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Myriad Events Planned to Honor 16th President

Alexander Gardner's 1865
Alexander Gardner's 1865 "cracked plate" photograph of Abraham Lincoln. (Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008

The items he had in his pockets the night he was assassinated. The bullet that killed him. The pearl jewelry his wife wore.

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The kind of oysters he liked to eat. His speeches, sayings, health, clothing. The 60 books about him set to be published in the next 18 months.

Abraham Lincoln, who carried a penknife, wore a patched vest and mended his eyeglasses with string, would have been mortified at the fuss.

But starting next week, the District will kick off its part of the year-long global celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birth on Feb. 12, 1809.

No aspect of his existence, it seems, will go unexplored.

Yesterday, tourism, museum and government officials previewed some of the 80 exhibits, lectures, tours and programs that will be part of the city's celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial, "Living the Legacy: Lincoln in Washington DC."

The preview, at the Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, was attended by two Lincoln impersonators, who noted that 50 "top hats" from their Association of Lincoln Presenters will be coming to town for their annual convention in April.

"It would be nice to have him back," impersonator Jim Rubin, a retired psychologist from Prosperity, W.Va., said of the 16th president. Despite his whiskers, Rubin looked as much like Franklin D. Roosevelt as he did like Lincoln.

Washington has a vast trove of Lincoln artifacts and much of it is being pulled from archives, to be scrutinized, bathed and readied for what is likely to be a focal point of the bicentennial.

The Library of Congress, for example, has the Lincoln presidential papers. It has a set of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln's pearl and gold jewelry. It has the penknife, mended eyeglasses, wallet and Confederate bill that Lincoln had in his pockets the night he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865.

The library also has a copy of the Gettysburg Address as well as the short but moving speech Lincoln gave as president-elect when he left his home in Springfield, Ill., for Washington.

These, as well as historic letters from Lincoln to his Civil War generals, will be part of a huge library exhibit opening Feb. 12.

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