Lincoln’s Birthday, also known as Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, Abraham Lincoln Day or Lincoln Day, is celebrated annually on February 12, the date of President Lincoln’s birth, in 1809. It is a legal holiday in some states, namely Illinois, Kentucky, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Ohio, California and Indiana.
Other states celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birth on Presidents’ Day, also known as Washington’s Day.
Brief Biography of Abraham Lincoln
Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln grew up in Indiana until he turned 21 years old when he moved to Illinois. He went on to have many jobs during this time, such as a farmer, working on a river flatboat, as a postman, shopkeeper, and eventually became a self-taught lawyer.
At the age of 23, in 1832, he joined politics as an Illinois State Legislator, Congressman and eventually became the leader of the Whig Party. In 1849 he left politics to practice law.
Lincoln returned in 1854 to lead the new Republican Party and gained national notoriety in 1858 during the debates against Democrat Stephen Douglas. Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America in 1860.
During his Presidency he became known as Honest Abe and the Great Emancipator. While in office he led the Union to victory during the American Civil War, abolished slavery, imposed the income tax and the military draft.
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14 1865, while watching a play at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.
History of the celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday
It was on February 12, 1866, almost a year after his assassination, that George Bancroft gave the first address to Congress commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, as he believed he was a man that should always be remembered by Americans for his great feats.
A few years later, in 1873 a New York shopkeeper named Julius Francis began a long and repeated campaign to Congress to get Lincoln’s Birthday recognized as a public holiday. He got the first letter he sent to Congress for this purpose signed by 50 other New York residents. One year later, Francis organized the first public celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, something he did yearly until his death in 1881.
However, not all Americans were interested in a national celebration of Lincoln’s birthday, namely the people in the South, as they were against Lincoln’s controversial politics of reconstruction.
In 1887, Hannibal Hamlin, a former Vice-President of Abraham Lincoln, wrote a letter to the Republican Party lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a national day for President Lincoln and alluded to the fact that Lincoln’s legacy was being erased by George Washington.
Eventually, almost a century later, a few states passed legislation that officially recognized Lincoln’s birthday as a public holiday. Most notoriously, Illinois, also known as the “Land of Lincoln” made it into an official school holiday, and the states of New York, Connecticut and Missouri followed suit.
Even though Lincoln’s Birthday has not been made a public holiday, many Americans still take the time to honor him on his day, as he is one of the most admired United States Presidents.
How to celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday
Every year on February 12 there are several wreath-laying ceremonies on Lincoln landmarks all across the United States, notably on his birthplace in Kentucky, and on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, where there is also a reading of the Gettysburg Address.
The states that recognize the day as a holiday organize many events to commemorate the day, such as concerts, birthday parties and re-enactments.