From Lincoln-themed cocktails and waffle-parlors to high-tech museums and steamy romance novels, the image of Abraham Lincoln so permeates the national imagination that we now find him in the unlikeliest of places. In Lincoln, Inc., Jackie Hogan examines the uses (and abuses) of the sixteenth president in the United States today. The book takes readers on a journey through the little white lies of Lincoln tourism, and offers a front-row seat as the martyr president is invoked in heated political debates over such issues as homosexuality, abortion, and the “war on terror.” Readers enter classrooms that use an idealized Honest Abe to “Lincolnize” American schoolchildren. And readers step into the alternate universe of Lincoln fiction that transforms the Rail Splitter, by turns, into a hapless time-traveler, a sentimental cyborg, an axe-wielding zombie slayer, or a frontier heart-throb.
But Lincoln, Inc. is more than a tour through the thriving “Lincoln industry” today. Whether in staid biographies, blockbuster films, school pageants, or sleeping pill advertisements, Hogan shows how the use of the Lincoln image reveals the nation’s shared fears and fascinations. The book analyzes the ways we employ Lincoln today in our political, ideological, personal, and national struggles; the ways we simultaneously deify and commercially exploit him; the ways he is packaged and sold in the marketplace of American ideas. In learning about “Lincoln, Inc.,” we learn about ourselves, about who we think we are, and who we wish we could be.
Jackie Hogan is chair of the Sociology Department at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. She is the author of Gender, Race and National Identity: Nations of Flesh and Blood.