Abraham Lincoln’s Unfinished Work

ITHACA, N.Y. (Jan. 26, 2015) – Abraham Lincoln spent a lifetime working to end slavery in America, but he did not live to see it completed.

"Lincoln’s Unfinished Work," Cornell University Library’s newest exhibition, marks the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Congress passed it on Jan. 31, 1865, but it wasn’t ratified by the required three-fourths of the states until December of that year, long after Lincoln’s death on April 14.

Cornell holds one of 14 commemorative manuscript copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln himself, as well as by the members of Congress who voted for it. The new exhibition features the signed document, as well as a pair of slave shack

les, a playbill from Ford’s Theater on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and other artifacts associated with Lincoln’s final months and his funeral.

In honor of Lincoln’s birthday and President’s Day, the original copy will be on display in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), Kroch Library, level 2B:

  • Monday, Feb. 9 through Friday, Feb. 13, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • Monday, Feb. 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also on Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, curator Lance Heidig will offer tours of the exhibition at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and a talk, “Exploring Cornell’s Lincoln and Civil War Collections,” at 3:30 p.m. in Kroch Library, room 2B48. Heidig will discuss the events of the early months of 1865 that culminated with the end of the Civil War, Lincoln’s assassination and the founding of Cornell University.

“Another aspect of Lincoln’s unfinished work is his education legacy. Back in 1862, he had signed the Morrill Land Grant Act that provided federal land for each state to fund and create colleges,” Heidig said. “In 1865, at the same time as the 13th Amendment is being debated in Washington and ratified by the states, Ezra Cornell and A.D. White are struggling to secure New York’s land-grant money for their institution and pushing a bill through the State Legislature that become the charter for Cornell University.”

“Lincoln’s Unfinished Work” dovetails with the larger sesquicentennial celebration in the Library and the rest of the University, and it serves as a prelude to the "150 Ways to Say Cornell" exhibition in RMC’s Hirshland Gallery. Tours of that exhibition will also be given on Feb. 12 and 16 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 

All events are free and open to the public. The original 13th Amendment manuscript will be on display at various times throughout the spring, including Charter Day and Cornell’s reunion; a high-quality facsimile will be viewable for the rest of the exhibition. Additional events are planned as well; please visit the exhibition’s events listing for details.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation.

For more
Visit RMC’s website for an online version of the exhibition and information about more events, and check out the Library at library.cornell.edu

Contact: Gwen Glazer
Phone:  (607) 254-8390
E-mail:  gglazer@cornell.edu