Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

November 4, 1996

Library of Congress Commemorates Delivery of Gettysburg Address on November 19

Displays Hay Copy for Three Days Only

The Library of Congress will display the John Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., for three days only, to commemorate the 133rd anniversary of President Lincoln's delivery of his famous address dedicating a national cemetery at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

The exhibition, which will be on view Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, Nov. 16, 18, and 19, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will not be open on Sunday, Nov. 17.

Complementing the handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address will be a few items from the Library's collections: an 1863 map of the Gettysburg Battlefield, engraved by John Bachelder; a photograph of President Lincoln with his two secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay, taken in Alexander Gardner's Washington studio only 11 days before Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg; a copy of the February 1909 issue of Putnam's Magazine, which published the first facsimile of the Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address; and the only known photograph of Lincoln at the Gettysburg dedication, from the collections of the National Archives.

The John Hay copy of President Abraham Lincoln's speech at the dedication of Gettysburg National Memorial Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863, is the second of five known manuscript drafts of the address. There is good evidence that the copy was made at Hay's request a few days after the presidential party returned to Washington, but probably not before the end of November. The presumed first draft of the address, known as the Nicolay copy, is also in the Library of Congress and was exhibited at the Library in January 1995. 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 Illinois State Historical Society, the Cornell University Library, and the White House, respectively.

A few scholars have argued that the Hay copy is actually the intended reading copy, hypothesizing that Lincoln could not find his completed speech when he left the White House and substituted the rougher Nicolay manuscript when he read his speech. Others, impressed with the close parallel between the Hay copy and press reports, assert that Hay's draft is the reading copy. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support either of these two theories.

Following John Nicolay's death in 1901, his copy passed to the Hay family. When John Hay died in 1905, therefore, he owned both drafts. However, the existence of the Hay draft was not publicly known until 1906, when it was described in a lecture. In 1909, the Hay copy was first published in facsimile for public distribution, and in 1916, Hay's surviving children presented both of these priceless treasures to the Library of Congress.

President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is now recognized as a literary masterpiece. In three short paragraphs -- some 270 words -- he 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. Edward Everett, who delivered a two-hour oration at the dedication, wrote to Lincoln the next day and said, "I should be glad, if I could flater [sic] myself that I came as near to the Central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

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PR 96-160
ISSN 0731-3527

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