Lincoln Seen and Heard

Harold Holzer

His image today is part of America, from the penny to Mount Rushmore, but in his own day Abraham Lincoln was as much reviled as he was revered, and he remained a controversial figure up to the time of his assassination. Now one of our preeminent authorities on Lincoln charts his rocky road from obscure western politician to national icon.

In Lincoln Seen and Heard, Harold Holzer probes the development of Lincoln's image and reputation in his own time. He examines a vast array of visual and documentary sources to demonstrate the president's impact both on the public and on the historical imagination, enabling us to see the man from Illinois as his contemporaries saw him.

“Today Abraham Lincoln has iconic status. But how was he perceived in his own day? Printmakers vacillated between presenting him as the quintessential civilian and as the god of war. The Gettysburg Address received raves in Republican papers, but it was panned by Democratic publications. In this book Holzer offers illuminating readings of such verbal and visual images of Lincoln from his own era.”

Publishers Weekly

“Holzer shows the reader a Lincoln who was as much reviled as he was revered, who became and remained a highly controversial figure up to the time of his assassination.

—Journal of Illinois History
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Holzer considers a wide range of images-prints, portraits, political cartoons-to reveal what they say about Lincoln. He shows the ways in which Lincoln was depicted as Great Emancipator and as commander in chief, how he was assailed in cartoons from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, and how printmakers both memorialized and capitalized on his assassination. Sharing dozens of historic reproductions, Holzer writes with unabashed enthusiasm as he unravels the symbolic meaning and the message of these images and explains their relation to political and military events of the time.

Holzer also takes a closer look at Lincoln's oratory, the words of a man often ridiculed for his homespun manner of speaking. He shows how Lincoln's choice of words in the Emancipation Proclamation was actually designed to minimize its humanitarianism and argues that the story of his failure at Gettysburg has been unfairly exaggerated. Through this provocative collection, Lincoln emerges not only as a leader dependent upon his public image but also as an active participant in its development. Lincoln Seen and Heard helps us distinguish man from myth, while offering a superb introduction to the work of one of our most provocative Lincoln scholars.

About the Author

Harold Holzer is vice-president for communications at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the country's leading authorities on the iconography and political culture of the Civil War, he has been a consultant to numerous television productions on that conflict. Among his many books are The Lincoln Image and The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1860-1865.