February 12: The Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln MemorialAbraham Lincoln was born on this day in 1809. While the anniversary of the birth of the U. S.’ 16th president is quite important, today we’re going to mark a Lincoln related event that on February 12, 1914. It was on that day that a dedication ceremony was held to mark the beginning of the construction of the Lincoln Memorial.

There had been calls to build a monument for Lincoln since just after his death in 1865. In fact in 1867, Congress passed a bill establishing a commission dedicated to the creation of a memorial for Lincoln. American sculptor Clark Mills was initially hired to create a monument. According to the National Parks Service, Mills’ design was a “36-figure, bronze sculpted monument that would have at its peak a seated Lincoln signing the Emancipation  Proclamation.” However, Congress never approved funding for the 70-foot tall structure and the plan was abandoned.

The Lincoln memorial proposal sat dormant until 1910 when a bill proposed by Illinois Senator Shelby M. Cullom was passed, creating a new Lincoln Memorial Commission. In 1913, the new Commission, presided over by former President William Howard Taft, approved a design by Henry Bacon, a Greek temple inspired design that would be located in West Potomac Park. This plan was met with some controversy. Some critics believed a Greek temple was far too grand for a humble man like Lincoln and instead proposed a log cabin shaped monument. Others thought that the newly reclaimed land in West Potomac Park was still too swampy and also too isolated.

However, the Commission held firm and Congress eventually approved the plan. So, a dedication ceremony was held on February 12, 1914 and construction began a month later. The construction of the monument and Daniel Chester French’s 19-foot tall statue of Lincoln took over eight years. On May 30, 1922, Taft, by then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and President Warren G. Harding officially opened the Lincoln Memorial. Amongst the dignitaries in attendance was Lincoln’s  79-year-old son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

Today to honor Lincoln and his Memorial, let’s make President Lincoln’s Cocktail. This simple twist on the Old Fashioned was created by Joe Kerr, a bartender at of The Richelieu in San Francisco around 1900. This recipe actually comes from a November 1900 issue of Pacific Wine & Spirit Review. What makes this President Lincoln’s Cocktail? Nobody knows; that answer has been lost and now belongs to the ages.

President Lincoln’s Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces Bourbon
  • 3 dashes simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Orange Curacao
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash Absinthe
  • club soda

Stir all ingredients except the club soda together with ice in a mixing bowl and strain into an Old Fashioned glass without ice. Fill with club soda and serve.

Tomorrow: It’s Groundhog Day; again.

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