“Busts of the Mercantile” Wednesday: Abraham Lincoln

img_0500.JPGThe Mercantile Library didn’t get around to thinking of itself as a historic institution until late in the 20th century. By that time, staff had thrown out several potential fortunes in complete press runs of the many newspapers that flourished in the city in before Cincinnatians found other things to do with their time. After throwing out newspapers, staff seem to have found pleasure in throwing out records that would have been hugely interesting to their successors in the 21st century. 19th century membership records are long gone, but even more exasperatingly, so are the guestbooks. Sam Clemens used to work at a printshop across the street. Maybe he couldn’t afford the $5 membership, but he surely had a look around the place. Surely he signed the guestbook. And Abe Lincoln came to town, wandering around with enough time on his hands to shoot the breeze with the gardener puttering around the flowerbeds at Belmont who turned out to be Nicholas Longworth. Surely Mr. Lincoln stopped in at the city’s senior library for a gander at the dailies. Surely he signed the guestbook. We’ll never know. Did the guestbooks get cleared out to make room for the miles of Waverly Novels we still have but which never go out?

The Library’s fine bust of Lincoln sits on the west wall, looking away from Salmon Portland Chase, whose big ego gave the President heartburn, and looking towards Mr. Longworth who played an amusing (in a nineteenth century way) little joke on him.

-Nemo Wolfe

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Published in: on December 6, 2006 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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