Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
Recorded exhibition information (202) 707-3834

November 12, 1998

First Draft of the Gettysburg Address To Be Displayed for Three Days Beginning November 19 at the Library of Congress

Famous American Speech Was Last Seen by Public in January 1995

"... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

-- Abraham Lincoln, First Draft of the Gettysburg Address

The first draft of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address will be displayed in the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition beginning Thursday, November 19, 135 years to the day after its delivery at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn.

The document will be displayed through Saturday, November 21, after which it will be replaced by a facsimile that will remain on view through mid-February in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition is free. Tickets are not required.

The first draft, or Nicolay copy, was last publicly displayed at the Library in January 1995. It is the earliest of five known drafts of the address in Lincoln's handwriting, and is the only working, or predelivery draft. It begins on White House (then Executive Mansion) stationery and continues on foolscap. It is called the Nicolay copy because it was owned by John Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretary.

Accompanying original documents on display through mid- February include:

  • Official and personal invitations from Judge David Wills dated November 2, 1863. Wills conceived the idea for the cemetery and organized the dedication. Lincoln stayed with the judge while in Gettysburg and probably rewrote the second page of the address at his house.
  • A November 2O, 1863, letter from Edward Everett, who was the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony, and who complimented the President on his "eloquent simplicity and appropriateness." Everett, an educator and politician best known for skilled oratory, spoke for two hours at the dedication; Lincoln spoke for 2 or three minutes (allowing for applause).
  • A photograph of the dedication ceremony and a detail of it showing Lincoln among the crowd

In order to install the materials, the "American Treasures" exhibition will close early, at 3:30 p.m., on November 18.

This continuing exhibition, with its selection of more than 240 rare books, music, manuscripts, maps, photographs, drawings, audio clips and videotapes, gives visitors a firsthand look at a cross section of the Library's vast repository, sometimes called "America's Memory." Highlights of the exhibition include the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination, early baseball cards, Maya Lin's original drawing for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight taken at the instant of takeoff.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Xerox Foundation.

Highlight tours, or "Treasure-Talks," of noteworthy objects on display in the exhibition are conducted by curators from the Library's custodial divisions. These talks are held on Wednesdays from 12 to 12:30 p.m. in the Treasures Gallery. For a current schedule of Treasure Talks, consult the Library's World Wide Web site at

The "American Treasures" exhibition is available on- line at The on-line version of the exhibition allows viewers to see 264 items from the exhibition and read about their significance to United States history.

An audio tour featuring selections from the Library's collection of sound recordings provides an array of memories, many of them drawn from the early years of radio and TV broadcasting archived in the Library's collections. Listeners can hear both narration about and the actual voices of presidents, poets and other famous figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Frost and Woodrow Wilson. The random-access audio device also features music, including the voices of Beverly Sills and Jelly Roll Morton. Visitors may rent the wand for $2.50.

Harry N. Abrams Inc. has published a companion volume with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and a foreword by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory/Reason/Imagination ($39.95) is available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold.

The exhibition is on the second level of the gloriously restored, 100-year-old Thomas Jefferson Building. The Library is closed on Sundays and federal holidays. Both the building and the exhibition are barrier-free and accessible to persons with disabilities. Entrance is free.

Groups of 10 or more are requested to call the Visitor Services Office at (202) 707-9779 to arrange a tour. For recorded information about the exhibition, call (202) 707-3834, (202) 707-6200 TTY.

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PR 98-184
ISSN 0731-3527

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