Again With The Telegraph As The 19th Century Internet

Tied to yesterday’s 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, PBS aired Lincoln@Gettysburg, focusing on the role the battle and address at Gettysburg affected the outcome of the war.  According to the program, the telegraph was a critical tool for Lincoln in the war, and it shaped his thinking about the length and content of the Gettysburg Address.  It’s not as novel of an argument as I think the film’s producers would like, given that the argument has been around at least since the publication of Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails back in 2006.  I also could have done without some of the acrobatic attempts to draw close parallels between 19th century media and 21st century social media.

I think the more explicit connections between the Address and technology are coming from current commemorations of it.  Aside from video of the ceremony, Ken Burns is working on a film about a school where the Address is an annual rite for students.  To help publicize the film, Burns has been recording people reciting the Address.  You can join him at Learn The Address and submit your own recording.

A useful counterweight to the technological focus can be found in the current President’s participation in the anniversary.  In addition to a recording for Ken Burns’ project, President Obama provided pre-recorded remarks at the ceremony congratulating the new citizens sworn in yesterday morning.  But his remarks on the Address were delivered by a National Park Service employee and written by hand.