November 18, 2013

Cornell Celebrates 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address

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The Gettysburg Address, considered one of the most influential speeches in American history, is on display in Cornell’s Carl A. Kroch Library in honor of its 150-year anniversary.

Cornell’s version of the address — one of only five copies written in Lincoln’s own handwriting — was donated in 1949 by Nicholas H. Noyes 1906 and his wife Marguerite Lily Noyes, both of whom bought it from an antiquarian dealer in 1935. It is usually kept in the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, according to Lance Heidig, a Cornell University Library guide who headed the exhibit.

Within the first three days of the manuscript going on display, Heidig said approximately 500 people had come to see it. Heidig said he hoped visitors understood the significance of the exhibit and the power of Lincoln’s words.

“The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest speeches in American history. Lincoln held this piece of paper in his hands and wrote out his speech on it,” Heidig said. “I would hope that people coming to the library to see this document would value its uniqueness and be inspired by Lincoln’s words.”

Students who attended the exhibit said they enjoyed the display.

After viewing the exhibit, Meredith Corsi ’17 said she felt lucky to have viewed an actual copy of the Gettysburg address.

“It’s an awesome piece of history, and I feel really lucky that Cornell is providing students with an opportunity to witness this,” she said. “Plus, I mean, how many people can say they’ve seen an actual copy of the Gettysburg Address?”

Another attendee, Amanda Yellen ’17, said she appreciated the exhibit because she has always been interested in Civil War history.

“The story behind how it got here is really cool. I’ve always been really interested in the Civil War, so this was really amazing. It was also a really nice break from studying,” she said.

According to Heidig, the exhibit is especially connected to the Cornell community because of the relationship between the University’s founders and Lincoln.

“Cornell was founded just two weeks after the Civil War ended and Lincoln was assassinated,” he said. “Both Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White knew and supported Lincoln, who shaped and helped determine the destiny and future of the University when he signed the Morrill Land Grant College Act in 1862. Cornell is New York State’s land grant institution. The Cornell community has the privilege of being able to see and experience the library’s amazing and truly stunning collections of Lincoln artifacts and art works.”

Of the other four original copies of the Gettysburg Address, two are at the Library of Congress, one is at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. and another copy is at the White House in the Lincoln bedroom, according to Heidig.

The exhibit, named “Remembering Lincoln at Gettysburg,” will remain on display in the Carl A. Kroch Library until Dec. 20, according to the Cornell University Libary’s website. The original copy of the Gettysburg Address, which has been on display since Nov. 12, will be available for viewing until Saturday.