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Abe Lincoln, rail splitter, whiskey seller, born 200 years ago tomorrow.

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Abraham Lincoln, who was born 200 years ago tomorrow, was an abolitionist and most abolitionists were prohibitionists too.

But Lincoln, who was also a masterful politician, had it both ways on alcohol.

As a young man, he had been a licensed whiskey retailer, first as a hired clerk, then as a business owner, in the tiny frontier hamlet of New Salem, Illinois. The stores all failed and left him burdened with debt, so he found a government job, studied law, and got into politics.

My birthday tribute to Lincoln is here.

Below are two pictures from New Salem, which has been recreated as a historic site. They call the second one the Lincoln-Berry Store, but the first one seems more like it.



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I enjoyed your blog entry, all the more so as a fellow Illinoisan.

Abe Lincoln was also a surveyor. He did the original survey of the town of New Boston ILL. (about a 35 minute drive from my house).

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Some whiskey connections:

The Lincolns lived at Knob Creek, KY


"In 1811, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved to Knob Creek, with their two children, Sarah and Abraham."

Thomas and Nancy's wedding feast:


"We had bear meat . . . venison, wild turkey and ducks; eggs, wild and tame, so common that you could buy them at two bits a bushel; maple sugar, swung on a string, to bite off for coffee or whiskey; syrup in big gourds; peach-and-honey; a sheep that the two families barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a pit, and covered with green boughs to keep the juice in; a race for the whiskey bottle."


"In a reply to the Sons of Temperance on September 29, 1863, President Lincoln said: "If I were better known than I am, you would not need to be told that in the advocacy of the cause of temperance you have a friend and sympathizer in me."9 (Mr. Lincoln doubted the organization's contention that intemperance was the cause of Union defeats, according to John Hay. "He could not see it, as the rebels drink more & worse whisky than we do."10 )

Andrew Johnson drank quite a bit of whiskey:


"....Johnson had had at least three glasses of whiskey before he went to the Senate, going back to Hamlin's Senate office to drink the third. Although Johnson was occasionally a heavy drinker, Trefousse determined that there was no evidence that Johnson was an alcoholic—unlike his two oldest sons, both of whom were alcoholics...."

John Wilkes Both stopped for a drink before his evil deed...a whiskey and a chaser.



"Garry Wills notes that "Opponents would later exaggerate his crudity; but as a man on the frontier who neither drank whiskey nor smoked cigars, [Lincoln] used his disarming gifts as a storyteller in ways that later Americans have preferred not to remember."

"Reflecting on his marriage, Lincoln once confided to a friend, "My father always said, 'When you make a bad bargain, hug it the tighter.'"

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