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Lincoln’s Birthday

Lincoln’s Birthday celebrates the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, one of the most popular presidents in United States history. It is a state holiday in some states on or around February 12 each year.

The day is also known as Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, Abraham Lincoln Day or Lincoln Day. Some states observe the day as part of Presidents’ Day, which is officially known as Washington’s Birthday.

Abraham Lincoln (image pictured to the right) is one of the United States' most popular presidents.
 

What do people do?
Various activities such as re-enactments, concerts and birthday parties are often organized for the day. Organizations such as the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum often plan large-scale events to honor and remember Lincoln on or around his birthday.

A wreath-laying ceremony and reading of the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC are traditional events on February 12. Republican Party members may also hold Lincoln Day fundraising dinners because he is known as the first president of the Republican Party.

Public life
Lincoln’s Birthday is a public holiday in the following states on February 12:

  • Connecticut.
  • Illinois.
  • Missouri.
  • New Jersey

New York (Lincoln's Birthday is a floating holiday for state government employees in certain bargaining units).
Many government offices, schools and businesses are closed within most these states (see status for New York, above) on this day. Lincoln’s Birthday is also absorbed into Presidents’ Day in other parts of the United States, such as Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Background
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, on February 12 in 1809. He lived for a time in Indiana before moving to Illinois. He worked on a farm, split rails for fences, worked in a store, was a captain in the Black Hawk War, and worked as a lawyer. He married Mary Todd and together they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity.

Lincoln began his political career at the age of 23 in 1832 when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Illinois General Assembly, as a Whig Party member. He joined the newly formed Republican Party in 1854 and was nationally recognized during the 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas despite Douglas’ win in the race for US Senator. Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 and, despite being a Republican, rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union case during the Civil War (1861-65).

Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, the Rail Splitter and Honest Abe. He was the president throughout the American Civil War and is known for his struggle to preserve the Union and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. The assassination occurred less than two weeks after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Court House in 1865.

It has been recorded that Lincoln’s Birthday was first celebrated as a holiday in 1866, one year after his death. Many states have a joint holiday to honor both Lincoln and George Washington, sometimes calling it Presidents’ Day.

Symbols
Various museums and monuments are dedicated to Abraham Lincoln. Various artworks, such as paintings, drawings, statues and photographs, have been created in Lincoln’s image and preserved to honor him.  Examples include:

  • Lincoln’s likeness on Mount Rushmore
  • Lincoln’s portrait on the American five dollar bill.
  • The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
  • Daniel Chester French’s sculpture inside the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The Lincoln stamp issued in 1965.
  • The Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Illinois.

The nature of Lincoln’s death made him a martyr in the eyes of many Americans and many polls have ranked Lincoln as one of the greatest presidents in United States history.

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