I spent the weekend in Springfield, Illinois, for the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter. I’m afraid I’ve reached the age where my own kids are getting married, along with the kids of my sibling and close friends.
And you know what that means: shoes.
However, the wedding wasn’t until 3:00 in the afternoon, so my wife and I took the morning to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I checked their website in advance, and there was no mention of a shoe requirement in their rules
So, off we went.
Here I am at the Union Station Plaza, posing with old Abe.
However, when we went to the museum, of course there was trouble. It turns out that there was also a brochure, and they had the rule right there on the brochure.
I had long discussions with guards and management. Eventually, I was let in as a special exception. But at the last second, I was given the admonishment, “But you can’t go into the restaurant because of the food.” I was tempted to say something, but didn’t. What it does so nicely illustrate is how it’s all premised on myth.
By the way, the Museum is run by a division of the State of Illinois, so I bet this rule might be subject to challenge.
It was a nice museum. I’m not particularly into artifacts, but they had a lot of pictures and descriptions of the days and life of Lincoln, and how it all related to slavery and the civil war. One of the most interesting exhibits was “The Civil War in Four Minutes”.
Of course, we are all aware that Abraham Lincoln went almost exclusively barefoot as a boy. Here’s part of what Carl Sandburg said in “Abe Lincoln Grows Up”.
Tom [Abraham's father] chopped logs for a cabin forty yards away while Abe did the best he could helping Nancy and Sarah trim the branches off the longs, cut brush, clear ground for planting, how weeds, tend the log-fire. The heaviest regular chore of the children was walking a mile away to a spring and carrying a bucket of water back home. Their food was mostly game shot in the woods near by; they went barefoot most of the year; in the winter their shoes were homemade moccasins . . .
You’d never know it from the museum’s exhibit of his boyhood. They do show Abe barefoot, once, in their cabin. But his moccasins are close at hand, because you never know if he might have a sudden need to be shod.
Here’s something a little closer to the truth, from Charles Coffin’s 1892 “Abraham Lincoln”.
And outside their log cabin they have him with a book. And shod. That is just historically inaccurate.
This description, from Sandburg’s “Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years”, shows how he read outdoors.
He had bought at an auction in Springfield a copy of Blackstone, the first of the law books to read. One morning he sat barefoot on a woodpile, with a book. “What are you reading?” asked Squire Godbey. “I ain’t reading; I’m studying.” Studying what?” “Law.” “Good God Almight!”
But the museum did show bare feet.
Yes. Bare feet are bad and really only associated with slaves. If you weren’t a slave, why would you be barefoot? You’d have to be enslaved to have to be barefoot.
I’m probably exaggerating it, but that’s the message I got out of it. I am also suspicious that this is a message that they were, at least subconsciously, expressing.
After all, how is it that they had to have a specific rule against bare feet? Do you think they had hordes of barefoot people mobbing the place and causing trouble, maybe slicing up their feet all over the cobblestone and leaving rivers of blood all over the floor? I tend to doubt it.
They are portraying, no promoting, a specific attitude. And that attitude is that bare feet are somehow wrong (but they really don’t know why). Regular people don’t go barefoot, and even in the past they didn’t really do so.
As long as I was there in downtown Springfield (which was pretty much a ghost-town, by the way), I knew I need to see if I could get into their State Capitol Building barefoot. After all, my going into the Ohio Statehouse made them pass a rule against it. Are other states so anal? (At least when you are not in their museums?)
It’s a much nicer looking building than the Ohio Statehouse. Bigger, prettier, quite impressive.
And better guarded. We had to pass through a metal detector to get inside. The guard said nothing about my bare feet. Here I am near the statue under the dome.
And here I am sitting on the steps (very nice to step on barefoot!) that lead up to the second floor.
So, after the Museum, the State Capitol Building was a nice cleansing of the palate.
From there it was time for the wedding. It was an outdoor wedding with a bit of a country fair theme. The movie “Up” was quite prominent. But we were also to wear hats. Here’s the bride and groom all hatted up.
We just needed hats. So there were a wide variety of them. Here are some folks that include the father-of-the-bride and her brother.
And what would a wedding-with-hats be without a tophat?
Oh, and bare feet? I had checked with the bride in advance. I needed a hat, not shoes. And people dressed in all sorts of ways, some more formal, some less so.
So I went for barefoot elegant . . . with a hat.
Here I am with the bride.
Wonderful wedding. Best of life to Rebecca and Quincy.