NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO PRESENT NEW EXHIBITION EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIP OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND HIS JEWISH CONTEMPORARIES

Samuel Alschuler, a Jewish photographer lent Lincoln his own velvet-trimmed coat for this photo taken in Urbana, Illinois, on April 25, 1858, just as Lincoln would begin his Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln would again sit for Alschuler two years later, after he was elected president.

Samuel Alschuler, a Jewish photographer lent Lincoln his own velvet-trimmed coat for this photo taken in Urbana, Illinois, on April 25, 1858, just as Lincoln would begin his Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln would again sit for Alschuler two years later, after he was elected president.

Marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the New-York Historical Society will present the exhibition Lincoln and the Jews, on view March 20 through June 7, 2015. Through several never-before-exhibited original writings by Lincoln and his Jewish contemporaries, the exhibition will bring to light Lincoln’s little-known relationship with the Jewish community and its lasting implications for Lincoln, for America, and for Jews. The exhibition is inspired by the publication of Lincoln and the Jews: A History (Thomas Dunne Books, March 2015), by Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, and Benjamin Shapell, founder of The Shapell Manuscript Foundation.

Lincoln’s close friend, Abraham Jonas, was a Jewish lawyer in Quincy, Illinois whom Lincoln first met in 1843. Jonas was a staunch supporter of Lincoln throughout their more than two decades of friendship. The correspondence between the two men demonstrates their personal, professional, and political closeness, and in 1860 Lincoln said of Jonas that he was “one of my most valued friends.”

Lincoln’s close friend, Abraham Jonas, was a Jewish lawyer in Quincy, Illinois whom Lincoln first met in 1843. Jonas was a staunch supporter of Lincoln throughout their more than two decades of friendship. The correspondence between the two men demonstrates their personal, professional, and political closeness, and in 1860 Lincoln said of Jonas that he was “one of my most valued friends.”

Abraham Jonas, a close friend of Lincoln's (a Jewish lawyer from Illinois), warns Lincoln of a plot to assassinate him before Inauguration Day. Jonas had sons living in the South, and he received word from them of the rumors to kill Lincoln. The warnings did not go unheeded: Lincoln was smuggled into Washington, arriving in the dead of night ten days before the Inauguration.

Abraham Jonas, a close friend of Lincoln’s (a Jewish lawyer from Illinois), warns Lincoln of a plot to assassinate him before Inauguration Day. Jonas had sons living in the South, and he received word from them of the rumors to kill Lincoln. The warnings did not go unheeded: Lincoln was smuggled into Washington, arriving in the dead of night ten days before the Inauguration.

Presented in collaboration with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, the exhibition will premiere at the New-York Historical Society before traveling to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The exhibition is guest curated by Dr. Ann Meyerson, independent museum curator, under the leadership of Benjamin Shapell. Harold Holzer, the Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, serves as Chief Historical Advisor.

Lincoln and the Jews will illustrate how America changed as its Jewish population surged from 3,000 to 150,000, and how Abraham Lincoln, more than any of his predecessors, changed America in order to accelerate acceptance of Jews as part of the mosaic of American life. Showcasing more than 80 artifacts documenting the connection between Lincoln and Jews – including letters, official appointments, pardons, and personal notes, as well as Bibles, paintings and Judaica – Lincoln and the Jews will trace the events in Lincoln’s life through the lens of his Jewish friends, such as his fellow lawyer and politician Abraham Jonas and his enigmatic chiropodist (podiatrist) and confidant Issachar Zacharie, as well as Lincoln’s profound interest in and connection to the Old Testament. The exhibition will paint a portrait of a politician and president who worked for the inclusion of Jews as equals in America – a leader truly committed to “malice toward none.”

Painting titled: The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln, by Alonzo Chappel, 1868. Oil on canvas. This painting depicts President Lincoln on his deathbed surrounded by a large group of people including Robert Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Harris, Henry Rathbone, Edwin Stanton, and Andrew Johnson. Artist and engraver John B. Bachelder of Washington, D.C., arranged for everyone who visited the dying president to have their photographs taken at Mathew Brady’s studio. From those images, Bachelder created a design for a monumental painting and hired Alonzo Chappel to complete the canvas: A Jewish doctor at Lincoln’s deathbed: Alonzo Chappel’s famous 1867 painting depicts the ten-by-fifteen-foot room in which Lincoln lay dying as large enough to be filled with almost as many doctors who later claimed to be there. Of the nine actually in attendance, Dr. Charles Liebermann, a Russian-born Jewish ophthalmologist and a leading Washington physician, is prominently featured here, gazing intently at the president. Lierbermann had attended at Lincoln’s deathbed throughout the nine-hour coma.

Painting titled: The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln, by Alonzo Chappel, 1868. Oil on canvas. This painting depicts President Lincoln on his deathbed surrounded by a large group of people including Robert Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Harris, Henry Rathbone, Edwin Stanton, and Andrew Johnson. Artist and engraver John B. Bachelder of Washington, D.C., arranged for everyone who visited the dying president to have their photographs taken at Mathew Brady’s studio. From those images, Bachelder created a design for a monumental painting and hired Alonzo Chappel to complete the canvas: A Jewish doctor at Lincoln’s deathbed: Alonzo Chappel’s famous 1867 painting depicts the ten-by-fifteen-foot room in which Lincoln lay dying as large enough to be filled with almost as many doctors who later claimed to be there. Of the nine actually in attendance, Dr. Charles Liebermann, a Russian-born Jewish ophthalmologist and a leading Washington physician, is prominently featured here, gazing intently at the president. Lierbermann had attended at Lincoln’s deathbed throughout the nine-hour coma.

The exhibition is designed to move visitors chronologically through Lincoln’s life, beginning with items and documents from before his presidential inauguration and ending with his untimely death in 1865. Lincoln’s relationship with Abraham Jonas, a Jewish member of the Illinois State Legislature whom Lincoln called “one of my most valued friends,” will be explored in the show, with an 1860 letter on view from Jonas that warns of an assassination plot before Lincoln’s first inauguration, rumors of which Jonas learned from his extended family in the South. Also on display is the illustration of a Hebrew flag that Abraham Kohn, a leader of the Jewish community in Chicago, bestowed upon then-president-elect Lincoln shortly before his departure from Springfield for his inauguration in Washington. Quoting the Book of Joshua, it urged Lincoln to “Be strong and of a good courage… Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Lincoln often took unpopular stands in defense of Jews and Judaism, and the exhibition explores Lincoln’s two most important wartime interactions with the Jewish community. One was his role in amending the chaplaincy law so that Jews and other non-Christians might serve as chaplains; he also appointed the first-ever Jewish military chaplains in the United States. The other was his countermanding of General Ulysses S. Grant’s notorious General Orders No. 11 that expelled “Jews as a class” from the territory then under his command. Lincoln had the order revoked as soon as he learned of it, explaining that he did “not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.” Lincoln also supported the promotion and decoration of Jewish Civil War soldiers. On view in the exhibition will be dueling pistols presented to the Civil War hero Edward S. Salomon by the Citizens of Cook County, Illinois in 1867. Salomon led the so-called “Jewish Company” from Illinois and was commended for his battlefield bravery, exhibited at the Battle of Gettysburg and beyond.

Carte-de-visite of Issachar Zacharie. The Shapell Manuscript Collection

Carte-de-visite of Issachar Zacharie. The Shapell Manuscript Collection

Issachar Zacharie came highly recommended to treat Lincoln’s feet after shrewdly amassing a host of testimonials, mostly from leading politicians and generals. Yet Zacharie was not shy about requesting and accumulating more, even from the president, who, in the historic week that followed Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history, and the week in which Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, wrote no less than three testimonials for the Jewish chiropodist. Lincoln attested to Zacharie’s skill in treating his feet, and in one, refers to “what plain people called backache,” alluding to his own humble origins and years of hard labor. Within months, Zacharie would become emissary to the Jewish community in Union-occupied New Orleans.

Issachar Zacharie came highly recommended to treat Lincoln’s feet after shrewdly amassing a host of testimonials, mostly from leading politicians and generals. Yet Zacharie was not shy about requesting and accumulating more, even from the president, who, in the historic week that followed Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history, and the week in which Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, wrote no less than three testimonials for the Jewish chiropodist. Lincoln attested to Zacharie’s skill in treating his feet, and in one, refers to “what plain people called backache,” alluding to his own humble origins and years of hard labor. Within months, Zacharie would become emissary to the Jewish community in Union-occupied New Orleans.

In 1862, just as he was preparing to deliver the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, Lincoln was treated by podiatrist Issachar Zacharie, who soon became a close confidant. Lincoln entrusted Zacharie with several secret missions, even sending him to New Orleans to promote pro-Union sentiments among his Jewish “countrymen.” Zacharie also worked to win Jewish voters to Lincoln’s side in the 1864 election. In return, when Savannah was restored to the Union, he sought Lincoln’s permission to visit his family there. In a remarkable 1865 letter bluntly titled “About Jews,” which is on view in the exhibition, Lincoln instructed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to grant passage for Zacharie. He also ordered a hearing for a dismissed Jewish provost marshall (head of the military police) whom, he wrote, “has suffered for us & served us well.” In an era when anti-Semitism was commonplace, Lincoln openly sided with these Jews, against the advice of his Secretary of War. Continue reading

NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY CELEBRATES LEGENDARY PORTRAITIST IN THE HIRSCHFELD CENTURY: THE ART OF AL HIRSCHFELD

Laurel and Hardy Ink, watercolor, collage wallpaper sample, and photograph, 1928 Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Laurel and Hardy
Ink, watercolor, collage wallpaper sample, and photograph, 1928
Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Acclaimed portraitist Al Hirschfeld (1903–2003) immortalized celebrities and Broadway productions with his iconic linear calligraphic drawings for nine decades, establishing himself as one of the most important contemporary portrait artists. This spring, the New-York Historical Society will present The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld, on view from May 22 through October 12, 2015, honoring the renowned portraitist whose work documented the performing arts in the 20th century. Organized by Louise Kerz Hirschfeld and guest curated by David Leopold of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, the exhibition will feature more than 100 original drawings, from the artist’s early work for Hollywood studios to his last drawings for The New York Times.

2000 Academy Award Nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress [Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me, Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Allen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, Ed Harris in Pollock, Geoffrey Rush in Quills, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, Joan Allen in The Contender, Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls, Juliette Binoche in Chocolat], 2001 Ink on board Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

2000 Academy Award Nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress [Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me, Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Allen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, Ed Harris in Pollock, Geoffrey Rush in Quills, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, Joan Allen in The Contender, Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls, Juliette Binoche in Chocolat], 2001
Ink on board. Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation
© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Self portrait, 1985 Ink on board Collection of Harvard University © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Self portrait, 1985, Ink on board
Collection of Harvard University. © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Ella Fitzgerald, 1993 Ink on board Collection of Harvard University © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Ella Fitzgerald, 1993, Ink on board
Collection of Harvard University. © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Known by many as “the Line King,” Al Hirschfeld was widely considered one of the most important figures in contemporary drawing and caricature. Celebrities considered it an honor to be “Hirschfelded” and his drawings brought the energy and exuberance of Broadway to the page. The exhibition will feature classic portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Jane Fonda and Ringo Starr, as well as cast drawings from such landmark productions as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and The Glass Menagerie. Also on view will be selections from the artist’s sketchbooks, ephemera, and related videos.

Richard Kiley in Man of La Mancha, 1977 Ink on board Collection of Harvard University © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Richard Kiley in Man of La Mancha, 1977, Ink on board
Collection of Harvard University. © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Visitors to The Hirschfeld Century will explore the artist’s career chronologically, beginning with his pre-caricature days at Selznick Pictures in the early 1920s to his last works in theater, film, television, music and dance in 2002. A video showing Hirschfeld’s working process, from inception to completion, will also be on view.

Among the highlights is a 1928 drawing for MGM depicting the fledgling comedy team Laurel and Hardy in a bed with a brightly colored blanket, ingeniously made from a collage of wallpaper samples. An image of actress Ruby Keeler from No, No Nanette (1971) captures the wild energy of the 60-year old actress in her comeback role, enthusiastically tap dancing with arms and legs a-blur. Portraits of more recent stage legends like Jerry Orbach (in 42nd Street, 1980) and Sandra Bernhard (in I’m Still Here… Damn It!, 1998) evoke their big personalities with sparing lines.

Jerry Orbach in 42nd Street, 1980 Ink on board Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Jerry Orbach in 42nd Street, 1980, Ink on board, Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation
© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Sandra Bernhard in I’m Still Here...Damn It!, 1998 Ink on board Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Sandra Bernhard in I’m Still Here…Damn It!, 1998, Ink on board. Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation
© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Ruby Keeler in No, No Nanette, 1971 Ink on board Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Ruby Keeler in No, No Nanette, 1971, Ink on board
Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Nina’s Revenge, 1966 Ink on board Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

Nina’s Revenge, 1966, Ink on board
Collection of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

When his daughter Nina was born in late 1945, Hirschfeld began to hide her name in the designs of his drawings, creating a hide-and-seek game for his viewers that Hirschfeld called “a national insanity.” Visitors to the exhibition can continue the search, but might initially be stumped by Nina’s Revenge (1966)–until they realize that her curly hair and folds of her clothes contain her proud parents’ names (“Al” and “Dolly”). Continue reading