Tag Archive | abraham lincoln

The Historical Traveler Visits the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC

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Standing in front of Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass (Photo Credit: The Historical Homemaker)

My latest travels took me to the historic museum and home of Frederick Douglass, located in Southeast Washington D.C. The museum showcased a timeline of Frederick Douglass’ life which included his many accomplishments and the influences he had on the course of American history. In the museum, there is a wall of his famous quotations, original pieces of his work, and of course, you can visit his beloved home, Cedar Hill, where he spent the last years of his life.

He was born into bondage in 1818 in the vicinity of Talbot County, Maryland. At eight years old, he was sent to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland and this is where the mistress of the plantation grew very fond of him and started teaching him how to read and write – a practice that was uncommon for the time period (and in some places in the US it was against the law).

Frederick Douglass said goodbye to Baltimore in 1838 when he was 20 years old – leaving his former life in bondage behind for a brand new life in New York. Anna Murray Douglass, his first wife, sold her personal belongings to purchase him a ticket to New York. He was still a slave, however, and he vowed not to marry Anna as a slave but only if he were a free man. It wasn’t until after he secured his freedom that he and Anna were married. It was in New York that he met with the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who recognized Frederick Douglass as a talented speaker. He was then enlisted to give speeches across the country to help educate people about the horrible atrocities of slavery. Being that he knew first had what being a slave entailed, he was able to give a personal perspective on slavery and his audience continued to grow and he became a very popular orator.

Some of the highlights of his life:

  • In 1845 wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which became an international best seller.
  • Met with President Lincoln in 1863 to assist in enlisting African Americans in joining the Union troops. Did you know that the first two men he had inquired to enlist were his oldest two sons? Lewis Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr.
  • Frederick Douglass accepted the offer when President Hayes enlisted him to be the official US Marshall of Washington, D.C.
  • His first wife passed away in 1882 and he remarried two years afterwards to Helen Pitts. This caused controversy because she was a white woman and interracial marriages was not accepted socially (and in some States it was illegal)

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One of Frederick Douglass’ famous quotes on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Original autobiography copy on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Family Tree on Display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Exterior of Cedar Hill (I’m sitting on the left side of the porch) (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at Cedar Hill, and was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY with his first wife, Anna. Shortly after he passed, Helen Pitts Douglass established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association to preserve his legacy as well as his impact on United States history. The association still maintains the legacy today.

Cedar Hill beautifully sits on top of a hill overlooking Southeast Washington D.C. The tours are free, during which you will learn about the history of the house and Frederick Douglass’ time while living there. Most of the items in the house are original pieces including the portraits, dining room furniture, and beds.

There are several rooms in the house including two rooms for entertaining and over half a dozen bedrooms. Although the entire house is rich with history, three rooms in particular I found most interesting: the first den, the dining room, one of the three guest rooms for women, and Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, all of which have original pieces from when he lived at the house.

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Entertaining room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 The first room used for informal entertaining of guests and showcases a piano in the left corner, a fireplace in the center of the room, and a bust of Frederick Douglass gifted to his family when he lived there. I learned in the tour that Frederick Douglass combined interior design with remembrance of American history, this being shown by the ball and chain tied around the curtains to the room symbolizing the roots of slavery in American history.

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Picture of ball and chain curtain ties, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

The dining room of Cedar Hill include pictures taken with other prominent Washington, DC people at the time, and original dining furniture. Frederick Douglass sat at the head of the table. This is indicated by the wheels on the bottom of the chair, which made it easier for him to stand up and speak, which he did frequently while entertaining his distinguished guests.

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Dining Room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

 On the second floor of Cedar Hill, there are three bedrooms: three for women (including guests and one room for each of his wives) and three rooms for men (including the personal bedroom of Frederick Douglass). The guest room used for women included an original portrait of Susan B. Anthony, whom he was very fond of for her advocacy for women’s rights.

Many people don’t know that since 1848, Frederick Douglass was also an advocate for women’s right to vote.

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Women’s guest room with Susan B. Anthony portrait in the upper left side, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

  His bedroom was opposite of his first wife’s room in the upstairs hall. Frederick Douglass would use dumbbells to work out every morning after waking up to exercise and stay physically fit. Cedar Hill has these dumbbells and they can be seen on display by the foot of the chair in his room

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Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Chair with original Dumbbells, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Two other pieces I found very interesting include his desk in his office and a trunk with his name on it, which was used on his many travels throughout the country and Europe.

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Frederick Douglass’ Trunk, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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Frederick Douglass’ Office, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Every room in Cedar Hill is beautiful in its unique way and the tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you can think of while touring the house. Visiting Cedar Hill and learning about Frederick Douglass’ life and his huge impact on American History was truly a memorable experience for me, not to mention the wonderful scenic view from Cedar Hill.

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View from outside Cedar Hill (Phot Credit: The Historical Traveler)

Click here to plan your free visit to Cedar Hill and the Frederick Douglass Museum.

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The Historical Traveler: Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House

For my second historical visit, I traveled to Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House in Washington, DC: the sites of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and death.

Since the assassination, Ford’s Theatre has been converted into a museum where you can learn everything about the assassination including the many attempts on his life before the fateful night in April 1865. You learn about the foreshadowing of the assassination from both President Lincoln and the man who shot him.  You also learn of the lives and about the trials of those who conspired to (and were then charged with and then put to death) kill President Lincoln.

fords-theater2                                 A young picture of Abraham Lincoln on display at Ford’s Theater

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States with 40% of the votes in a four-way contest.

During a speech the following year Abraham Lincoln concluded his speech with these words:

“…if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle (freedom)…I would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender it…”

There were many attempts on President Lincoln’s life including one from a group who named themselves the “Plug Uglies.” After this attempt, President Lincoln was advised to stay armed and carry a weapon on his persons.  He refused to do this and stated, “would not for the world have it said that Mr. Lincoln had to enter the National Capitol armed.”

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These are the actual weapons given to President Lincoln that he refused to have on him

John T. Ford opened Ford’s Theatre in 1863 under the name Ford’s New Theatre after it having been converted from a First Baptist Church.  Ford’s New Theater became a popular escape for entertainment during the depressing years of the Civil War.  Many popular actors of the day performed at Ford’s Theatre including John Wilkes Booth.  John Wilkes Booth was very famous and was known for his athleticism and his southern pride. He came from a famous Theater family and his father was the popular actor Junius Booth.

fords-theater3 John Wilkes Booth father: Junius Booth.  On display at Ford’s Theater.

Interesting Fact: During a performance of The Marble Heart, John Wilkes Booth directed his threatening lines towards the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre while President Lincoln was in attendance. He knew President Lincoln was watching and Booth hinted publicly his dislike of President Lincoln.

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John Wilkes Booth in 1865

The conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln started in the boarding house of Mrs. Mary Surratt where she and other conspirators plotted the assassination. Of the conspirators who were put on trial following the assassination, four were sentenced to death: including Mrs. Surratt. She unfortunately is known as the first woman to be executed by the US government.

Ford’s Theatre has the stories of each individual conspirator on display as well as statues representing their likeness.  I found that I am personally a lot taller than the conspirators but am of course, much shorter than President Lincoln – who was 6’3″

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Here I am standing next to one of the conspirators!

The theatre itself is very spacious and open.  The stage is not too high off the ground and the circular design of the room works really well.

Pictures of the theatre including seats, ceiling and stage

Although visitors are allowed to walk around the theatre, the Presidential Box where President Lincoln was assassinated is closed off.

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Picture of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

You can go through the door frame where John Wilkes Booth entered and waited to assassinate President Lincoln was really neat to see.

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Picture of the outside of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

Across the street from Ford’s Theatre is The Peterson House, which is where President Lincoln was carried to upon being assassinated and where he took his last breath.

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Me standing in front of The Peterson House

The Peterson House remained a boarding house for immigrant families after the death of President Lincoln. After the owner passed away, The Peterson House was stripped of all the interior decorations and converted into a newspaper headquarters.  After being purchased by the government, The Peterson House was converted into a museum along with Ford’s Theatre.  Unfortunately, the decorations and furnishings inside the home are mostly not original pieces.

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Picture of the room where President Lincoln passed away. The bed was on the far right.

The room where President Lincoln passed away is furnished almost identically to how it was when he was carried over from Ford’s Theatre.  They have recreated the room with a photograph taken the evening of the assassination.

The Peterson House is an extension of the museum which chronicles the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and the impact of President Lincoln on the world.

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Picture of the John Wilkes Booth manhunt trail

You can follow the trail he took from Washington, DC into Virginia where he was finally caught and shot – which he then succumbed to his wounds.

Through The Peterson House is a spiral staircase with a statue of Abraham Lincoln books in the center and every flight of stairs down is another part of Lincoln’s legacy.  One floor showcased the despair felt across the Nation by telling the details of the many funerals held for President Lincoln across the United States. Funerals were held in Washington, DC, Boston, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia – just to name a few cities.

Interesting Fact: The turnout for these funerals were astounding averaging 100,000 people per funeral, and reaching over 1 million in New York.

President Lincoln was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Following the same stairs downward was a room where people who passed by can leave notes describing their ideas on what qualities Abraham Lincoln possessed including courage, ideals for equality and integrity.

The staircase ends where the bottom of the statue begins and concluded my self guided tour of Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House. There is so much more information and so many lessons to learn from going through these museums.  Tickets are easy to purchase although you will probably want to plan your trip in advance online here because the theatre is still used for productions to this day.

Ford’s Theatre is a 100% MUST SEE visit! I promise you will have a great time and learn so much along the way.

fords-theater14 Picture of the statue of books

Today in American History…Nancy Hanks Lincoln was Born in 1784

Not much is known of Nancy Lincoln except for the most important aspect: she was Abraham Lincoln’s mother. There aren’t any pictures of her – only a depiction (made into a painting by Lloyd Ostendorf, February 12, 1963)

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(Image of Nancy Hanks Lincoln is courtesy of Lincoln Boyhood National Museum)

We do know that she was a warm, caring mother and that her son, Abraham Lincoln, loved her very much.  He was only nine years old when his mother died of milk sickness on October 5, 1818.  Throughout his life, he recalled the love of his mother and once said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

William Herndon, Law partner with Abraham Lincoln and a close confidante, later wrote a book, Life of Lincoln, and described Nancy Hanks Lincoln most likely from Lincoln’s memories of his mother and those who knew her:

She was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much the appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin was dark; hair dark brown; eyes gray and small; forehead prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked expression for melancholy which fixed itself in the memory of all who ever saw or knew her. Though her life was clouded by a spirit of sadness, she was in disposition amiable and generally cheerful.

 

In the Kitchen Tonight…Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

We wanted to do something special tonight in the kitchen to honor and remember the wedding anniversary of Abraham and Mary Lincoln who were unitedin marriage on November 4, 1842.  

I have read ALOT of books about the lives of both Abraham and Mary Lincoln and what has always seem to peak my interest about these two is how they both came from such diverse backgrounds – she grew up with servants and living in a beautiful home in Lexington, Kentucky while he was born in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky.  Somehow they simply found one another and with the trials and tribulations of courtship (their previous engagement was broken off and her family was not thrilled about her marrying someone “beneath” her) they decided that in the end, they simply wanted to be together.  

Mary Lincoln made a white cake for Abraham Lincoln while they were courting and it was one of his favorites after they were married. So, with yesterday being their wedding anniversary, I felt it was very fitting to make something that was dear to both of their hearts (and their taste buds!)

The recipe that I used was from the book, Lincoln’s Table, by Donna D. McCreary and was adapted by Janice Cooke Newman. 

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour

  • 1 Cup butter

  • 2 Cups sugar

  • 3 Cups flour

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 Cup milk

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • confectionary sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

  • Cream butter and sugar.  Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. Add to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk.  Stir in almonds and beat well.

  • Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.  Stir in vanilla extract.

  • Pour into prepared pan and and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Turn out on a wire rack and cool.  When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top.

  • A basic white frosting sprinkled with almonds was also popular.