President Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday is Feb. 12 and there are celebrations and commemorations to attend including balls, a play opening, a cemetery service, banquets and wreath layings. All of those were familiar to Lincoln in his day but the one he probably would choose not to attend would be a ball. Lincoln couldn’t dance.
“When he first asked Mary to cut the rug at their first meeting in Springfield, he famously said, ‘I want to dance with you in the worst way,’ and she later recalled, ‘that was exactly the way he danced,’” according to Harold Holzer, author or editor of 42 books on the 16th president.
At an official event, he would occasionally be seen giving Mary a mandatory twirl across the floor. That led the author of a comic anti-Lincoln biography of the time to say that as a dancer, the President looked like “a cross between a derrick and a windmill,” according to Holzer.
However, there are at least two balls where period music, dancing and dress are planned to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday. On Feb. 4, the Lincoln Birthday Commemoration Ball will be held at the Union League of Philadelphia and on Feb. 11, the 14th Annual Lincoln Ball is scheduled at the Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg, Pa..
In Washington, the play “Necessary Sacrifices,” about the relationship between Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass opened at Ford’s Theatre on Jan. 25 and will close on Feb.18. And on Lincoln’s birthday, the theater is holding the grand opening for the Center for Education and Leadership in a newly renovated building across the street from the theater. It will include a full day of free events about Lincoln’s life including lectures, workshops and story telling.
In a small country cemetery where Lincoln’s relatives on his father’s side are buried, the Lincoln Society of Virginia will hold its annual ceremony on Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. The cemetery and nearby Lincoln family home are located six miles north of Harrisonburg on Rt. 42.
Also on Feb. 12, the Abraham Lincoln Association’s annual banquet is scheduled at the President Lincoln Hotel in Springfield, Ill. with U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D) as the guest speaker. The 108th Commemorative Lincoln Presidential Banquet is planned for Feb. 18 at Courtlandt, N.Y. Lincoln included a stop at nearby Peekskill while on route to Washington in 1861. The keynote speaker is historian and author David Blight.
In Washington, a wreath-laying ceremony is de rigueur for anniversaries. On Feb. 12, the National Park Service will do the honors at Ford’s Theatre at 8:45 a.m. and at noon at the Lincoln Memorial.