Steven Spielberg's film about a long-limbed, inspirational figure is finally coming to theaters. No, it's not a re-issue of "E.T." It's "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Here are 10 facts about "Honest Abe":
1 Lincoln detested the nickname Abe, and his friends and family avoided using it in his presence.
2 The Lincoln's Sparrow is not named after Abraham but for Thomas Lincoln, a man from Maine who shot the bird so that John James Audubon could draw it. Also not named after the 16th president are the towns of Lincoln in Alabama and Vermont, and the Lincoln counties in Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. They're named after Benjamin Lincoln, the Revolutionary War general who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown.
3 Lincoln wanted African-Americans to be free — to leave the country. He supported proposals that they be sent to Africa, Central America and Haiti. But when U.S. financing of a black colony on Ile-a-Vache, off the Haitian coast, led to disaster, Lincoln became disillusioned with deportation proposals. He turned to Massachusetts' governor, writing him that if "it be really true that Massachusetts wishes to afford a permanent home within her borders for all or even a large number of colored persons who wish to come to her, I shall be only too glad to know it."
4 Lincoln's famed Bixby Letter was intended to express sympathy to a Boston mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War. The eloquent letter was featured in the film "Saving Private Ryan" and read by President George W. Bush at ground zero. But in fact, Lydia Bixby lost only two sons in battle. A third got an honorable discharge; a fourth deserted; and a fifth was captured and later listed as a deserter. Mrs. Bixby, a Southern sympathizer suspected of running a house of prostitution, may have claimed all her sons were dead to elicit sympathy — and donations. It's not even certain that Lincoln wrote the sympathetic letter; some believe the author was his secretary, John Hay.
5 Lincoln declined the King of Siam's offer to supply elephants to the U.S. government, writing in 1862 that his country "does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant."
6 Who lived in Lincoln's log cabin? How about Jefferson Davis? The cabin that sits inside a marble temple near Hodgenville, Ky., is just as likely the Confederate president's as Lincoln's. Back in the late 1800s, when an entrepreneur bought the Lincoln property, no cabin remained on the site. Instead, he found a cabin nearby that legend had it — and he claimed — was the original home, and had it taken apart and moved back. Regardless of its authenticity, he later put that cabin and one said to be Davis' boyhood home on tour and exhibited them together in Nashville, Tenn., and Buffalo, N.Y. The logs from the two homes were intermingled and stored in a New York warehouse. They were resurrected for the historic site, which opened in 1911.
7 Lincoln was offered the governorship of Oregon Territory in 1849 but turned down the job.
8 The story that Lincoln wrote his brilliant Gettysburg Address on a scrap of brown paper during a train ride on the way to the battlefield is complete bunk. Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of "The Perfect Tribute," an article by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews that ran in Scribner's Magazine in 1906 and became a best-selling book. Lincoln, a careful, gifted writer, by all accounts started the speech weeks before on White House stationery. Interestingly, a Chicago Tribune article decried the scrap-of-paper myth in 1877, nearly 30 years before "The Perfect Tribute."
9 In May 1864, a New York journalist named Joseph Howard invested in gold and then forged phony news dispatches about how war setbacks were forcing Lincoln to draft 400,000 soldiers. Howard figured the bad news would inflate the price of gold. Two newspapers printed the bogus report, and Lincoln ordered the papers closed and their editors arrested, even though they were simply victims of the "Gold Hoax." Lincoln was especially angry because he indeed planned a major new draft, and felt compelled to delay it because of the hoax.
10 When Lincoln was 10, a horse kicked him in the head, and for a short time young Abe was feared dead. Lincoln had been trying to get the family mare to work faster, whipping her to keep her moving and yelling, "Git up, you old hussy." As he said "git up" one last time, the horse knocked him senseless. The story has a rather apocryphal ending, repeated by many biographers including Carl Sandburg: When Lincoln finally regained consciousness, he finished the sentence, "you old hussy!"
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor.
Sources: "Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President" by Edward Steers Jr.; "The Civil War Day by Day" by E.B. Long with Barbara Long; "The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States" by Henry Gannett; "Birds Of The Great Basin: A Natural History" by Fred A. Ryser; "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years" by Carl Sandburg; "Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory" by Barry Schwartz; "Abraham Lincoln & the Colony on Ile-a-Vache" by Robert Bray of Illinois Wesleyan University; Chicago Tribune archives; American Heritage magazine; legendsrevealed.com; the birdist.com; civilwar.org; museumofhoaxes.com; presidency.ucsb.edu