproductions of gowns of Mary's social rivals, who all seem younger, richer, thinner and more popular. Each woman has something nasty and cruel to say about Mary. As a result, most guests empathize with Mary.
The Whispering Gallery is a twisted nightmarish hallway where you will hear brutally unkind things said about Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln during their early months in Washington. On the walls are cruel caricatures and mean political cartoons that attack the Lincolns.
The Death of Willie finds you standing in Willie's White House bedroom the night of February 5, 1862 during a lavish party celebrating Mrs. Lincoln’s redecoration project. Abraham and Mary are in formal party clothes at his bedside. Doctors had assured them he was recovering, so they proceeded with plans only to have Willie take a turn for the worse during the party. Two weeks later he dies. The Hall of Sorrows is an alcove with a figure of Mary grieving.
Rumors in the Kitchen features a reproduction of the White House Kitchen where you hear servants whispering rumors. These servants discuss Mary's sanity, the mounting war casualties, Lincoln's inability to find a winning general, and rumors that Lincoln is working on an Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln's Office in the White House brings you into an exacting reproduction of Lincoln's White House office. As you enter, Lincoln has just unveiled his plans to issue an Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Each in their own way disapproves. Some say it goes too far, others not far enough; a few believe it is political suicide.
The Emancipation Proclamation is beyond an "Illusion Corridor" with a gauntlet of dream-like images confronting you as if you were Lincoln. Each shouts what to do about the emancipation controversy. The different, sometimes racist opinions show that Lincoln lead a deeply divided nation and the Emancipation Proclamation was not the obvious thing to do at the time and took great political courage to issue.
A figure of Lincoln stands behind a desk while above and behind him, enlarged and twisted Shadow Plays offer opposing perspectives of emancipation. Lincoln hears the arguments but is resolved to proceed with the emancipation plan. Surrounding curved walls hold framed reproductions of period posters.
Black Troops Go to War contains a mural depicting one of the immediate effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, which overnight converts a war about states rights into a crusade for human rights. Thousands of African-Americans enlisted in the northern armies. Here you see them in combat, fighting and dying with courage and honor.
The Civil War in Four Minutes is a map of the war with battle lines that continuously move, showing the changing progress of the war. Here, each week of the war has been condensed to one second. In the corner of the map, a casualty counter tracks the mounting butcher's bill - an odometer of death.
In The Gettysburg Gallery the spectacular Gettysburg Mural (42 feet), moves from the action of battle to the sad aftermath of death, on to a mass burial ground, and then the dedication ceremony and Lincoln's famous speech. At the far end of this gallery, you learn the fate of the eight soldiers introduced in the War Gallery.
The Tide Turns and Washington Celebrates is a gallery where a series of historical paintings depict Lincoln's last months, supported by cases exhibiting original objects from the same period. Suddenly, everything seems to be going right for Lincoln. He wins re-election, the 13th Amendment is passed ending slavery, Lincoln is sworn in for a second term, Richmond falls, Lincoln tours the Confederate capital, Lee surrenders, and Lincoln speaks to celebrating crowds in Washington. The final part scene takes you from Lincoln's last speech into a mural depicting the joyous celebration rocking Washington D.C. as peace breaks out.
Ford's Theater is a recreation of the presidential box in Ford's Theater. Lincoln holds Mary's hand. Behind him, John Wilkes Booth is just entering the presidential box. Booth's hand is suspiciously reaching under his jacket. On the opposite wall, we read Lincoln's touching last words to his wife, spoken moments before he was shot.
As you enter The Funeral Train you learn that the president is dead. This gallery displays a map of the route of Lincoln's funeral train together with advertisements and announcements inviting mourners to pay their last respects. You can easily see that this was the longest, most elaborate funeral in American history. In this area, you also find the story of the long lost last photo of Lincoln and how it was eventually discovered in the Library's collection by a 14-year-old student.
Lying in Stateis an immersive scene. It is a nearly full-scale recreation of the Representatives Hall in Springfield's Old State Capitol, recreating the exact moment in May, 1865 as Lincoln lies in state, complete with all the lavish trappings of Victorian-era mourning. Having walked through Lincoln's life, you will now file past the closed casket as though you are paying last respects.
Holding on to Lincoln Lincoln may have been a polarizing figure during his presidency, but his death created a vast emotional response in a country whose people suddenly wanted to "get close" to Lincoln and "hold on" to the security and leadership he represented. As a result, they collected and saved as souvenirs some of the objects he touched, some fascinating, others strange. Here you can see some of these objects and read their stories.
More Tools for Teachers:
This bill authorizing the erection of the Washington Monument was dated January 25, 1838. At what stage of construction would the monument been at when the Lincoln's resided in the White House? Look for clues in the exhibits!
Leonard Volk took original casts of Lincoln's hands on May 20, 1860, two days after the Republican Party nominated the former Illinois congressman as its presidential candidate. Lincoln's right hand was swollen from shaking hands with congratulating supporters. Volk wanted the right hand to be grasping an object, so Lincoln went to his woodshed and cut a piece from a broom handle, which is preserved in the artist's cast.
Teaching with Primary Sources
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
Director: Cindy Rich, Ph.D.
- The Source (Central Illinois)
- TPS Journal
(Bickford & Rich)
Cindy's guest post on the Library's Teaching with the Library of Congress blog
(pdf or doc)
- ABC Photo Analysis
- Book Analysis
- Cartoon Analysis
- Letter Analysis
- Map Analysis
pdf doc TPS
- More You Look Photo Analysis
pdf doc TPS
- Motion Picture Analysis
pdf doc TPS
- Poem Analysis
- Poster Analysis
- Put Yourself in the Picture Photo Analysis
- Sheet Music Analysis
pdf doc TPS
- Sound Recording Analysis
pdf doc TPS
- Storyboard Sheet
- Written Document Analysis
pdf doc TPS