The Library of Congress will display the Nicolay copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the spectacular Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building for 10 days, before the top treasure is placed in the Library’s exhibition "The Civil War in America."
The Nicolay copy, presumed to be the first draft of the Gettysburg Address, will be displayed in the Great Hall on the first floor of the Jefferson Building from Veteran’s Day weekend, Friday, Nov. 8, through Tuesday, Nov. 19, which is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of the speech at the dedication of a national cemetery at the Gettysburg battlefield (Nov. 19, 1863).
On Wednesday, Nov. 20, the two-page document will move to "The Civil War in America" on the second floor of the Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., where it will be on view through the closing of the exhibition on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.
The Great Hall display and Civil War exhibition are free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in American history and recognized as a literary masterpiece. In three short paragraphs—some 270 words—Lincoln proclaimed the principles upon which the nation was founded, honored the men who had given "the last full measure of devotion" in its defense, and challenged all citizens to a renewed commitment to freedom and democracy.
The Library of Congress holds two copies of the address: the Nicolay copy and the Hay copy, which are two of the five known manuscript copies handwritten by Abraham Lincoln. Likely the reading copy used at Gettysburg, the Nicolay copy was in the possession of Lincoln’s secretary John George Nicolay until his death in 1901. The Hay copy, or second draft, was made by the president shortly after his return to Washington from Gettysburg, and found among the papers of Lincoln’s other secretary, John Hay. Hay’s descendants donated both the Hay and the Nicolay copies to the Library of Congress in 1916.
The other surviving copies, known as the Everett, Bancroft and Bliss copies, were made for charitable purposes in the spring of 1864. These copies are now held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Cornell University Library and the White House, respectively.
The Library of Congress opened the "The Civil War in America" on Nov. 12, 2012, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It features more than 200 unique items that reveal the complexity of the Civil War through those who experienced it firsthand. Through diaries, letters, maps, song sheets, newspapers and broadsides, photographs, drawings and unusual artifacts, the exhibition chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861-1865.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.