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Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns

Abraham Lincoln loved to read the Bible, the writings of Shakespeare and Robert Burns. He was introduced to these writings while living in New Salem, Illinois, by Jack Kelso, the village philosopher. When the centennial year of the birth of Robert Burns occurred in 1859, more than 900 celebrations were held around the world. In Springfield, the Illinois State Journal carried the following announcement: "The Festival, in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of the birth of this gifted poet, comes off tonight at Concert Hall. We understand that every arrangement has been made to render the occasion a most agreeable re-union of his friends and admirers..." The cost was two dollars per gentleman and the proceeds were to be given to the poor. His Honor, the Mayor, was in charge of the distribution. The program started at 8:30 p.m. with supper being served. Instrumental music was provided by the Young American Brass Band and two pipers who were dressed in Highland costume. In the first half seven toasts were given, each accompanied by special music. Part two consisted of twelve musical renditions. The last song, of course, was Auld Lang Syne. "The Company sat down at nine o'clock and after satisfying the appetite with eatables, the 'mountain dew' was brought out, and together with a large number of mysterious looking bottles, was freely circulated during the remainder of the evening... The regular toasts were responded to in order by Messrs. A. Lincoln, Linder, Matheny, Blaidell, and others..." On Thursday morning, January 27, 1859, the Journal carried an extensive account of the celebration. "It appears from the program, which was long enough to have been the work of a Scotch preacher, that everyone was to have a chance to take part."

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