6 Things You Don’t Know About Abraham Lincoln

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“Honest Abe, who freed the slaves.” Thankfully, Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t do such caricatures. The first full-length Lincoln trailer, released yesterday (and embedded below), makes it clear that he and Steven Spielberg aren’t giving us the same old Disneyfied version of the 16th president that we learned about in grade school. Indeed, over the last couple of decades, the Lincoln brain trust has been painting a more well-rounded, humanizing portrait of the man who kept the United States in one piece and led the way to emancipation. The movie, due out in November and already generating Oscar buzz, will further that trend. But here in Indiana, where the future prez matured from a boy to a young man, there are plenty of experts and scholars who can tell us about the real Lincoln any day of the week. So we asked them, and found out that:

1. Lincoln loved to tell dirty jokes.

2. Every bit the successful lawyer and ambitious politician, he knew how to wheel and deal. “He was very comfortable in a smoke-filled room,” says Dale Ogden, senior curator of cultural history at the Indiana State Museum and a Lincoln buff.

3. Ogden says Lincoln hated to be called “Abe,” thinking it made him sound like a hick.

4. He suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War and detained some Americans without charges, a situation that draws comparisons to Guantanamo Bay.

5. He fancied a little candied pineapple in his cake frosting.

6. Incidentally, the Chinese love Lincoln. Cheryl Ferverda, the communications director at Fort Wayne’s Allen County Public Library (home of a major collection of Lincoln’s letters and photos), found out firsthand when she visited a city of 5 million in China last year. “They knew the Gettysburg Address, and could recite it, in English,” she says.

If you want to get a head start on Lincoln Fever, gas up the car and take a day trip to these nearby historic sites: the Lincoln Boyhood National Monument in southwest Indiana, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Kentucky, and the entire town of Springfield, Illinois, where the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is extremely entertaining. For an online shortcut, check out Los Angeles magazine’s countdown of the best pop-culture Lincoln releases of 2012. And if you’re a Lincoln buff, tell us more about the real Lincoln in the comments section.

 

Photo courtesy 20th Century FOX via MTV.com

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