New Podcast Episode: The Black Hills – Mt Rushmore, Black Elk Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial

The Disneyfied, Las-Vegased Main Street of Deadwood.

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Journal: Horsethief Campground North, Black Hills National Forest, Saturday evening, July 22nd, 2017

It’s a little before 10 pm, the last vestige of the sun’s light has left the sky. The starlight is somewhat obscured by the slight haze and the ambient light from this bustling, heavily populated campground. The children’s shouting and crying are finally quieting down but the teens and adults are still chatting, and some are partying. I chose this site, one, because it was available (it was the last one) and two, because of its proximity to the hike I have planned for early tomorrow, I’ll tell you about that after it happens. My tent is pitched for the night, my clothes are ready for the morning. I’ll be glad when the night is over and I can leave this campsite. … Read the written version here

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Springfield, Illinois, In Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 2

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Illinois. The Museum is to the left, the Library is to the right

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

After my visit to the Lincoln Tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery and a quick stop to drop off my luggage at the room where I’ll be staying, I continue my Springfield journey downtown at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, 112 N. Sixth St. It’s a large complex, the two public buildings each stretching the length of one city block along N. Sixth. It has a very late-1990’s – early 2000’s style, neither particularly handsome nor offensive in my view, just… generic. I associate it with municipal buildings such as city halls, libraries, and large post offices, perhaps because so many were built in this general style in my native California throughout my teens and my early adulthood.

I start with the Museum at the northeast corner of N. Sixth and E. Jefferson. After passing through the foyer and security entrance, I step into a large central room, with very tall ceilings and a life-size family grouping of the Lincoln family. I find I’ve neglected to take pictures of this, I think because I don’t like the sculptures much. For the most part, I don’t care for sculptures that attempt to recreate historical figures in a hyper-realistic way. These ones look like giant dolls: the hair looks like cheap wigs; the postures are stiff and slightly unnatural; and the face paint is a little off, like not-quite-successful funeral-parlor makeup. This one of those sorts of things like playing the bagpipe or the violin, I think: you need to get it just right or the result is unpleasant. The overall effect of these figures, to me, is a little creepy and more than a little campy.

‘Satire on Slavery’ exhibit featuring ‘Fragment on Pro-Slavery Theology’. In these 1858 notes, Abraham Lincoln mocked pro-slavery arguments. On exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Springfield

Still, overall, I like the museum well enough, and I do enjoy most of the life-size, walk-through dioramas of imagined scenes from Abraham Lincoln’s life. The figures within them look better in the low light and they are surrounded by original and recreated interiors, structures, and artifacts of interest, so they are properly illustrative and educational for a museum. They do also have something of an amusement park quality but, hearing the reactions of the visiting children and the discussions following their questions, they appear to be effective in sparking interest in Lincoln’s history.

‘President Abraham Lincoln is blamed for the Civil War’s huge human toll and for deflecting the issue with his notorious storytelling in this 1864 cartoon by Joseph E. Baker.’ – Image and its caption courtesy of the Library of Congress. I don’t remember that a reproduction of this particular cartoon is displayed in the ALPM, but it’s representative of the sort of cartoons on display in the Whispering Room exhibit. As you may know, or may remember from one of my earlier accounts, Lincoln was notorious, for good or ill, for his penchant for storytelling

Pocket compass and sundial which belonged to Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather of the same name. He was a Revolutionary War captain and moved from Virginia to Lincoln’s native Kentucky in 1782. ALPL&M, Springfield

There’s one exhibit hall which I find particularly creative and interesting: it’s covered with reproductions satirical political cartoons critical of Lincoln’s real and fabricated opinions and policies. It’s an effective way to reveal the political issues and contrasting beliefs of the time, and the ways in which our nation was so deeply divided, just as we are deeply divided now. Comedy and satire, then as now, are two of the most efficient ways of communicating the nuances of issues that otherwise can be difficult to clearly explain. I did hear one grandmother use this as a teaching moment to tell her grandchild that, see, it’s not nice to make fun of presidents, just like people are making fun of Donald Trump today! I think she may have missed the point of the exhibit a little.

I also find many of the original artifacts on exhibit particularly interesting and I wish there was more space dedicated to the exhibit of these than to dioramas. There’s a tiny and delicate looking pocket sundial and compass set belonging to Captain Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln’s grandfather. They must not have been so delicate, however, since they traveled with him from Virginia to Kentucky in 1782, quite a rugged trek in those days.

Original front door key and deed of sale of the Lincoln family home in Springfield, on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

An original plaster model by Gutzon Borglum for his 1908 marble bust of Lincoln is also on display. The bronze bust of Lincoln at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield and the other smaller one in Peoria Heights are also derived from this plaster cast. As you can see, and as the accompanying placard in the museum describes, Borglum left the left side of Lincoln’s face unfinished and without an ear. He explained that he thought the right side of Lincoln’s face was fully developed and much more expressive while the left side was ‘immature.’ However, when he sculpted Lincoln into the Mt. Rushmore National Monument, Lincoln’s head is positioned so that the left side of his face is more readily seen. But there as here, his left ear is unsculpted. I wonder how long it took Borglum to decide where to place Lincoln’s head among the others on Mt. Rushmore, given that he preferred the right side of his face. In Borglum’s original model for Mt Rushmore, the left side of Lincoln’s face is fully sculpted, ear and all. But Mt. Rushmore is unfinished. It was even less finished when Borglum died, but his son, whom he named Lincoln, by the way, completed the sculpture to the point we see today. I also wonder if Lincoln Borglum decided not to finish carving the left side of Lincoln’s face based on this plaster cast and on his father’s remarks.

Plaster cast by Gutzon Borglum for 1908 marble bust now in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building. On display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

After touring the Museum, I cross the street and step into the Library to see if there are any more interesting artifacts on exhibit. There are only a few, and none that I find that are directly linked to Lincoln. The Library’s soon to close, so I’ll return another time to explore it more fully and to get some writing done.

Old State Capitol Building at 6th and Adams Streets, Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln had many associations with this building and its predecessor, a brick courthouse in the center of the square which was torn down to make room for this one

I head south for one block, turn right, and enter the Greek Revival Old State House to my left. It’s a handsome, classical Doric-order building in natural, textured cream and pinkish-tan stone with a smoothly painted off-white tall, narrow, red-roofed dome that looks as if it’s been stuck on top without concern as to whether it will match or not. Nevertheless, the effect is good: it all works together, somehow. It was mainly built between 1837-1840, completed in 1851, and then reconstructed in the 1960’s. It stands by itself among a large grassy lawn and gardens in the public square bordered by E. Washington St, S. 6th St, E. Adams St, and S. 5th St.

Parts of the structure we see here today are original, but much of it had been changed drastically over the years: in 1899, the entire building was raised to insert a new ground floor underneath, and a new dome replaced the old to better harmonize with the building’s changed proportions. The building had quickly become too small to accommodate the staff and the public in this rapidly growing state capital. Even with the addition of another floor, the administrative needs of the city outgrew the old state house and it was moved to a grand new capital building. In 1876, this building became the Sangamon County Courthouse. In the subsequent years, the building survived every successive move in and out of the various county bodies that had been assigned to it. It was the scene of so many great historic moments, especially those associated with the life and death of Lincoln, that all motions to tear it down were firmly opposed and defeated. Finally, in the 1960’s, the historic value of the building was fully realized in a complete restoration. What I see here today is a faithful manifestation of the original design and decor; examinations of old photos reveal that both the interior and exteriors appear almost exactly as they did in Lincoln’s time.

Old State House, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, by Clark Bullard for the Historic American Buildings Survey, July 13, 1935. Public domain via the Library of Congress. Notice the ground floor and larger dome that had been added in 1899-1900.

Lincoln had many connections with this site, in the 1831 red-brick courthouse that stood in the middle of the square, and in the state house built here over its former location. In 1901, historian Henry Douglas Giger wrote:

‘The brick court house stood in the middle of the square, and was completed in 1831 at a cost of $6,841.00. It was a two‐story square, brick building, with a hip roof, and cupalo on top, similar to the court houses peculiar to the Mississippi valley at that period, and from the time it was built all the business of the town centered around the square, and the old town on Jefferson street began to decay. The row of small shops on the east end of the north side of the square was called “Chicken Row.” In the fall of 1835 a young man fresh from the prim and dignified courts of New York arrived in Springfield. He wandered into the brick building standing in the center of the square, and saw the judge on his bench with his chair tilted back, his heels higher than his head, a cob pipe in his mouth, his hair all awry, and before him stood a small dark man with long black hair pleading his case. Attentively listening sprawled a long sombre form on the low platform used for the judge’s rostrum. The room was filled with men laughing and smoking. The judge was Stephen T. Logan, acknowledged to be the greatest lawyer Illinois has ever produced. The little man was Stephen A. Douglas the “Little Giant,” and the form on the floor was that of Abraham Lincoln, destined in the years to come to be the two foremost characters in the most formidable crisis the Union ever knew.’

Six years after this scene that Giger described took place, Lincoln would become Logan’s law partner. More on that to come. And as you know, Lincoln’s public debates with the ‘Little Giant’ Douglas 19 and then again 23 years later would catapult him to the national stage. Lincoln attended many court sessions in the old brick courthouse that stood here while he was studying to become a lawyer in the mid-1830’s. After he earned his law license in September of 1836, Lincoln would have argued his early cases here, and then in the larger, grander brick courthouse that was built in 1845 across the street where the building at 104 N. 6th St stands now. That was the county courthouse until it moved back here to its original location in the public square in January of 1876. That second brick courthouse was torn down shortly after that.

Lincoln likely visited that first brick courthouse which stood on this site a few years before he heard Logan argue that 1835 case. On March 26th, 1832, there was a celebration for the successful voyage of the steamer Talisman up the Sangamon River, while Lincoln was running his first political campaign for state legislator when he was 23 years old (he lost that one). He was a shop clerk at the time, with less than one year of formal education, and he hopped on board to pilot the Talisman through this section of the river. Lincoln was an experienced boatman at this point and knew this river well.

Interior of the Hall of Representatives, Old State House, Springfield, Illinois

On October 3rd and 4th, 1854, Lincoln and Douglas held their first debate here at the State House in the Hall of Representatives. It was not a scheduled debate. Douglas was on a cross country campaign to garner public support for his Kansas-Nebraska Act, co-drafted with President Franklin Pierce, which effectively overturned the Missouri Compromise. The 1820 Compromise prohibited slavery in all new territories and states north of the 36°30′ parallel except for Missouri. The 1854 Act would leave the issue up to the individual states and territories to decide for themselves. Douglas, as we’ve seen, defended the Act as an instantiation of popular sovereignty on the principle that people have the right to govern themselves. Lincoln, by his own account, was drawn back into politics by the passage of the Act and his opposition to Douglas’ arguments and tried many times to schedule a public debate with Douglas, but the proud Senator refused to share a stage with this homegrown lawyer and minor ex-politician.

Douglas was originally scheduled to speak outdoors at the Illinois County Fair on October 3rd, but the speech was moved indoors because of the rain. After he delivered his speech in the Hall of Representatives, Lincoln loudly announced that Douglas’ speech would be answered in this same hall the next day, and Douglas could respond if he chose to do so. Douglas apparently felt he had no choice this time, and he appeared on the stage the next day. Lincoln’s three-hour speech on October 4th covered most of the same ground as his Peoria speech delivered two weeks later. It was an effective speech on this occasion, and much more so when he delivered a refined version on the front portico of the old Peoria courthouse on October 16, 1854.

As I was growing up and even still today, I often heard that the Civil War was not really about slavery, it was about states’ rights. The South just wanted to stand up for the right of the people to govern themselves, it was said. It was not just Southern sympathizers and states’-rights proponents who perpetuated this idea, very many American historians did as well. As a child and a young adult, I accepted that received wisdom. But it’s quite clear from the texts of the Lincoln and Douglas debates and from the history of the public controversy surrounding the Dred Scott case, the Missouri Compromise, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, that this was not the case at all. It’s so clear that it’s not, in fact, that I still wonder why anyone believed it then or believes it now. Fortunately, most historians no longer accept that view.

Abraham Lincoln, September 1858, photographer unknown

A key reason why all of these compromises and acts failed to avert the Civil War was that Southern states were often in favor of allowing new territories and states to allow slavery if they chose, but they were not at all in favor of states deciding for themselves whether slaves taken into their territories automatically became free, or of states deciding for themselves whether to enforce federal fugitive slave laws. So, the Southern claim to be on the side of ‘states rights’ was selective, limited to allowing, protecting, and promoting slavery, and nothing else. Otherwise, they insisted that it was the duty of the federal government to protect slave-property rights of Southerners in all states and to enforce fugitive slave laws in free states as well. In short, it was all about slavery, and Douglas’ doctrine of popular sovereignty came to be recognized as the non-solution it was. Lincoln’s election to the Presidency was the signal that the federal government was not going to enforce the right of slaveowners to own human beings against antislavery laws in free states. Therefore, most Southern states seceded from the Union.

Lincoln, having made a careful study and examination of the issues and history of race-based slavery in the United States, knew very well that no number of compromises and acts would effectively resolve the inevitable conflicts between free and slave states. The principles of liberty that the North and hypocritically, the South called upon to defend the rights of their states to defend or counteract slavery were incompatible with that institution. Since that same desire for liberty appears to be a constant in human nature, slaves would always escape to freedom in the North, inevitably leading to those same old fugitive-slave-law-conflicts between the states. And at that time, there was no reason to believe that slavery would just die out anytime soon, given the Dred Scott decision, the compromises that pleased no one for very long, and the constant expansion of the country that kept disrupting the balance of political power between slave and free states. So, at the State House, in the Hall of Representatives where he first confronted Douglas face to face, candidate-for-state-senator Lincoln delivered his famous ‘House Divided Speech‘ on June 16, 1858, in which he clearly and succinctly made that case. He lost the race for the Senate seat to Douglas, but in this case as it so often happened in his political career, Lincoln lost the battle but won the war. Douglas’ platform lost popularity as Lincoln’s reputation grew, and just two and a half years later, Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

Picture of Abraham Lincoln’s lying-in-state canopy in the Hall of Representatives, Old State House, Springfield

Lincoln’s Funeral at the Old State Capitol 1865. Springfield, Illinois. Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Almost seven years later, in 1865, Lincoln’s assassinated body lay in state here in the Hall of Representatives. He was no longer the fiery, energetic lawyer and politician seen in this Hall on so many occasions. Lincoln had guided the country through the most horrific war the States had ever seen, freed the slaves (at least on paper; race-based slavery de facto would not be ended until black codes, convict leasing, and other like practices were outlawed well into the twentieth century), saved the Union, and lost a beloved son. He had suffered much and therefore aged much in the few intervening years. I like to think he did not die in vain, but I’m not quite sure what that phrase means. Lincoln could have achieved what he did and not died, and therefore could have achieved much more, so his death was a great waste of potential as well as a great injustice. It’s true that he went from being a hero to many to being a martyr to even more, and many who were doubtful about his legacy became so no longer. The great Frederick Douglass was one of those. And it’s true that his perceived martyrdom went on to inspire many more people to do good in their own lives.

When researching this piece, I discover that our first black President, Barack Obama, chose to announce his candidacy for President here at the Old State Capitol building in February of 2007. I think it’s quite fitting.

To be continued

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: Lincoln Timelines and Highlights

Allen, Eric. ‘Creating Cartoons: Art and Controversy.’ Library of Congress Blog, June 2, 2015

Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Giger, Henry Douglas. ‘The Story of the Sangamon County Court House.’ Via the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk website, originally published Apr 29, 1901

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of its Cities, Villages and Townships … Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens. Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co.,  1881

Jackson, Nicholas. ‘Picture of the Day: Mount Rushmore as Originally Planned‘. The Atlantic, May 16, 2011

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service

Looking for Lincoln: various historical/informational placards throughout the Springfield, Illinois and surrounding areas about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at their associated sites

Old State Capitol (Sangamon County Courthouse).’ Historic Sites Survey, prepared by Stephen Lissandrello for the National Park Service, Apr 28, 1975

MacLean, Maggie. ‘Elizabeth Todd Edwards: Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.’ Civil War Women blog, Jul 28, 2013

Sangamon County Courthouse (Old State Capitol).‘ National Park Service Historic Site nomination paper, prepared by Charles  Shedd, Sep 14, 1961

Athens and Springfield, Illinois, Part 1, In Search of Abraham Lincoln

E. Hargrave and Main Streets in Athens, Illinois

Journal: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois, Monday morning, July 31, 2017

Here I am in the handsomely designed, nicely lit, spacious reading room of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. I don’t at this moment require any research materials from the collection, but as I often do, if I find myself with access to a grand space dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge, such as the Reading Room of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building or the National Library of Scotland, I feel the urge to go inside and do some thinking and writing just because I can. So here I am.

On Saturday evening, a sudden weariness and blueness of mood took me by surprise, and for the first time since I left home two weeks ago, I suddenly felt lonely. I realized I had been traveling at an unrelenting pace and it was time to rest. So over the weekend, I did a lot of strolling and lazing between bouts of purposeful touring and research. I watched Allied, a World War II romantic tragedy starring Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt, and enjoyed it very much. I talked to family and friends on the phone, sometimes while walking through grassy parks under tall green trees whose resident cicadas made quite a racket. I wrote postcards, and drank beer, and feasted on a delicious local specialty called a horseshoe, an artery-clogging concoction made from Texas toast, french fries, a sprinkling of vegetables if you so choose (I chose yes), and ground meat topped with a sort of cheese sauce similar to that on a Welsh rarebit. I ordered mine spicy, so it came with hot sauce to pour over it.

So here I am this morning, rested, happy, reconnected with my loved ones and my sense of adventure, planning my itinerary for the rest of today and the next. I’m also thinking about the many things I’ve learned and seen here in and around Springfield…

Abraham Lincoln’s Long Nine Museum, also known as the Rogers’ Building, Athens, Illinois. It used to house the post office and general store, both of which Lincoln somewhat frequently visited through much of the 1830’s

Athens, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017

I drive to Springfield from Peoria, about an hour south, and on the way, I notice a highway sign indicating the exit for an Abraham Lincoln historic site. As I did for the last one to Galesburg, I decide to take this Lincoln detour. A series of signs lead me through lovely green farmlands and tidy business establishments and houses to Athens’ old Main Street neighborhood where there are several sites associated with the life and political career of Lincoln. I park at E. Hargrave and Main, near the brick building at the corner with the ‘Old Milwaukee’ sign, and cross the street to a Looking for Lincoln placard with a Lincoln site map.

Historical placards for the Rogers Building – Abraham Lincoln Long Nine Museum, Athens, Illinois

Lincoln never lived here in Athens but he did visit, many times; he lived near here in New Salem, more about that later. Athens was a larger, more bustling community than New Salem, and mail delivery was more consistent, too. Lincoln was New Salem’s postmaster from 1833 to 1836, and he came to Athens to pick up the mail occasionally when the Sangamon River, which runs between here and New Salem, was in flood and prevented its delivery.

The post office in Athens, at this time, was located here in the white clapboard Rogers Building on Main St at Jefferson. This building now houses the Abraham Lincoln Long Nine Museum, which is closed as I peer through its windows.Some years after Lincoln’s stint as the New Salem Postmaster, he and the other eight members of the Illinois State Legislature were honored here with a celebratory dinner in the upstairs banquet room on August 3rd, 1837. The dinner celebrated their success in getting the capital of Illinois moved from Vandalia to the more bustling Springfield. This iteration of the Legislature, nicknamed the ‘Long Nine’ because of their average height of 6 feet, included Ninian W. Edwards, the husband of his future wife Mary Todd’s sister Elizabeth. Ninian and Elizabeth will re-enter my story later on during my Springfield journey.

Detail of Looking for Lincoln placard showing a 1870’s tintype of the Rogers Building. As you can see, the buildings, front and back, look essentially the same today, sans chimneys.

I continue south on Main St, cross Madison, then continue about one-third of the long block between Madison and Little Streets. The fourth house on the left is at 400 Main St, the site of the home of Robert Wilson, one of Lincoln’s fellow Long Nine legislators, according to the Looking for Lincoln map. Lincoln stayed here at Wilson’s place on many occasions when he was in town, even borrowing a horse from Mrs. Wilson in 1836 while on campaign. Perhaps Wilson, as a fellow ‘long’ man, had a bed that Lincoln could fit in!

Robert Wilson used to live at this site where Abraham Lincoln would stay sometimes while in Athens, according to the Looking for Lincoln map. This house doesn’t look original to me, I’m supposing the map marks the site, not the building.

In any case, as well as serving in the legislature together, they were fellow political campaigners and remained friends for a long time. During the Civil War, he joined the Union Army, then Lincoln gave him an appointment as a paymaster. In those days, it was common practice for Presidents and their administrations to grant government appointments to friends and political supporters. Hopefully, these appointees would have appropriate experience, but this was entirely up to the discretion of the one doing the appointing. At times, Lincoln did appoint people he believed had the experience and/or ability for the position; at other times, he traded desirable appointments political favors. As the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln accurately portrays, this was a key tactic that Lincoln used for getting enough votes to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, legally abolishing slavery throughout the U.S.. After the Civil War and the new depths of corruption in the administration of Lincoln’s next elected successor, his General-in-Chief of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant, the civil service was reformed so that, at least ostensibly, appointees were given the jobs solely based on merit and relevant experience.

One more thing: Wilson, in his 1866 description of Lincoln’s thought processes, made me aware of the word ratiocination. Nice. I like learning new words that are fun to say aloud.

Banks Hall’s Tavern site on the northwest corner of Mill and Jefferson Sts in Athens, Illinois. The house which stands here today retains parts of the original tavern, which was a remodeled frame house built by Abner Banks Hall’s father.

I double back on Main St and turn left on Jefferson St to my next destination at Jefferson and Mill. On the northwest corner, there’s a blue clapboard two-story house with white trim. This house incorporates the old Banks Hall’s Tavern, where Lincoln stayed and ate sometimes. The proprietors were Abner Banks Hall and Helen Jennett Francis Hall. Helen was Simeon Francis’ niece, and Simeon Francis came to have many close connections with Lincoln. I’ll return to that story when I’m in Springfield.

Banks Hall’s Tavern was the best place to get a bite to eat on that part of the stage route between Beardstown, New Salem, and Springfield. Perhaps he stayed here when he was a local surveyor as well; he surveyed the new Sangamon Town Road, which angled to meet Main St from the south and west, in 1834. He had become a surveyor as a likely way to supplement his meager living as a postmaster. His first two runs for political office had failed, his militia service had been brief and relatively uneventful, and his first foray into business as a shop owner had failed and left him in debt. Surveying was a skilled trade but one that could be self-taught for free, so thus Lincoln did. But he didn’t remain a surveyor for long. The pay was still not that great and his debts were substantial, so he began to teach himself law and again ran for state legislator. This time, he won a seat.

Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

I know that if I continue in the direction I was going, I would get to New Salem before long. However, the day’s getting on and I want to make some good progress exploring Springfield and gathering more information there first, so I pick up the car and continue south.

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017

After about a 20 minute drive, I reach my first Springfield destination: the Lincoln Tomb. I wind through the hilly cemetery with its granite monuments and headstones almost white in the summer sun, and park the car. I round the showy, castellated old caretaker’s building and cross the lawn.

I find that the Lincoln Tomb is absolutely lovely. It’s just about the most elegant, grand while neither overblown or fussy monument one could wish for. There are monumental sculptures surrounding the central towering obelisk which include fighting men, a rearing horse, and Lincoln himself, charged with drama and historical moment. The statues are well spaced and there’s not too many so the ones that are here stand out and invite study. Taste and restraint rule here as much as the desire to do great honor to the man buried below.

Gutzon Borglum’s portrait bust of Lincoln at the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery

There’s a bronze version of the same Gutzon Borglum portrait bust of Lincoln that I saw in Peoria Heights. This one’s larger, and its nose is shiny. I guess people rub it for luck; a giggling family was doing this very thing as I arrive. There’s a statue of David Hume with a shiny big toe on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it shines for the same reason. For some reason, I feel very differently about the Lincoln nose-rubbing than I do of the Hume toe-rubbing. The statue of Hume is on a public street, while Lincoln’s bust is at his tomb in a cemetery. The moment I see those kids jumping up, egged on by their mom with the dad taking pictures, I feel disturbed, even a little offended. My father’s strict injunctions against unruly and disrespectful behavior in the presence of the dead and other solemn places remain deeply instilled in me, I suppose. I feel like scolding them. It also feels disrespectful to mess around with the image of someone’s face, rather than a toe or a sleeve, especially when it serves to disfigure it in some way. It gives Lincoln’s bronze portrait the clownish look of a cartoon image of a drunk with a shiny red nose. Apparently, however, many thousands of my fellow citizens feel differently than I do about this.

Floor plaque showing layout of the Lincoln Tomb and the sculptures with their names and artists, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

I open the front door, which is a single one the size of an ordinary interior door, presumably because such a relatively small entrance is easy to guard against grave robbers, and enter. Yes, grave robbers. At least one attempt has been made to steal Lincoln’s body before, and history is rife with grave-robbing of the tombs of the rich, powerful, and honored dead. When Lincoln’s remains were moved to their final resting place in 1901, ten feet below the Tomb’s central chamber in a concrete-and-steel reinforced vault, the portion of the coffin lid that would cover the head and shoulders was cut open. After a brief view of the face to confirm identity, which was still recognizable after all those decades, the coffin was resealed.

Statue of Lincoln in the center of the antechamber at the Lincoln Tomb, a copy of the statue at his Washington, D.C. memorial

I step into a marble-lined, oval room with a bronze sculpture of Lincoln on a pedestal in the center, a smaller version of the Lincoln Memorial statue in Washington, D.C.. There are many such bronze statues throughout the tomb, smaller versions of larger statues in various places. They are placed in alcoves in corridors that surround the central square room. The burial chamber is in the interrupted-oval room at the north end of the structure, which is above Lincoln’s actual burial vault. A red granite symbolic empty tomb for Lincoln, called a cenotaph, stands in the center. Crypts behind the south wall of this chamber holds the remains of his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his sons, Edward, William, and Thomas (called Tad). Lincoln’s oldest son Robert wanted to be buried here as well, but his wife decided otherwise. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as he served briefly in the Union Army and then as the 35th Secretary of War under Presidents James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Lincoln’s only grandson, Abraham Lincoln II (called Jack), was originally buried here, but he was re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery after his father’s death.

Four sculptures from the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Four more sculptures from the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

The Tomb is as beautiful inside as it is outside, with a very different feel. Outside, the pale granite gleams, and the monument’s structures and sculptures tower and rise. Inside, the marble and granite and bronze glow gently in the lowly-lit rooms, the golden honey atmosphere at least as much a result of the lights as it is of the materials. I suspect the warm tone of these electric lights was chosen to reflect the quality of light of the gas lamps and candles that lit interiors in Lincoln’s time. The mood is warm despite the cold stones and metal, and the place feels close and solemn: it wraps around you just as it does around itself, just as a shroud does the departed. No one rubs any of the facsimiles of Lincoln’s nose in here, though as you can see from the photos, they do rub the toes of his boots.

Abraham Lincoln’s red granite cenotaph in the burial chamber of the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery

Receiving vault at the north foot of the Lincoln Tomb, the first resting place of Lincoln at Oak Ridge Cemetery, from May to December 1865

I pay my respects and look long at the sculptures and the architecture details, then re-emerge to the hot summer day. Down the hill to the north of the Tomb, there are two more structures of interest. At the north foot of the Tomb’s hill, there’s a pedimented marble vault with an iron gate. This was the initial resting place of Lincoln at Oak Ridge Cemetary in May of 1865, along with the remains of his son William, who had died in 1862, during Lincoln’s first term in office. The caskets remained here, under guard, until December of that year, until they were interred in a temporary vault partway up the ridge towards the Tomb here today. Lincoln, William, and his two other deceased sons were reburied within the unfinished Tomb in 1871.

Tower holding the large white stone slab upon which Abraham Lincoln’s casket first rested at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

The other is a castellated tower across the path from the receiving vault. It holds the original large flat stone, mounted upright and engraved, upon which Lincoln and his son William’s caskets were placed for the many months they awaited their temporary resting place on the ridge. The tower was built in 1900, the year before Lincoln’s casket was opened to confirm the presence of his remains, then re-interred in its permanent, secure resting place deep beneath the floor of the Tomb’s burial chamber.

As I leave Oak Ridge Cemetery, I wind among the lots before I find the way out. It’s a pretty and peaceful place and I would linger if I were a less restless traveler.

I continue south towards downtown Springfield and head for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I see so many interesting things here that I want to tell you about. Since this tale has already grown somewhat lengthy, I’ll continue the tale of my day’s explorations in my next installment of my explorations following the life and ideas of Lincoln in Springfield. Stay tuned!

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Long Nine Museum website: Walking Tour Map and Lincoln’s Connection

Abraham Lincoln OnlineLincoln Timelines and Highlights and Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site

Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of its Cities, Villages and Townships … Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens. Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co.,  1881

Illinois Ancestors.orgAbner Banks Hall and The Grandfathers Vol.I, The Hall and Overstreet Families

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. National Park Service website

Looking for Lincoln: various historical/informational placards throughout the Springfield, Illinois and surrounding areas about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at their associated sites

MacLean, Maggie. ‘Elizabeth Todd Edwards: Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.’ Civil War Women blog, Jul 28, 2013

Robert L. Wilson (1805-1880)‘ from Mr. Lincoln & Friends: The Politicians by The Lehrman Institute

Robertson, Peggy. ‘The Plot To Steal Lincoln’s Body.’ American Heritage, April/May 1982

Robert Todd Lincoln‘ In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Rogers, Colonel Matthew Building/Abraham Lincoln Long Nine Museum.‘ National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Prepared by John R. Ede, Oct 1, 2004

Strange History Brought to Light‘ and ‘…And His Face Was Chalky White’ by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt, Life Magazine, Feb 15, 1963

The Black Hills – Mt Rushmore, Black Elk Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial

The Disneyfied, Las-Vegased Main Street of Deadwood.

Journal: Horsethief Campground North, Black Hills National Forest, Saturday evening, July 22nd, 2017

It’s a little before 10 pm, the last vestige of the sun’s light has left the sky. The starlight is somewhat obscured by the slight haze and the ambient light from this bustling, heavily populated campground. The children’s shouting and crying are finally quieting down but the teens and adults are still chatting, and some are partying. I chose this site, one, because it was available (it was the last one) and two, because of its proximity to the hike I have planned for early tomorrow, I’ll tell you about that after it happens. My tent is pitched for the night, my clothes are ready for the morning. I’ll be glad when the night is over and I can leave this campsite. I’m rather regretting choosing this spot because all the hubbub is breaking the peace and disturbing the beauty that this forest could bring, and worsens the disappointed surprise I’ve been feeling since I entered the Black Hills.

The first attraction (as a street sign identified it) that I came across after entering the Black Hills from the north is Deadwood. This Old West town has been converted to a sort of quaint Disneyland of themey cutesy old-timey trinket-mall combined with Las Vegas excess. I’m sure that if I expected to arrive at Disneyland-LasVegas, I’d think nothing of it, or take it all in with the sense of humor that usually keeps me from turning curmudgeon. But for the last few days I’ve been immersed in national parks, monuments, memorials, forests, and other spaces that move one to wonder and contemplation and even enlightenment. They’re managed so as to showcase, and to protect, and to educate about the natural wonders or important historical occurrences that caused them to be instituted. When I saw that ‘Black Hills National Forest’ sign among the lovely pines across from a glowing red clay hillside, I was happily anticipating more of that since that’s primarily what I was here for.

But here on Deadwood’s Main Street, the greed for gold, which drove our theft and rape of this natural treasure from those who treated it with the leave-no-trace care that did much better justice to its grandeur, is celebrated without any apparent self-consciousness. The signs proclaim ‘Black Hills Gold!’ and ‘Celebrity Hotel!’ and ‘Gaming!Gaming!Gaming!’ I would not presume to speak for any Native American of the Great Plains, but I can imagine that seeing this screamingly cartoon take on the gold rush, for the sake of which countless numbers of their people suffered, died, and were dispossessed of the homes and ways that gave life its meaning, as a result of greed for that ultimately useless soft yellow metal… I imagine that if I saw this while remembering what happened to my ancestors, I would want to vomit or set it all on fire.

Billboards off the highway through the Black Hills, 2017 Amy Cools

Billboards off the highway through the Black Hills. ‘Buy booze!’ they shout.

As I continued my drive, I passed tacky billboard after tacky billboard, loud recreational vehicles roaring by painted in garish colors, each casino and resort and gimmicky attraction following on each other’s heels with tedious regularity, and my mood continued to slump.

As there was a just enough light left to get a look at one of my destinations, I followed the signs to Mt Rushmore. I arrived not long after sunset. It was crowded and it cost $10 to park in the massive parking garage across from the monumental sculpture carved out of the rock of the cliff side (unfortunately, my magic annual National Park pass didn’t work to waive the concession parking charge, as the signs refer to it). The parking garage is actually well-designed for its purpose: it accommodates a huge number of vehicles while not interfering with the view of the sculpture and directs the considerable traffic very efficiently.

Mt Rushmore in Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota, shortly after sunset

Bust of Gutzon Borglum by Lincoln Borglum, Mt Rushmore viewing platform, Black Hills, SD

Mt Rushmore is an impressive, beautifully executed sculpture. There’s an excellent telling of the creation of the Mt Rushmore sculpture by PBS’s American Experience, I very much recommend it.

I don’t care so much for the bust of the Mt. Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum that I passed on the walkway to the viewing platform. The bust is the work of Borglum’s son Lincoln, who helped sculpt Mt Rushmore especially in the finishing stages after his father’s death in 1941. It’s technically good but rather stiff. Except for the semewhat redeeming little smile on the lips, the portrait bears an unfortunate resemblance to those forbidding Lenin busts and sculptures so omnipresent in parts of midcentury Europe. Gutzon Borglum had talent and perseverance and sculpted many of the most important figures in American history, and I’ve encountered his work many times throughout my historical travels. However, I’m not an admirer of him personally; perhaps that contributes to my impression of his portrait bust. He was a rather unscrupulous character and an unabashed white supremacist. I’ve no doubt he was aware of the incongruousness, even insult inherent in carving U.S.-presidential portraits into this U.S.-stolen mountain.

Walkway to the viewing platform at Mt Rushmore

It was sort of a carnival atmosphere when I approached the viewing platform. Patriotic music started blaring over the loudspeakers, and I heard talk of a light show. I was struck by the lack of diversity in the large crowd: I could count non-white people there on two hands. Born and raised in Southern California and having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for fifteen years, I always find a lack of diversity discomfiting. I am used to being around a wide ethnic variety of people and I love it.

I thought about which of the four presidents would approve of their 60-foot-tall likenesses here. Washington and Jefferson: no, surely. Both were wary of the power of power to corrupt one’s character, and neither believed in deifying other human beings, especially themselves, in the way that this extraordinary sculpture seems to do. I’m a little less sure that Lincoln would wholly disapprove: he did believe in the unifying power of symbols, and he was an extremely ambitious man, though I think he was one of those rare characters whose ambition did little to erode his integrity. On the whole, I still think he would disapprove. Of the four, I think Theodore Roosevelt would most likely to approve if it, with his outsize personality, love of power, and ‘great man’ theory of history. He was a committed conservationist and was instrumental in creating the National Park system, but I still think he might approve of this particular exception to the rule of forbearance when it comes to altering natural wonders.

View of Horsethief Campground from my tent

After a rather short time on the viewing platform, I left. I was in no mood for a light show. The sculpture is impressive and looks lovely in the low soft light of the evening, but it just doesn’t belong here in the Black Hills.

Journal: On Black Elk Peak, Black Hills National Forest, Sunday afternoon, July 23rd, 2017

I woke up refreshed and cheerful this morning. The campers, cabin vacationers, and partiers of last night are getting ready for the day. Their evident satisfaction with this beautiful morning after a day and night of fun made me feel more kindly disposed towards them, and I chatted with several of them while waiting for a shower stall to open up, including the hospitable couple from the campsite next to mine who loaned me their camp light last night to set up my tent by.

Black Elk prays to the Six Grandfathers on Black Elk Peak, formerly known as Harney Peak, in 1931, when he ascends this peak for the first time in the flesh. He’s accompanied by his son, and by the poet and author John Neihardt with his daughters. Black Elk had been on this mountaintop in a vision when he was very young, a vision that guided him for the rest of this life. ‘He’d prepared in advance for this address to the gods. In his Vision, he’d been naked except for his breechclout, his body painted red, the color of the right road. But the girls were there and he didn’t want to embarrass them [what a gentleman! – AC], so he stepped behind an outcrop and a few minutes later emerged wearing a bright red union suit commonly called long johns. Over that he wore a black or dark blue breechclout, trimmed in green, and on his feet high stockings and beaded moccasins’ – Joe Jackson, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary

I packed up my tent and drove to the Sylvan Lake recreation center, where there’s a hotel, cabins, and structures for boating and water sports, and where I’ve been recommended by a few people to start my Black Elk Peak hike from. The young woman at the front desk looked and sounded quite a bit like Winona Ryder, but taller, leaner, more what’s often called ‘girl-next-door’. She looked to me like a local and a hiker so I approached her; my guess turned out to be right. I asked her about the hiking trails to Black Elk Peak, and she hesitated. I assured her that I’m a sturdy hiker and was looking for the best hike, not necessarily the most popular one. Her smile broadened, and she directed me to ascend via Trail #9, the Black Elk / Harney Peak Trail, from the Willow Creek trailhead rather than the Sylvan Lake one. The former is longer and more strenuous, but, she said, much more spectacular. ‘That’s the one, then!’ I said. After all, I’ve gone all this way to do this, so best do it right.

She was the first person in the Black Hills that didn’t react negatively to my calling it Black Elk Peak. It was finally renamed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names last year after years and years of protest. Until last year, it was named Harney Peak after General William S. Harney, whose forces massacred Native American women and children in the wars for the Plains. When I had asked various people for directions and advice or just mentioned my plans in conversation, the response was invariably a rather sour look and something like ‘Oh, you mean Harney Peak. It’ll always be Harney Peak around here.’ I realize people like familiar things to remain familiar, but I’m still disappointed by this ungenerous reaction. I mean, c’mon. We’ve taken these hills by force and trickery and are milking them for cash to this day, and we’ll never give them back. Let a little something of their sacred history be memorialized here, too.

Trailhead to Black Elk Peak / Harney Peak from Willow Creek, Black Hills, SD, via Trail #9 by way of Trail #8

A view from Trail #9 in the Black Elk Wilderness

Returning to my story, the woman at Sylvan Lake Hotel was right. I’m so very grateful that she sent me here. This 9 ½-mile out-and-back hike is glorious, from gently winding sandy horse trails through pines and voluminous wildflowers to steeper, narrower climbs between fantastic rock formations….

…. Continued later the same day: I stopped writing just there because I of a happy interruption.

As I was writing what you just read, I was perched on a rock near the edge of the peak with a very long, nearly sheer drop under my feet. At overlooks like this one, I like to reverse-Spiderman towards the edge, creeping face-up along on all fours so I can’t slip as I near it, until I find a hollow I can sit in. The depression needs to be deep enough so I can tuck my rear well into it and feel that there’s no way I can fall unless I really tried (this tactic allowed me to fully enjoy the grandest view possible of the Virgin River canyon at Zion National Park from Observation Point not too long ago). I took photos of the amazing scenery from my perch and then was inspired to write. I was so absorbed in my writing that I was unaware of what was happening right next to me until I heard the tinkle of a bell and someone say, ‘Whoa!’ I swung my head around in the direction of these sounds and I saw a couple with their medium-size dog (the bell was on its collar) well behind me on the rocks. I swung my head back around again towards the white shape they were looking at rather near to me on my right, also near the edge like I was.

Perched on a rocky ledge on Black Elk Peak

It was a female Rocky Mountain goat, a mature one, with curved pointed horns. She was perhaps twenty-five or thirty feet away from me. I was surprised that such a large animal could come so close without my noticing, but I think the people who know me best would not be surprised. When I’m reading or writing, generally, I’m pretty oblivious to what’s going on around me. I carefully gathered up my things that I had tucked into another crevice next to me, buckled my pack around my waist again, and backed up a little farther from the edge, moving slowly all the while. I wasn’t afraid of her since she was very clearly not afraid of me so long as I didn’t approach or make any sudden sounds or movements. She kept half an eye on the dog which was carefully restrained by its owners; it was quiet, tensed in riveted attention. After apparently satisfying herself that the dog was no threat, she turned her attention to me, sniffing energetically and edging herself in my direction, chewing her cud all the while. At a certain point, she turned and walked purposefully towards me, coming to a stop about 8-10 feet away. I was only a little nervous, but not as a result of her behavior: she was still at ease. I was just aware that she’s a wild animal, very large, her efficient tools for ridding herself of enemies, and I’m near the edge of a cliff. It’s her natural habitat, but not one I could navigate gracefully if I needed to beat a quick retreat.

A Rocky Mountain goat approaches me on Black Elk Peak

We observed each other for quite a while at these close quarters. She continued to sniff: at my scent? at the snacks in my bag? and to watch me, sometimes looking at my straw-colored hat flopping in the wind. I could almost reach out and touch her: she was only about two steps and an arm’s length away. At one point, however, I coughed, and she shied away about ten feet.

A panoramic view from Black Elk Peak with a Rocky Mountain goat

A broken rock reveals its inner shine, set on a fallen log

After quite awhile, I decided it was time to go. I was thirsty, and I noticed my legs were getting sunburned. I still had a long trek ahead of me, mostly downhill, but steep and very hot. I rose slowly to my feet, and the goat ambled a few more feet away. I looked back at her at the edge of the rocks as I left. She looked grand standing there, ageless.

I wound my way back down, and the sandy trail sparkled under my feet. It’s as if the passing stars, in their slightly changed positions in each night sky, left a pinpoint of their glow behind, except where spilled moonlight stuck to the ground in the form of shining rocks and large luminescent pieces of mica. The trail is beflaked liberally in many places by thin little sheets of this translucent and opalescent mineral.

The trail was also bounded by exuberant sprays and stands of wildflowers. The wild raspberries were bursting with fruit along most of my course up and down. The ripe berries fell off their stems with very little encouragement and were as effortless to eat too. They were so tender that chewing and swallowing were almost unnecessary: you could just roll them on your tongue then press gently in your mouth and they would just dissolve away. I must have eaten one or two pounds of them on the round trip.

Wild raspberries grow plentifully along Black Peak Trail

A view near the top of Black Peak Trail

Flowers and fruits along the Black Peak Trail

Another view from the Black Elk Peak Trail

When I reached the end of my hike, I rested a bit, then headed to the nearest KOA center for some ice. I was soaked in sweat and covered in dust, the latter stuck firmly to me from the former. First I poured several pints of water over the ice, drank all that down, then poured a warm bottle of beer from the car over the rest to enjoy that when I reached my next destination. I headed east on 244, then south on 385.

Portrait of Korczak Ziolkowski at the Crazy Horse Memorial Visitor Center. The unfinished frame is purposeful: by direction of the artist, the rest of it will be put in place when the Crazy Horse sculpture is finished

In the early 1930’s, Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear approached Gutzon Borglum with a proposal to create another monument carved into the Black Hills. This one would immortalize his cousin, the great warrior Crazy Horse, a leader of the victorious Native American forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Not surprisingly, Borglum turned him down. Standing Bear persevered in his search for another sculptor willing to undertake this massive project, and he found one: Korczak Ziolkowski, who had assisted with the carving of Mt Rushmore for a time. Standing Bear discovered him in a 1939 article about his prize-winning sculpture of the Polish pianist, politician, and independence activist Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Ziolkowski thought the project sounded like a worthy endeavor. He worked on this massive sculpture, which already dwarfs the Mt Rushmore sculpture, with determination and single-mindedness for the rest of his life. He did preliminary work on the Crazy Horse Memorial throughout the early 1940’s when he wasn’t serving in the military, then arrived in the Black Hills in 1947 to begin creating the actual sculpture. He married and had 10 children during this time as well, and died 35 years later on October 20, 1982. His wife and now many of his children carry on his work. It won’t be fully finished for another several decades at least. By the way, it’s fully funded by private donations and the proceeds from entry ticket sales, so if you believe it’s a worthy project too, you can donate here.

The Crazy Horse Memorial sculpture by Korczak Ziolkowski rises from the pines of the Black Hills

Inside the shabby but sturdy old school bus that takes us closer to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I particularly liked our tour guide and driver: a funny and warm sweetheart.

After I arrived at the Visitor Center, I looked at a few of the several thousand interesting and beautiful artifacts and artworks throughout, and then made my way back outside to get a better view of the memorial itself. At the bus stop, I rested, waiting with the other tourists for our ride closer to the sculpture, which is not generally accessible by foot since it’s an active work site. I sipped my cold and watery beer, ate my beef jerky, and chatted with other travelers.

Working model of Crazy Horse Memorial at the Visitor Center

Profile view of George Washington’s sculpted head from the side of Mt Rushmore

When I returned from viewing the sculpture, I lingered at the visitor center and museum for awhile, I set off on my journey north and east to my next destination. On my way out from the Black Hills, I returned to Mt Rushmore, which was pretty much on my way, to see if I felt differently about it. The beauty of Black Elk Peak, seeing the Black Hills there as I had longed to see them, and then seeing the more noble and fitting endeavor of the Crazy Horse Memorial had left me feeling uplifted and inspired. Perhaps I could appreciate this work of art more fully and positively in my now very different frame of mind.

But, it was no good. I still felt the same about Mt Rushmore as I did the day before.

To be continued….

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Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Battle of Ash Hollow‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970

Crazy Horse Memorial, website by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation

Howard, Brian Clark. ‘Highest Point East of Rockies Renamed for Native American.’ National Geographic online, Aug 12, 2016

Jackson, Joe. Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

Mountain Goat‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Mount Rushmore‘. Season 14 Episode 4 of American Experience, PBS

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks, 1932

Shaer, Matthew. ‘The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore: The sculptor behind the American landmark had some unseemly ties to white supremacy groups‘. Smithsonian Magazine, Oct 2016

Taylor, Alan. ‘Statue or Bust: Around the World in Lenins‘. The Atlantic, Oct 9, 2014

Seventh Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

Former site of the Hotel d'Orleans at 17 rue Bonaparte, Paris

Front door of 17 rue Bonaparte, Paris, at or near the former site of the Hotel d’Orleans

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Today’s tale will be a shorter one, though the places I do make it to are wonderful and full of interest. It’s my last full day in Paris and I’m accompanied by my tired husband, so we take it easy. We visit Serge Gainsbourg’s house in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, enjoy some celebratory Paris-Brest pastries  from La Pâtisserie des Rêves on rue du Bac (considered by many to be the very best), take a boat ride on the Seine (a lovely way to see the city!), and otherwise just stroll around at a very leisurely pace, stopping here and there for a coffee or a cold drink.

On our way to the pastry shop, we swing by 17 rue Bonaparte, where, sometime in early to mid-August of 1784, Thomas Jefferson and his daughter Patsy moved from the smaller Hôtel d’Orleans on rue de Richelieu to more comfortable lodgings at this larger hotel, also named d’Orleans. This street was named the rue des Petits-Augustins in Jefferson’s time, and this time around, I have the address. The Hôtel would be Jefferson and Patsy’s home until he found the one that was supposed to be their permanent home in Paris on cul-de-sac Taitbout that October, and until he settled on a good school for Patsy. However, as we have seen, Jefferson ended up living the longest on Champs-Élysées.

Rown of shops and hotels including 17 rue Bonaparte, at or near Hotel d'Orleans site, Paris

Row of shops and hotels including 17 rue Bonaparte at or near the Hotel d’Orleans site where Thomas Jefferson lived for a short time in the fall of 1784

 Cour du Commerce Saint André behind Cafe Procope, Paris,

Cour du Commerce Saint André behind Café Procope, Paris

Next, we head east on Boulevard Saint-Germain, passing the beautiful medieval Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. One of its chapels is the oldest surviving religious building in Paris, originally built in the 11th century, and I admire its spartan beauty.

We’re heading for Café Procope, which Jefferson frequented during his years in Paris in the company of Benjamin Franklin. Their time in Paris overlapped for a little less than a year, as Franklin left Paris in June of 1785, and Jefferson, as I have mentioned, arrived on August 6th, 1784. Franklin had already been a regular at Café Procope for many years, since 1776. The Café is located at 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comedie in the 6th Arrondissement, just off Bd. St-Germaine at Odéon, though we first spot it from the charming little pedestrian street that runs behind it named Cour du Commerce Saint André.

Cafe Procope and its flags, Paris

Cafe Procope and its flags

Marble plaques at Café Procope, 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Café Procope is a large, cheery restaurant, whose front is bedecked with flowerpots and flags from around the world. It’s considered the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Paris, and started as a literary cafe centered around conversation and coffee. Many of Paris’s best minds and most influential movers and shakers were guests here over the centuries: Jefferson, Franklin, Jean de La Fontaine, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Napoleon Bonaparte, Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Anatole France, and perhaps Thomas Paine too, though I haven’t been able to verify the latter. After all, Paine was a great friend of Franklin’s, a sort of protege of whom Franklin took the trouble to introduce to his friends both in Paris and in the United States.

Central stairway in Cafe Procope

Central stairway at Café Procope

We approach the hostess and ask if they have a bar; we want to spend some time here and take in the atmosphere, but we have our picnic lunch with us already. It turns out it’s only a sit-down restaurant, no bar or coffee service. We pause and look around a bit, and a tall man with salt and pepper hair, in response to my inquiring expression, welcomes us very warmly and gives me permission take pictures. We have a little chat, and I tell him of my project, and though he appears pleased to hear it it’s clear I’m not the first visitor interested in the history of the place. He also invites us to go to the upstairs suite of dining rooms and explore those rooms as well, since they’re doing a little painting and it’s closed to diners at the moment. It appears that he manages the restaurant according to the wise principle that all press is good press, and the more people share stories and pictures of the place, the better for all.

Two interior views of upstairs dining rooms in Café Procope, Paris

Two interior views of upstairs dining rooms in Café Procope, Paris

Facsimiles of letters of famous diners over the centuries at Cafe Procope

thomas-jefferson-plaque-and-upstairs-dining-nook-at-cafe-procope-paris-2015-amy-cools

Thomas Jefferson plaque and upstairs dining nook at Café Procope

Painting of a hot air balloon ride at Café Procope, Paris

Painting of a hot air balloon ride at Café Procope, Paris

The restaurant has numerous dining rooms, upstairs and down, and has a sweet little back terrace dining area facing the passage we first spotted the restaurant from. They’re decorated in shades of gold and red, which coupled with the large and numerous windows, lend the rooms a warm and cheerful feeling. The walls are covered with portraits, plaques, facsimiles of personal correspondence, and many more artifacts pertaining to the great people who have sipped coffee, dined, and talked here over the centuries.

There’s a plaque dedicated to Jefferson on the wall of one dining room south of the central stairway, and a scene of a hot air balloon taking off with an adventurous couple in the basket in the hall. Jefferson was fascinated with this technology, the first by which people could travel by air, and Jefferson witnessed this marvel for himself in Paris for the first time, in the Tuileries Gardens. This place is a treasure trove for a person following history as I am, and next time I’m in Paris, this will certainly be the first on my list of restaurants to splurge on dinner.

Parc Montsouris, Paris, France

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum at Parc Montsouris, Paris

Two views of the pedestal of the statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, at Parc Montsouris in Paris

At a certain point late in the afternoon, my exhausted husband decides to return to his hotel in Saint-Quentin en Yvelines where his bike and luggage are, so he can get plenty of sleep before leaving early in the morning, and we say goodbye until we see each other at home. I plan to stay up late, however, since my flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. So I decide that my last historical site to visit for this trip will be Parc Montsouris at the southern edge of Paris in the middle. I plan to spend my last evening at the Seine, watching the sun go down over the Île de la Cité, and I figure that I have time to get to the park and back before sunset. I’m headed to Parc Montsouris because the only statue of Thomas Paine in Paris is there, and to get there, I take the metro to the Port d’Orleans station then head east on Boulevard Jourdan. The park is across from the Cité Universitaire, and the statue is just off the pathway that runs along Bd. Jourdan, nearer the west end of the park. It’s a lovely place for a stroll on this cooling late afternoon, a relief from this hot summer day.

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Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris

The statue is a gilded affair, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum in 1938, the same artist who conceived of and designed Mount Rushmore. He was a man of outsize personality, with a strange family history, overweening ambition, and a membership in the Ku Klux Klan. There’s a documentary about Mount Rushmore on PBS’s American Experience from which you can learn more about this most unusual character, and it’s really worth a watch. I’m pretty sure the egalitarian, anti-slavery, human-rights activist and critic-of-organized-religion Paine would disapprove of the commission for his statue going to this guy. It’s also just a middling portrait: not particularly evocative of Paine’s personality, as is the portrait by George Romney, nor particularly artful, interesting, or innovative in other ways. But it’s a serviceable one, and I’m glad this tribute exists in any case.

It’s likely Borglum painted it gold because of Napoleon Bonaparte. They first met at a dinner party in 1800, where Bonaparte invited Paine over to flatter him and get his support for his ambitious plan to invade Britain and ‘liberate’ them from their oppressive monarchy. (‘Liberate’ is in scare quotes because, in hindsight, it’s funny to think of Napoleon liberating people from monarchy as an institution. While he may have been sincere to begin with, over time, it became clear that he didn’t have a problem with monarchy per se so long as he was the monarch. He did, however, institute laws that promoted some of the best principles of the French Revolution including political equality, for men at least.) Paine had been advocating such a plan for years and continued to do so; however, his initial enthusiasm for Bonaparte rather quickly turned to disillusionment and then disgust. He recognized Bonaparte’s overweening arrogance, and accused him of freely shedding blood because of it and not out of a true concern for the people. Anyway, Bonaparte flattered Paine by telling him that he slept every night with a copy of The Rights of Man under his pillow, and that a golden statue of Paine should be erected ‘in every city in the universe’. Well, here’s one anyway.

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I’ve come to the end of my travel adventures following in the footsteps of Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson in Paris, though not to the end of immersing myself in their ideas.

I’ve had a most wonderful and energizing time here in Paris, and I am very sorry it’s drawing to a close. I got to know the city in a way that I might never have done if I had come just for the food, the museums, and the scenery. My adventures led me to walk many, many miles a day up and down, back and forth across the city, and I got to know many of the neighborhoods very well. I didn’t make it to a few sites I would have liked to visit: the Bois de Boulogne, the woods where Jefferson liked to relax; Versailles, which Paine and Jefferson both visited on official business (I visited Versailles when I was here seven years ago, and decided not to go this trip because it gets absolutely mobbed by tourists in mid-August); and to search for the sites of Wollstonecraft’s Neuilly-sur-Seine cottage and Helen Williams’ salon which Wollstonecraft and Paine frequented (the latter two are way out in the suburbs and I can’t find records of the addresses). Through my research and my search for buildings of a particular era set among others of varying ages, I also developed much more of an understanding of how the city changed over time.

I had one main disappointment: I had hoped to find more sites associated with the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, and to find some sort of public tribute to her as well: a statute, a street named after her, even a little plaque marking any of the places she had been. No such luck. Even given the fact that Paine and Jefferson were appointed state officials whose movements in Paris would have been documented more thoroughly, the degree of the lack of evidence of places Wollstonecraft had bee been, and of public recognition of her contributions, was still a little surprising to me. Wollstonecraft was the first to publish a best-selling rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s screed against the French Revolution; she was an ardent supporter of the Revolution and championed its cause to the western world; she was close friends with Paine and many other leaders of the Revolutionary movement; she was a famous and highly respected intellectual; she was among the first to make a systematic, well-developed philosophical case in favor of women’s rights; she lived her life as unconventionally as she thought her thoughts; and by the way, she gave the world Mary Shelley. How, then, are her contributions still so overlooked in Paris? Perhaps for some of the same reasons I was so hard-pressed to find significant public recognition of the contributions of Ernestine Rose and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in New York City.

I learned so much about these three great thinkers and about this great city, what a joy this journey has been! And I’ll be continuing to immerse myself in their ideas and to think about much they still contribute to our lives and thought. Stay tuned…

Sources and Inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

‘Café Procope.’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

‘French Revolution’. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Gutzon Borglum‘, Biographical page on the American Experience website.

History of the Restaurant‘, Café Procope website.

Hitchens, Christopher. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man: A Biography. New York: Grove Press, 2006.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Les Statues du Parc Monsouris: Thomas Paine, Citoyen du Monde’, Laparisienneetsesphotos.com

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.

Zwerin, Mike. ‘Traveling In Style: With Jefferson In Paris’. Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1994.
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-10-16/magazine/tm-51199_1_thomas-jefferson
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