Croft Press / Shannon / Research / History

How I Met Lincoln

Shannon Kristine Croft

2005 Dec 14

What a burst of emotion I had when reading the article “How I Met Lincoln” by Harold Holzer, published by American Heritage Magazine. The article is comprised of memories from several different Lincoln enthusiasts. Their personal stories tell how they came to know Mr. Lincoln. Although each story is different, they each hold a common theme - a love of history and a great respect for Abraham Lincoln. I really enjoyed reading this article, not just for the different stories, but also the different writing styles of each author.

Harold Holzer wrote the article in 1999 which was Lincoln’s 190th anniversary year. He describes that the first of what he calls “Lincoln people” became collectors, or other enthusiasts because of personal experience with Lincoln. Holzer gives examples of a Union soldier in the Civil War and President Theodore Roosevelt who watched Lincoln’s funeral as a boy. More recent devotees who have less personal experiences are the ones who contribute their memories to the article. These contributors are historians, collectors, filmmakers, teachers, a Lincoln portrayer, and politicians.

The best aspect of the article is the variety of the stories. I laughed at the actor, Sam Waterson’s story of researching playing the role of Lincoln. He went to the Library of Congress and asked if they had anything on Lincoln there. Brian Lamb, the C-SPAN chairman, amusingly described his experience of speaking to a group of fifty-seven Abraham Lincoln impersonators. Historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin identified with Lincoln since they both shared the early experience of losing their mothers. My favorite story was by Frank J. Williams, a collector and Lincoln organizer. His interest in Lincoln started as a child. When he was in college he camped out at various Lincoln sites near Gettysburg. A family that privately owned a home on the battlefield invited him to stay inside. Inside he saw a bullet that had pierced the door from that battle so long ago, and that firmly hooked him into studying and collecting Lincoln ever since.

Each contributor speaks of Lincoln with respect. They all seem to say what a great honor it is to get to know this man. Some said that he was one of the greatest Americans. Holzer’s article helped me to see Abraham Lincoln in a different way. I compare my story to that of Ken Burns, a filmmaker. When first learning about Lincoln in elementary school, he seems mythical and untouchable, as one of our “Founding Fathers”. Learning more about him personally shows a man who is flawed and imperfect but nevertheless does great work. He started at the bottom but made important contributions to this country. This article is wonderful for those starting to study history to see how others have been affected by someone from the past. Ken Burns says that Lincoln’s words changed his life. With so many negative aspects of early American history it is comforting to know that Abraham Lincoln is a positive part of it and even today continues to touch peoples lives.


Holzer, Harold. “How I Met Lincoln,” American Heritage, Volume 50, Issue 4 (July/August 1999),

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© 2005 Shannon Kristine Croft
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