Today is President’s Day and I’ll admit it: Abraham Lincoln is at the top of my presidential list for leadership and technology. After reading Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington by Ted Widmer, I’m even more convinced that learning more about Lincoln is a rewarding, and inspiring, pursuit.

I mentioned this book in a recent interview about being a public speaker. When you read the book, you stand beside Lincoln on platforms, in crowded ballrooms, and inside noisy train cars. Being born and raised in the land of Lincoln, I feel a kinship for Honest Abe’s larger-than-life leadership legacy.

Although the book only covers 13 days, it’s an in-depth and well-research read that took the author eight years to complete. How did Lincoln tie leadership and technology together: networks and keynotes.

Where did the words network and keynote come from?

“With so many ideas flying down the tracks, new words were needed to describe a rapidly changing landscape. To many, the embroidery of wires suggested something delicate and fine, like a fisherman’s net or a spider’s spinning. By 1848, a new word was in use to describe a ‘net-work like a spider’s web.'” Telegraph poles and wires connected the length and breadth of the land.

In 1860, more than four million messages were sent through a web that extended nearly fifty thousand miles.

John Hay coined the term key-note. “Lincoln had struck ‘the key-note of the journey.’ Key-note was an apt phrase, a musical term for the short humming of a tone before a chorus finds the right key to sing in. That was precisely what Lincoln had found, to the accompaniment of Springfield’s bells and whistles.”

Source: Lincoln on the Verge: 13 Days to Washington by Ted Widmer

How did Abraham Lincoln tie leadership and technology together?

In 2009, on Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, I wrote . . .

While there’s lots of talk about our new president being the first to bring technology into White House communications, maybe this reference really belongs to President Obama’s role model, Abraham Lincoln.

On November 7, 2006 – election day – I wrote a post called Abe Lincoln’s T-Mails: high-tech Civil War communications.

Inspired by MicroPersuasio’s post about what a book about Abe Lincoln can teach bloggers, here’s a recap of the original post . . .

Here’s a brief clip from author Tom Wheeler’s site about his book, Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mail . . .

“Abraham Lincoln became president of a divided nation during a period of both technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay
connected to the forces in the field in almost real-time. No leader in history had ever possessed such a powerful tool. As a result, Lincoln had to learn for himself how to use the power of electronic messages. Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln developed his own model of electronic communications — an approach that echoes today in our use of email.”

Lincoln probably wouldn’t approve of an elaborate tribute and a blog isn’t the platform for elongated entries.

But, it is election day and because I’ve spent my whole life (except for a few months in Indiana) as a resident of the Land of Lincoln, I’d like to share a few thoughts and links with you.

Growing up in Danville, Illinois my home was only a few blocks from Ward Hill Lamon’s office. As a teenager, I volunteered as a Vermilion County Museum tour guide. The museum is housed in William Fithian’s home.  Lincoln gave a speech on the balcony in his stocking feet and slept in the bed in the room. Visit the museum the next time you’re in Danville, Illinois.

Learn more about Lincoln online . . .

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Stories about Abraham Lincoln and his law partner in Danville, Ward Hill Lamon

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Lincoln’s Final Resting Place

The Lincoln Room at Vermilion County Museum

Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago

One last thing I’d like to share . . .

Here at home, we have a rare copy of Ida M. Tarbell’s The Life of Abraham Lincoln, written in 1895. Our copy is from 1900. “Drawn from original SOURCES and containing many SPEECHES, LETTERS and TELEGRAMS hitherto unpublished, and illustrated with many reproductions from original Paintings, Photographs, et cetera,” says the intro on the faceplate.

The preface to Volume II’s appendix [pages 265-459] states, “The following Letters, Telegrams and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln have been collected by the author in the course of the work of preparing this Life of Lincoln. None of these documents appear in Lincoln’s ‘Complete Works’ edited by Nicolay and Hay or in any other collection of his writings.”  The first telegram is dated August 10, 1883;  the last is dated April 11, 1865, only 4 days before his passing.

After reading about Wheeler’s take on Lincoln’s telegrams, I’m anxious to page through my 106-year-old book as a reference for expedient email communication.

If you’re wondering about Ida M. Tarbell . . .

Known for her exposes of corporate America, particularly Standard Oil, along with her Lincoln biographies, Ms. Tarbell was a newspaper and magazine writer
as well as an editor, lecturer, and muckraker.

“Imagination is the only key to the future. Without it none exists – with it all things are possible.”  Ida M. Tarbell

Here’s hoping you voted today . . .


Today, I’m reading Lincoln, the Biography of a Writer  and sharing one of Lincoln’s many famous quotes with you.

“There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite.” Herndon’s Life of Lincoln by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (New York, Da Capo Press, 1983), p. 354.

What’s your Lincoln story?

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