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Library of Congress to Display Copy of Gettysburg Address

by Chris Casteel Published: March 20, 2013

If you’re going to be in Washington, DC between March 22 and May 4, you will have the opportunity to see the John Hay copy of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Here is information from the Library of Congress:

The Library of Congress will display the John Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address for six weeks, from March 22 to May 4, in its “Civil War in America” exhibition. The Library also will extend the exhibition from its original closing date of June 1, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014.

The “Civil War in America” exhibition, in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Gettysburg Address, which Abraham Lincoln delivered at the dedication of a national cemetery at the Gettysburg battlefield on Nov. 19, 1863, is recognized as a literary masterpiece. In three short paragraphs—some 270 words—Lincoln proclaimed the principles upon which the nation was founded, honored the men who had given “the last full measure of devotion” in its defense, and challenged all citizens to a renewed commitment to freedom and democracy.

The John Hay copy of the address, on display in the Civil War exhibition from Friday, March 22 through Saturday, May 4, is one of five known manuscript drafts. The Hay copy is considered the second draft, made by Lincoln shortly after his return to Washington from Gettysburg. Lincoln gave the copy to Hay, one of his two secretaries. His other secretary was John Nicolay, and the presumed first draft is known as the Nicolay copy. Hay’s descendants donated both the Hay and the Nicolay copies to the Library of Congress in 1916.

The other surviving drafts, the so-called Everett, Bancroft and Bliss copies, were made for charitable purposes the spring of 1864. These copies are now held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Cornell University Library and the White House, respectively.

The Library of Congress opened the “The Civil War in America” on Nov. 12, 2012, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It features more than 200 unique items that reveal the complexity of the Civil War through those who experienced it firsthand. Through diaries, letters, maps, song sheets, newspapers and broadsides, photographs, drawings and unusual artifacts, the exhibition chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861-1865.

The exhibition, originally scheduled to close on June 1, 2013, will be extended through Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. In June, more than 200 new artifacts will go on display in the exhibition, replacing existing items and providing the public with the opportunity to view additional materials from the Library’s unparalleled Civil War collections.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.


by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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