Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum exhibits illustrations of Lincoln

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The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum at 407 South G Street in Tacoma (across the street from the Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park) just opened a new exhibit of drawings by Lloyd Ostendorf called Young Abraham Lincoln. The drawings were made by Ostendorf for his work “A Picture Story of Abraham Lincoln.” They were drawn by Ostendorf in order to bring to life all the well-known episodes and some less well known episodes of Lincoln’s life. The show will be on view through July 25.

Ostendorf (1921-2000) was an artist and a historian of Abraham Lincoln who wrote five books about the former president. Ostendorf was 12 years old when he first began to draw Lincoln’s face. That fascination became not only a hobby, but a career and a lifestyle. Ostendorf became a commercial artist for the Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio and worked with cartoonist Milton Caniff in New York City. In the mid-1950s, he became a self-employed commercial artist who created greeting cards, religious drawings and pencil art, but his signature work featured Lincoln. Not only did Ostendorf own one of the largest private collections of Lincoln photographs, he also published “Lincoln in Photographs,” which at the time contained every known picture of Lincoln. The book is considered a bible by Lincoln historians.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is showing illustrations of Abraham Lincoln made by Lloyd Ostendorf for a book of Lincoln anecdotes. File photo

Some of the story illustrations present in the show are: 

“Little Abe Met a Soldier,” 1812

When Abraham Lincoln was asked if he remembered anything about the War of 1812 with Great Britain, he replied, telling of a happening when he was four: “I had been fishing one day and caught a little fish which I was taking home. I met a soldier on the road, and, having been always told at home that we must be kind to the soldiers, I gave him my fish.” 

“Abe Earns his First Dollar,” 1827 

When Abe was in his late teens, he worked for a time at ferrying passengers across Anderson Creek, near where it flowed into the Ohio River. One day, two gentlemen came down to the river landing where Abe had his homemade boat. They had luggage with them, and they wanted to catch a river packet waiting in midstream. They hired Abe, who was glad for a chance to earn something, to take them to the steamer. After Abe helped the men and their trunks safely aboard, each tossed a silver half dollar into his boat. Abe could scarcely believe that he had earned a dollar in less than a day, and the incident made him more hopeful and confident from that time on. 

“Lincoln Sees a Slave Market,” 1831

At New Orleans, after a month’s trip down the Mississippi by flatboat, Lincoln beheld the true horror of human slavery when he saw Negroes in chains. To his companions he said, “Slavery ran the iron into me then and there.” Seeing the slave auction revolted him so much that he exclaimed to Denton Offutt, “Boy, let’s get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that thing [slavery], I’ll hit it hard.” 

“Lincoln the Inventor,” 1849 

Abraham Lincoln had had a lot of experience in shallow-water river boating. In 1849 he invented a method that enabled river boats to lift themselves off shoals and sand bars. He built an eighteen-inch model with a system of pulleys, pumps, and water chambers that would empty if the craft got stuck, making the boat lighter. Lincoln was granted Patent No. 6469, becoming the only president who ever received a patent.

“Lincoln Pardons a Sleeping Sentinel,” 1861

Eighteen-year-old William Scott of Company K, Third Vermont, volunteered to take guard duty for a sick comrade, and passed the night as a sentinel. The very next night he himself was detailed for the same guard duty. He was so tired that he fell asleep at his post. He was then tried and sentenced to die in twenty-four hours. A committee of his comrades tried in vain to save his life, and finally, in desperation, went to see President Lincoln. 

Lincoln visited the camp prison and called on the sad-faced boy, to hear his story. The lad’s only request was that the men who had to shoot him be from another regiment. Lincoln said, “My boy, you are not going to be shot tomorrow. I believe you when you tell me you could not stay awake. I am going to send you back to your regiment.” The thankful boy promised to do his duty to repay the President’s great kindness. 

For information visit www.rain.org/~karpeles/taqfrm.html

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