Jim Sayre, the Lawrenceburg man who might be the dean of Lincoln presenters, attended his first meeting of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in 1990, when it was held in Lexington.
About 40 Lincolns made the trip to bond with other Abes at the former Springs Inn in Lexington. The Association of Lincoln presenters was formed by a Lincoln presenter in New Jersey to unite the Lincoln community: “Most people have their niche that they do,” Sayre said. “Some like to just pose and take pictures. Others like to do presentations.”
The Association of Lincoln Presenters is again holding its convention in Lexington, April 20 to 23.
The Lincolns range from “common people to lawyers and judges and everything in between,” Sayre said.
Sayre, who is winding down his Lincoln presenting career as Greg Waltermire picks up the Lincoln mantle on behalf of the Kentucky Humanities Council, was most recently seen as Lincoln in Washington, D.C., where Honest Abe campaigned on behalf of continued federal funding for the humanities.
“You can’t move two feet in Washington dressed as Lincoln without taking pictures,” Sayre said.
The group anticipates approximately 50 Abraham Lincolns, some of them from states that weren’t even states when The Great Emancipator was president, and 20 Mary Todd Lincolns.
The group doesn’t walk around in civvies, so don’t expect to see them in shorts and polo shirts as they traverse the Bluegrass, walking in the steps of the Lincolns. They don’t mind if you take their picture, so whip out those phones.
Each day, the men don their black suits and stovepipe hats, and the ladies put on a show that is a tribute to layering. Many of the Mary Todds make their own dresses, but EBay and Etsy are sources for vintage-look clothing.
To be truly authentic, the Mary Todds need a chemise, drawers, privacy slip, overslip and petticoat. Because that’s a lot of clothing, and the real Mrs. Lincoln lived without air conditioning, the bottom layer would often be soaked in sweat, which served to cool the bodies of the genteel ladies.
Susan V. Miller, a Mary Todd Lincoln presenter who works at the Waveland State Historic Site and is retired from being a program director for the Girl Scouts, said that she will sometimes wear two separate dresses a day for the event (she owns more than 60).
“Everyone asks me if I’m hot,” Miller said. “You get used to it.”
About the Lincoln beards: Most of the Lincolns have natural beards, some of them dyed to bring the proper Lincoln gravitas to Abe. At least one Lincoln, who presents as “young Lincoln,” doesn’t have a beard. Their ages range from 40s to 80s.
Miller dislikes the perception that Mary Todd was chunky. She had a moon-shaped face, and she had to wear all those hoop-shaped dresses, but she wasn’t fat at all, Miller said.
“I get so upset when they say Mary Todd was obese,” Miller said. “She was tiny!”
The criticism of Mary Todd Lincoln’s appearance obscures her more important quality: “Mary’s mind was brilliant,” Miller said.
The Lincoln group will visit various places in Frankfort and Lexington where Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln either walked themselves or would have been appropriate visitors. On April 21 the Lincolns will travel to Frankfort for the state capitol and the Kentucky History Museum.
On April 22, the Lincolns will visit Camp Nelson in Jessamine County for a Lincoln funeral memorial service, to be performed with a 21-cannon salute at 10 a.m. That event is open to the public.
When he meets other Lincolns, Sayre said, “There’s a vast number of questions: Where are you from? And why do you do it?”
If you go
Dinner tickets are $40 for adults, $20 for children. Participants may talk to the Lincolns and have their photo taken with them.
The evening includes a silent auction with Lincoln books and memorabilia items.