The Gettysburg Goddamn Address

Eve: 'Twas twelve bloody fifteen IIRC.

The thing which sets Lincoln’s speech apart from that of the other address given that day was that Lincoln’s was not in keeping with the high-flown, long-winded oratory common at that time. The other speech was. However, Lincoln felt deeply that the carnage of the Gettysburg battlefield would be trivialized by such a speech. As he alluded in the Address, nothing that anyone could say or do could make that ground more hallowed than it already was made by the blood of the soldiers giving their all for their country. So he delivered an uncommonly short speech (for its day) to that effect. The economy of his writing and the pithiness of his thoughts are overwhelming for any time, let alone for the bloodiest battle fought on American soil.

Incidentally, I always heard he wrote it on a White Castle to-go sack, after snorking down a half dozen belly-bombers, a sack of fries and a Mountain Dew.

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“since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?” J.H. Marx

Interesting read:

Gary Wills does a repeat performance of his 1992 Pulitzer-winning book “Lincoln at Gettysberg: The Words that Remade America”, exerpts of which appeared in an issue of the Atlantic Monthly. [Unfortunately, their archives don’t seem to carry the article.]

In the Sept. 1999 article, several references are made to the Gettysberg address in the context of Wills’ analysis of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.

No mention of any envelope, though :).

Garry Wills would disagree with some of your assumptions. In “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” argues that Everett’s speech was successful and that Lincoln himself thought well of it. Lincoln’s speech was short because it was not the main speech of the day. The program for the event lists Everett’s remarks as the “oration” and Lincoln’s as mere “dedicatory remarks” that obviously would be fairly brief.

Of course, none of that subtracts from your points about the pithiness and power of Lincoln’s speech.

By the way, Wills rejects the ``silly but persistent’’ envelope myth.

he dismisses the envelope rumor

Up, up and away!

In a really old Webster’s dictionary at home that has an appendix in the back that deals with the correct methods of proofreading. The example it gives is a photocopied version of the Gettysburg address that has proofreading marks all over it. I think that it was an original written by Lincoln. It definately was not on an envelope, though. I can’t verify my claim, however, because I’m 300 miles from home…

My understanding also was that it was notes and changes that were written on an envelope and not the entire address itself. I remember something about an envelope being taught in school but I’m not sure now.

“Do or do not, there is no try” - Yoda

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Here, have some information:
Note that the draft most likely used by Lincoln during the address was written first on White House stationery. Not one to procrastinate or improvise, Lincoln…

I have that same dictionary right here (it was my mother’s). The Gettysburg Address is just used as an example for all those proofreading marks. It does say “Proofs of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with Corrections Marked (above) and Made (below),” which is a trifle misleading, but I think it highly unlikely that Abe (for example) would write a “t” upside down.

Christ, what an imagination I’ve got…

strictly speaking, King John didn’t sign the Magna Carta; he sealed it.

It was in 1215, though.

and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel to toe

I heard recently (on NPR, I think), that the standard mailing envelope wasn’t invented until 1895. Before that, letters were simply folded up in such a way as to conceal the message (and any extra pages), and sealed with sealing wax (hence the necessity back then of this material,
which today has become little more than an affectation).

Well, having been a stamp dealer back in the 1970-90 period, I can assure you that their were envelopes during the Civil War period which were every bit envelopes as we know them today. Commercially made, envelopes.

I have in my house at this moment, envelopes from the period in question.

Folding a letter to act as its’ own envelope did occur in the 1850’s and before, but, by the 1860’s, envelopes were rather commonplace.

Perhaps NPR said 1855?

According to “Meet Mr. Lincoln”, a Lincoln biography by Hanser and Hyatt, the scene at Gettysburg is described as follows:

“For two hours the crowds are spellbound by the classic oratory of the greatest speaker of his day, Edward Everett, diplomat and scholar. The president’s speech is secondary. He has been asked only to make ‘a few appropriate remarks’” Lincoln’s speech “evokes little interest. Lincoln thinks it is a failure.”

Interesting! No information on the envelope.

I heard he read the speech with a beat box in the background. Haven’t been able to confirm that on yet.


Look on the backs.

pluto Could you amplify your response?

The backs of most envelopes used to mail letters in the 1860’s are just freakin’ envelopes !!!

Yes, sometimes they have a seal over the flap. Most don’t. They are envelopes(not legal size) just fucking like envelopes we have today. They used a 3 cent stamp on the front{first-class letter rate of the day} and the envelope is just your everyday, ordinary, garden-variety envelope.

If I went off on you by mistake, I’m sorry.

What would looking at the back tell me??

samclem, I think he wants you to check and see if the Gettysburg Address is written on any of them.

And while the Gettysburg Address may not have been, the original idea for the maser (precursor to the laser) was written down on the back of an envelope. I went to lecture when I was in high school and heard Charles Townes tell the story himself.

::note to self:: Must remember to not take these things seriously/personally

Give me a “whoosh”

Perhaps he was perpetuating an urban legend himself. Did you SEE the envelope in question? For that matter, have any of you SEEN a maser? I can ALMOST accept the existence of lasers, since every sixth-grader in the country had what was supposed to be one a couple years back, but I have only READ ABOUT masers. And written sources are not as reliable as some people here think.

Well, no, he didn’t have the actual envelope with him, but one of the plate tectonics guys tore a piece of paper to illustrate the fault lines that formed the Red Sea. does that count?

And while I know that appeal-to-authority arguments are less than completely rigorous, I posted a link to the Smithsonian Institute website. And he won the Nobel Prize in Physics, so if it turns out to be a hoax I wasn’t the only one taken in.

Pluto, if you are related to Everrett (the guy who gave the long speech first) don’t be ashamed. Everrett was a renowned Harvard professor and scholar. The whole Everrett was long-winded thing is more or less a UL. Yes, his speech was over two hourse in length, but that was what he was hired to do – give long detailed speeches and eulogies. His speech was very well recieved and only intervening history has turned him into a little bit of a joke for giving such a long speech before such a famous short one.

As for Lincoln’s address it was not considered unusual by its immediate audience, who were expecting a short address from the President to follow Everrett’s speech.

It was only when the speech was reprinted that people began to really notice how revolutionary it was (i.e. dating the start of the US from the Declaration of Independence [“dedicated to the propisition that all men are created equal”] rather than from the adoption of the Constiution [which accepted slavery]).

A great book about this subject is “Lincoln at Gettysburg” by Gary Wills. It examines the previous drafts (of which several exist of White House stationary) and analyzes the rheotorical devices of the speech. Lincoln was apparently trying to echo the great Athenian orator Pericles’ “Funeral Oration” in his format. The Gettysburg Address was not even close to being a quick throw away speech or anything.