Relics of President-elect Lincoln's Philadelphia visit
One fragment is a poster-size patch of discolored red-and-white cloth, the other little more than threads and fibers. Both pieces come from the same source. And both are more than what they seem.
Both swatches were snipped from a giant U.S. flag that President-elect Abraham Lincoln raised at Independence Hall during the 1861 rail voyage that took him through Philadelphia to Washington for his inauguration. On Saturday, nearly 150 years later, another president-elect from Illinois will partly re-create that trip, traveling by train to his inauguration.
Details of Obama's Philadelphia visit have not been released. During Lincoln's stop, the newly elected Republican strived to connect himself to the strength and wisdom of the Founders. Philadelphia was the last Northern city Lincoln saw before venturing into the South, perilous ground for a politician opposed to slavery. The only known photos of Lincoln on his inaugural trip were taken in Philadelphia. And it was in Philadelphia that Lincoln was told of a plot to kill him days later in Baltimore.
At the time, there was no Secret Service. Lincoln sneaked through Baltimore, at night, in disguise - and was ridiculed afterward for cowardice. Of course, Obama won't be sneaking anywhere. And the evidence of his inaugural journey won't be limited to a few blurry photographs and a couple of pieces of flag.
His partial retracing of Lincoln's route seeks to highlight his inaugural theme, "Renewing America's Promise," through events in Philadelphia, where the promise was realized in 1776; Baltimore, where it was defended in the War of 1812; and Washington, where it is to be renewed.
"I think it's very smart politics," said Michael J. Kline, author of The Baltimore Plot: The First Conspiracy to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln, a new book from Westholme Publishing in Yardley. "He wants to show he's appreciative of a part of the country that was strongly supportive of him, and to suggest that he wants to be inclusive, like Lincoln, even of people who didn't support him."
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