Fifty Years Ago Lincoln Was Inaugurated

If you enjoy this blog, I hope you’re also following the New York Times Disunion series. While I’ve been posting the most interesting articles from the Sunday Magazine 100 years ago in real time, they’ve been posting about the events of 150 years ago leading up to the Civil War in real time. So for the past couple weeks, they’ve been following Lincoln’s train ride from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. leading up to the day of his inauguration.

In this article, the Times Magazine of 100 years ago took a look back a mere 50 years to Lincoln’s inauguration to see how they covered the event.

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living hearth and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.”

It is fifty years ago yesterday since Abraham Lincoln closed his inaugural address with these words. The anniversary is the beginning of the semi-centennials of the civil war.

Of the thousands who crowded every available inch of space in the Capitol grounds at Washington to hear that address there was probably not one who realized that he was listening to the beginning of the great epic of American history — that tremendous war which created a revolution in our whole social and political structure. Those who stand at the soruce of great events very seldom do realize it.

But we, looking back over this half century to-day, can realize it. We can see in that vast crowd listening to that earnest man fifty years ago the beginning of one of the great chapters in world history.

It’s obvious to us how much the world has changed in the 150 years since Lincoln’s inauguration. But I hadn’t really thought about how much the world changed in just the 50 years leading up to this article. Here’s a glimpse of some names, events, and inventions that happened or peaked during that time: The Civil War, Lincoln’s assassination, an industrial revolution, the Battle of Little Bighorn, the phonograph, light bulb, blue jeans, barbed wire, the first electric power plant, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Tchaikovsky, Van Gogh, HG Wells, airplanes, etc. It was such a different world.

Read the PDF to get a glimpse of what the day was like for the reporters who covered it.

FIFTY YEARS AGO LINCOLN WAS INAUGURATED: Yesterday’s Anniversary the Beginning of the Great Civil War Semi-Centennials — How New York Times Reporters Described the Event at the Time. (PDF)

From March 5, 1911

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