A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Abraham Lincoln visits Kalamazoo

150 years ago (on August 27, 1856), Abraham Lincoln made his only visit to Michigan; he spoke in Kalamazoo’s downtown park as part of a rally for John C. Fremont, the first Republican nominee for President. There are a number of events taking place in Kalamazoo this weekend, sponsored, in part, by our local state senator (a Republican, natch, and against whom my brother-in-law Sandy Lipsey is running this fall).

I attended one session today, an informative talk by Weldon Petz on “The Musical Note In Lincoln’s Life,” basically a talk connecting anything musical with Lincoln. Lincoln played the harmonica and Jew’s harp; enjoyed both ministrel shows and the opera; probably sang out of the Missouri Harmony (pictured here in its modern revision); liked both “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic;” and has been a popular subject of music for a long time.

One thing I learned was that it was common to publish “songsters,” or small song books, for the presidential campaign, for example this digitized copy of the 1864 Republican Songster of Lincoln’s second campaign, which includes songs as well as the Republican platform (“Resolved, That the foreign immigration which in the past has added so much to the wealth and development of resources and increase of power to this nation–the asylum of the oppressed of all nations–should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.”)

One response to “Abraham Lincoln visits Kalamazoo

  1. Paul L August 30, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Your post reminded me that, in the town where I was born, there was a Lincoln-Douglas debate. In the little park downtown where the debate was held (I realize I’m guessing this is the case) there were large plaques set up with some of Lincoln’s words in bronze relief. I used to run my hand over them when I was a little boy and feel a hundred years old.

    Wouldn’t it be great if political campaigns published songsters again? The last singing presidential campaign I can think of is from before my days, the 1948 Henry Wallace campaign where the Almanac Singers toured & sang at his rallys. And I think Malvina Reynolds wrote one of her first published songs, Sing Along, for that campaign. (“When I need raise in pay, I go and tell my boss. But if I go all by myself I’m at a total loss. But if you’ll come along with me I’ll do my part right pretty, ’cause I’m awful nervous by myself but I make a fine committee. Sing along . . . .”

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