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After the Inauguration ... Next Up, the Lincoln Bicentennial


Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Kentucky includes a "symbolic Lincoln birth cabin" inside this Memorial Building. Photo by jbcurio via Flickr.

There's no rest for the weary—especially if they're involved in planning and managing special events in the nation's capital. With the inauguration behind us later today, those folks can now focus on the Lincoln Bicentennial, and there will be plenty to do at a number of NPS sites, both in and outside of Washington, D.C.

According to the Chinese calendar, 2009 is the Year of the Ox, but if you're a history buff in the U.S.A., you're probably anticipating a full year of Lincoln-related events. February 12, 2009, will mark the bicentennial of the birth of the sixteenth president, and activities won't be limited to his home state of Kentucky.

I won't presume to provide a comprehensive list of events--you'll find calendars on several websites--but here's a sampling of activities around the country:

The actual site of Lincoln's birth is now preserved at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, 55 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky near the town of Hodgenville.

The Birthplace Unit demonstrates his humble beginnings with a symbolic birth cabin enshrined within a neoclassic Memorial Building, while the park's Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek Farm was home to Lincoln until the age of six, when the family moved to Indiana.

As you'd expect, this park has an annual event every February 12th, but this year's will be expanded a bit. You'll find a schedule of events at the park for the whole year on the park's website, along with driving directions and maps.

Two other parks preserve key sites from Lincoln's life, and they will also host events on February 12th. Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial includes the Indiana farm where Lincoln grew to manhood, and Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois features tours of the home where Lincoln lived prior to his presidency.

There will be a full day of events in the nation's capital as well. (Can you say "speeches"?). Here's a sampling:

• Birthday Tribute and Wreath-Laying Ceremony - 8:00 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial

President Barack Obama has been invited to commemorate the 16th president at this event at the Lincoln Memorial. Emmy-nominated singer Michael Feinstein will sing a new rendition of the National Anthem, accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps Band; poet and author Nikki Giovanni will recite her new work written especially for the Bicentennial; and the Armed Forces Color Guard will present the Colors. There will be a reading of the Gettysburg Address by school children from the national capital area, and wreaths will be presented in what is promised to be "a stirring ceremony."

• Ford's Theater will commemorate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday with a series of public programs on February 12th.

The day will begin with a morning wreath-laying by National Park Service Rangers. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ford's Theater will present an array of performances in Lincoln's honor. Area students will perform some of Lincoln's great speeches, and the Federal City Brass Band will play some of Lincoln's favorite music on Civil War era instruments. National Park Service Rangers will offer interpretive programs commemorating Lincoln's presidency throughout the day. The theater will be open to the general public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 Details on this and other events at Ford's Theater are available here.

• A new exhibit will open to the public at the Library of Congress on February 12th.

"With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit" features "numerous photographs, letters, speeches, campaign artifacts and other rarely seen treasures from the Library's collections. The exhibit runs thru May 9, 2009, at the Library of Congress."


After the exhibit closes in Washington, it will travel to five U.S. cities during the next year: Sacramento, California; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Atlanta, Georgia; and, Omaha, Nebraska. You'll find details about the exhibit and the tour on the Library of Congress website.

The website for the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has details on a number of other events on February 12, 2009, including a National Birthday Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and a National Teach-in, broadcast live from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. at 1:30 p.m. Educators and students nationwide can tune in and view this LIVE webcast online . Teachers, students, and families will find enrichment resources and study guides at this site, which can help prepare for the event, but may be used at any time.

If you have school-age students in your household, it's a pretty safe bet they'll find assignments on Honest Abe in their upcoming homework assignments. If you need to brush up on your Lincoln history, you can start with a brief Lincoln biography.

Finally, you can participate in the Lincoln Bicentennial later this year just by keeping a close eye on your loose change. The U.S. Mint is releasing four new designs for the Lincoln Penny, one every three months in 2009. The new pennies will feature four new designs on the reverse side of the coins, marking different aspects of the 16th president’s life:

• The Kentucky coin will be released in February, and features a log cabin;
• The Indiana coin will be released in May, and depicts a young Lincoln reading while taking a break from working as a rail splitter;
• The Illinois coin, due out in August, depicts Lincoln as a young professional standing in front of the old state capitol building in Springfield;
• The District of Columbia coin, scheduled for November, features the half-finished United States Capitol dome, symbolizing a Nation torn apart by civil war and the resolve Lincoln showed as he guided the country through its worst crisis.

Whether you're a coin collector or a Lincoln fan, the next year may be a good time not to tell a cashier, "Keep the change."


As Lincoln's Boyhood Home, Spencer County, Ind., will honor our greatest president's 200th birthday all year long with a variety of special activities. A complete list can be found at We also have many sites were visitors an trace Lincoln's past, including Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln State Park, Lincoln Amphitheatre, Lincoln Pioneer Village and more!

Thanks for the additional information!

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and the nearby attractions in Spencer County are delightful places to visit and to learn about Lincoln.

I'm planning a story about Lincoln Boyhood here on the Traveler on February 19th, which is the anniversary of the official authorization of the national memorial.

Thanks for a great article!
I was fortunate enough to work at Ford's Theatre for a short time (not as an NPS employee), and not a day goes by that I don't miss that incredible place. What a great opportunity that was to learn about Lincoln.

My car proudly sports the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial License Plate, celebrating Indiana as Lincoln's boyhood home, and my bookshelf is filled with Lincoln related titles.
What a great year this shall be!

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