Springfield as Mecca

1909 postcard

Something I’ve never considered before is the Muslim practice of facing toward Mecca to pray. I know it’s their faith, and far be it from me to wander into an area I don’t have any knowledge about. But five times a day is enough to make the point that Mecca is very important for Muslims.

I say this because I recently received an inquiry from a reader of this blog about the Gettysburg Address tablet that is on the wall of my younger daughter’s school. He sent me some fascinating materials about the observance of the Lincoln centennial in 1909, of which the Gettysburg tablets were a part. There were roughly 450 of them installed, in every public and parochial school in Chicago at the time. I was told that four of these are known to still exist, which sounds about right after 103 years have gone by. It’s a fascinating thing to know this was ever done in the first place.

So where does the Mecca part come in? I had read, some time ago, that school children were told, on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, to face toward Springfield and recite something or do something or I can’t remember exactly what it was. But this was a one-time event, on a special day, and it struck me as a strange thing to do.

I understand the desire to pay tribute to Lincoln, and few are more enthusiastic about him than I am, but this act of reverence seemed out of place in this country. Part of me hopes that I’m imagining this, or that I misunderstood what was in the book I was reading. But I’m also trusting my memory enough to report that this did happen, or at least was supposed to happen, on February 12, 1909.

Many thanks to the reader who provided all of the interesting Lincoln materials, including the postcard above. They have certainly given me food for thought, as all things Lincoln generally do.

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