Becoming Abraham Lincoln

I started portraying Mister Lincoln in 1989, when I was teaching German at the University of Michigan and living very much in what I have come to call my “professorial phase” of life: full beard with moustache, wearing a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows. My wife commented one day that if I shaved off my moustache, I’d look just like Abraham Lincoln. I shaved it off, and lo-and-behold, there he was!

Shortly thereafter, I attended my first reenactment as a “walk-on,” just showing up, and found to my amazement and great pleasure just how delightful and what an honor it was to be treated like President Lincoln—acknowledged by civilians with a hearty “Howdy, Abe,” or a sincerely respectful “Good afternoon, Mister President,” and saluted by soldiers of all ranks who came to attention when I approached. I spoke at that event, attended the Ball, and met hundreds of reenactors and visitors over the course of the weekend. The organizers invited me back for the next year, and I got paid.

That’s how it all started.

My presentations are all in Mister Lincoln’s own words, which I've selected from his collected works and assembled into about fifty pages of presentation material. Always awed at the President’s command of English, I've made only minimal editorial changes to his words, like those necessary to make transitions possible or to update some of his nineteenth-century vocabulary. I know I can't match his eloquence, so I don’t dare to try.

Since that first reenactment, I've performed at hundreds of events, including more reenactment weekends and school visits than I can count, political functions, and on patriotic holidays like Independence Day, Presidents Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Along the way, I’ve had a wide range of wonderful experiences when fully in character and when as “out-of-character” as I ever am. Even when I’m wearing something as un-Lincolnlike as shorts and a T-shirt, people I pass whisper comments about me among themselves.