Short Takes

by Fred Ray on November 17, 2008 · 0 comments

A Lincoln letter, or at least an official copy, has surfaced at the Dallas Historical Society. It’s the famous “Bixby letter” in which the president attempts to console a mother for the loss of her five sons. There are problems, as the article points out—Lydia Bixby was no fan of Lincoln’s; all of her sons did not die, and the authorship of the letter is disputed.

Historians have also argued that John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, wrote the letter. Hay was an accomplished writer who wrote a biography of Lincoln and later became ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“Lincoln probably wrote it,” Cornelius said. “Hay did on some occasions write letters in Lincoln’s name and sign them — or have Lincoln sign them — but probably not something like this that purports to be so personal and individual and heartfelt.”

The letter received widespread attention days after it was written. Bixby either sent it to the Boston Evening Transcript or a postal worker intercepted it and tipped off the newspaper, which reprinted the letter, Cornelius said.

President-elect Barack Obama may not have carried the Deep South, but he did carry the Cotton Belt. Strange Maps, a very neat web site, looks at the politics of cotton then and now. I might add that Obama also carried two states of the Upper South, Virginia and (barely) North Carolina. This may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that these two states joined the Confederacy last, and reluctantly.

Also of interest is the Sweet Tea Line, a sort of cultural Mason-Dixon line, which appears to be moving southward, and distribution of the terms for soft drinks (pop, coke, soda).

Many regional differences, although not nearly as pronounced as they were in the 1860s, still exist.

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