Young Abraham Lincoln
Karpeles Manuscript Library Tacoma, Washington
April 26, 2018 to July 25, 2018
Drawings of Lloyd Ostendorf for his work “A Picture Story of Abraham Lincoln” are preserved in the Karpeles Manuscript Library. These were drawn by Ostendorf in order to bring to life all the well-known episodes and some less well known episodes of Lincoln’ life.
Lloyd Ostendorf (1921-2000) was an artist and a historian of Abraham Lincoln who wrote five books about the former president. Mr. 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. As he drew him, he wanted to know more about him. After high school graduation, Mr. Ostendorf attended his hometown's art institute. He later served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the war, he took a job as a commercial artist for the Journal Herald in Dayton 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 Mr. 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.
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.”
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN HIS HAND AND PEN…” 1825
Young Lincoln attended Azel W. Dorsey’s school in Spencer County, Indiana. Abraham kept a copybook from 1824 to 1826 and in it wrote sums from his studies in arithmetic. At times he would write down a few lines of verse. An example of his schoolboy doggerel can be seen here, on one of the pages of his exercise book- “Abraham Lincoln his hand and pen, he will be good but God knows when.”
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.
ABE - A GOOD SAMARITAN… 1827
One cold night, as Lincoln and his friend Dave Turnham were walking along a road, they came upon the body of a man lying near a mud puddle. They soon recognized him as a respectable member of the Indiana community. He was hopelessly drunk, and they could not wake him. Turnham left for home, saying the man should lie in the bed he had made for himself, but Abe thought he might freeze to death during the cold night and decided to help him. Taking the unconscious man in his long arms, Abe carried him a great distance to the house of his cousin, Dennis Hanks, where he was revived. Later the man said that Abe’s merciful deed had saved his life.
“THE THINGS I WANT TO KNOW ARE IN BOOKS…” 1828
As the fireside was Lincoln’s study by night, the shade of the white oak was his classroom by day. Abe had always read while resting from his farm labors, and now that he was almost grown he began to think about the ideas he got from books. He knew the time had come for him to leave farm work behind and pursue greater things. Only by learning more from books could he ever hope to make his dreams of the future come true.
LINCOLN SEES A SLAVE MARKET… MAY, 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.”
THE “SAMSON OF THE SANGAMON”… 1832
New Salem merchant Denton Offutt often bragged about the cleverness and strength of his clerk, Abraham Lincoln. The reckless and swaggering Clary’s Grove boys quickly agreed that Abe was very clever, but they said that he would have to prove his strength. Their leader, Jack Armstrong, soon challenged Lincoln to a wrestling match. The town turned out and bets were placed, but neither man could throw the other. The match was a draw but Lincoln now “belonged,” and the Armstrongs became Lincoln’s fast friends.
CAPTAIN LINCOLN DEFENDS AN OLD INDIAN… 1832
One day an old Indian wandered into camp. He had a letter from General Cass saying that he was friendly to whites. Some of the rough soldiers believed that, “the only good Indian is a dead one,” and since they had enlisted to kill Indians, they felt he was a good one to start with. But Captain Lincoln stepped in, backed up by most of the Clary’s Grove boys, and saved the old redskin’s life.
“I’LL STUDY AND GET READY, AND THEN THE CHANCE WILL COME…” 1834
In the quiet of the long and lonely winter nights, Lincoln studied late by the light of the fire. During his New Salem years he read Shakespeare, Burns, and books on grammar, surveying, and law, as well as any other books he could find to improve his education.
POSTMASTER LINCOLN… 1833 TO 1836
Lincoln served as postmaster in New Salem, Illinois, from May 7, 1833, to May 30, 1836. As postmaster he sent and received mail without paying the postal rates, and he marked his letters, “Free, A. Lincoln,” with the date. He did quite satisfactory work during his time as postmaster, often walking several miles to deliver a letter he thought important, although at times he was careless about leaving his office open and unlocked during the day. And of course he enjoyed reading all the newspapers that came in.
LINCOLN - YOUNG LAWYER… 1836-1837
The long and lonely hours Lincoln spent studying law books finally paid off. In the fall of 1836 he was given a law license, and by March 1, 1837, his name was entered on the roll of attorneys in the Supreme Court Clerk’s office. Here we see Abe being sworn in.
On April 12, 1837, the Springfield paper announced: “J.T. Stuart and A. Lincoln, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law, will practice conjointly in the courts of this Judicial Circuit. Office No. 4, Hoffman’s Row, upstairs.”
At that time Stuart was running for Congress, so his new young partner had to handle almost all the law practice alone. Thus Lincoln learned law the hard way, through practical experience.
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. Today the principle of his invention is used on submarines.
RIDING THE CIRCUIT… 1850’S
Each spring and fall, lawyer Lincoln set out on his law-practice tour of the courts of his judicial circuit, a life he loved well. Most often he traveled in his open buggy, behind his own horse. And when alone he often read as he rode along.
LINCOLN, INDULGENT FATHER… 1856
Mr. And Mrs. Lincoln had four sons. Robert, born in 1843, was the oldest. Eddie, born in 1846, lived only four years. Willie was born in 1850, the year Eddie died. Thomas, better known as Tad, was born in 1853.
Neighbors said that at times they saw Lincoln in his shirt sleeves, walking up and down in front of his house, pulling the two youngest boys in a little wagon. Often he was deep in thought, not noticing his surroundings or whether or not his youngsters were enjoying their ride.
DUFF ARMSTRONG’S MURDER TRIAL… 1857-1858
In May, 1858, Hannah Armstrong, the widow of Jack Armstrong, asked Mr. Lincoln to help her son, Duff, who was going on trial for the murder of Preston Metzker on the night of August 29, 1857. Because of his long friendship with Jack and Hannah, Lincoln was glad to offer his services and defend Duff without asking for a fee.
A witness for the prosecution said he had seen Duff commit murder at half past nine by the light of a bright moon.
Lincoln then produced the almanac for August, 1857, which showed that the moon, slightly past its first quarter, had given practically no light that night.
THE 1857 ALMANAC, AND THE PAGE FOR AUGUST… 1857-1858
Lincoln’s dramatic presentation of the 1857 Almanac, showing the position of the moon, was very important in clearing Duff of the murder charge. It helped to prove the witness’s story to be false.
LINCOLN IS NOMINATED… MAY 18, 1860
At home in Springfield, Lincoln received the news wired from Chicago. At the Illinois State Journal office, editor Edward L. Baker handed Lincoln the dispatch. An eyewitness said that Lincoln’s features at first showed great joy and then a look of serious responsibility. Friends there gave him rousing cheers and rushed to shake his hand. Abe said, “There is a lady over on Eighth Street who is deeply interested in this news. I will carry it to her.” And off he strode.
He was stopped by a boy from the telegraph office, carrying the message he already knew. Thanking the lad for the note, he continued on to his house and “Molly,” carrying the paper in his hand.
LINCOLN BIDS FAREWELL TO HIS STEPMOTHER… 1861
Before President-elect Lincoln went to Washington he paid a last visit to his stepmother in Coles County. He went to the log cabin on Goosenest Prairie which he had helped his father build when he was twenty-one years old. Arriving on the morning of January 31, 1861, he found that the cabin chimney had fallen down, and his second cousin, John Hall, was repairing it. Hall told Mr. Lincoln where to find his stepmother; she had left the day before to stay with some relatives at Farmington, Illinois. But first Lincoln wanted to see his father’s grave. He took two pieces of wood, and carving the letters T.L. in the stakes, drove them into the ground at the head and foot of the grave.
Later, at Farmington, Abraham warmly greeted his stepmother and gave her the present of a black woolen dress. After a pleasant dinner and visit with his folks he bade her his last farewell.
DEATH OF A YOUNG COLONEL… MAY 24, 1861
Dashing young Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth had been a law student in Lincoln and Herndon’s law office, and, a born soldier, had organized a crack Zouave drill troop that caught the country’s fancy. Lincoln became very fond of him.
He had made campaign speeches in 1860, and it appeared that his fame and national popularity were second only to Lincoln’s.
On May 24, 1861, his blossoming career was cut short; he became the first commissioned officer to lose his life in the Civil War. He died as he had lived, madly in love with action. When he tore the Confederate flag from the roof of the Marshall House in Alexandria, Virginia, hotel proprietor James W. Jackson shot him. Ellsworth’s corporal, Francis E. Brownell, in turn shot Jackson. The Lincolns grieved at Ellsworth’s death, and held funeral services for him in the East Room of the White House on May 25, 1861.
LINCOLN PARDONS A SLEEPING SENTINEL… SEPTEMBER, 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.
SOLDIER’S MASCOT NAMED FOR LINCOLN… 1863
During the Civil War the Union soldiers called President Lincoln “Father Abraham” and “Old Abe.” The most famous mascot of the Civil War, a big American bald eagle, was named “Old Abe” after him.
For three years the eagle was the fighting symbol of the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry. Once, when the company marched into camp, “Old Abe” picked up a corner of the flag and spread it out in full glory.