If the recent “Lincoln” has given you the history bug, the “History’s Mysteries” episode on Abraham Lincoln a good start. “Lincoln: The Untold Stories” features several Lincoln historians and actors narrating actual documents.
The historians include the co-directors of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College: Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson. Lincoln biographer and historian Michael Burlingame as well as the manuscript specialist at the Library of Congress John Sellars are also featured.
There’s a definite East Coast angle to this episode, but main information here is drawn from transcripts left by William Herndon who was Lincoln’s law partner and friend. He was also an aspiring biographer.
Watching this documentary, you’ll learn that Lincoln was the only president to be issues a patent, that he was a risk taker (making a speech that lost him an election, but made him famous), he established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, he used a famous quote from the Bible and he had a tragic love life.
Although Herndon was a close friend of Lincoln, he didn’t get along well with Mary Todd Lincoln, Lincoln’s wife. Unlike biographers of his time, he wanted to show Lincoln as a man rather than a saint and collected stories and wrote his own observations after Lincoln’s assassination. With the aid of Jesse W. Weik, a younger aspiring writer, Herndon co-wrote “Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life” which received mixed reviews and was denounced by Lincoln’s only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln.
Burlingame wrote the 2002 “The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln” and edited the 2002 “‘Lincoln’s Humor’ and Other Essays” and “At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Other Writings.”
“Histories Mysteries” was an American documentary TV series that ran until 2006 on the History Channel. It was created by Patrick T. Gattis and presented by Arthur Kent. “Lincoln: The Untold Stories” was originally broadcast on 29 June 2000 (167 of 184 episodes) and is currently available on-demand through Netflix.com. You can also purchase the DVD via the History Channel.