History Around Every Corner

One of the great things about New York City is that you can find interesting bits of history just about anywhere and everywhere.  Today we were walking to the Tenement Museum when we passed the historic Cooper Union building.

Anyone who enjoys American history — and particularly anyone who finds Abraham Lincoln fascinating, as I do — recognizes the Cooper Union as the site of a crucial turning point in Lincoln’s ascent to the presidency.  It was at the Cooper Union, on a snowy night on February 27, 1860, that Lincoln gave a speech about slavery that helped to catapult him to the Republican nomination.  Through his famous speech, Lincoln demonstrated that he was no awkward backwoodsman, but rather a national leader who could speak seriously, thoughtfully, and forcefully about the paramount issue of the day.  The Cooper Union speech helped to establish Lincoln as a bona fide candidate, and not some mere regional favorite son.

The Cooper Union building stands still, with its old-fashioned lettering and clock, and looks much the same as it did on that night nearly 152 years ago, when the strapping frontier lawyer came to Gotham and thrilled his sophisticated audience with his logic and the power of his arguments.