FAQs (Fascinating Abe Questions)

tall

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How tall was Lincoln?

Answer: 6 feet 4 inches tall (well, “nearly”). He is the tallest president ever! FYI, President Barack Obama is 6 feet, 1 ½ inches tall. How do we know how tall Lincoln was? Here’s how he described himself in a brief autobiographical sketch he wrote on December 20, 1959:

“If any personal escription of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and grey eyes - no other marks or brands recollected.”

Read the full sketch.

penny

When did Lincoln first appear on the penny?

Answer: 1909. The Lincoln penny came out to honor the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. It was the first time a person’s portrait appeared on a regularly issued coin in the United States. The design of the “obverse” or back side of the coin was changed in 1959 to mark the 150th anniversary. The Lincoln penny was popular immediately! Read more about the Lincoln penny at the U.S. Treasury web site and about the new Lincoln pennies coming out in 2009 at the U.S. Mint web site.

Did Abraham Lincoln ever write any poetry?

Answer: Yes. He loved poetry from a young age. This is a verse he wrote when he was a teenager:

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read.

Later, as an adult, Lincoln wrote serious poems, often about memories of his childhood. Here are two poems he wrote. “My Childhood Home I see Again” and “The Bear Hunt.” Lincoln also loved to read poetry. The poem “Mortality” by William Knox has been called his favorite poem.

Read more about Lincoln as a reader and writer of poetry at the Library of Congress web site.

Was Abraham Lincoln an animal lover?

fido

Fido

Answer: Yes. Mary Lincoln once said that Abraham’s hobby was “cats.” When they lived in Springfield, IL, the Lincolns had a dog named Fido. When they went to Washington they were afraid that the long train ride would be too frightening for Fido so they left him in Springfield under special care. The Lincolns had lots of pets while in the White House, including goats, rabbits, and cats. Read more about Lincoln and animals at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace web site.

Why did Abraham Lincoln grow a beard?

beard

Answer: Because in 1860, when Lincoln was running for President, an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell from Westfield, NY, wrote him a letter encouraging him to (she said he thought it would make his thin face look better). Lincoln had never had a beard before, but he grew one. (And Grace actually got to meet him when Lincoln’s train stopped in Westfield on the way to Washington after he was elected.) By the way, Lincoln was the first president to have a beard.

Read more about Lincoln’s beard and the girl who inspired it at the Abraham Lincoln Research Site.

What did Lincoln invent?

flatboat

Answer: A device to lift boats over sandbars and other obstructions in the water. This was a big problem for navigators in the 1800s and Lincoln experienced it firsthand, having made flatboat trips to New Orleans. On May 22, 1849, Abraham Lincoln received Patent No. 6469 for a device to lift boats over shoals. His invention was never manufactured, but it did make him the only president to obtain a patent. Read more at the Abraham Lincoln Online web site.

inauguration

What are some other firsts associated with Lincoln?

Answer: He was the first president to be photographed at his inauguration (his future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, can also be seen in the crowd); the first president to be born outside the 13 original colonies; and the first president to be assassinated.