Like Obama, Lincoln had run-in with a fly

June 18, 2009 12:36:38 PM PDT
President Obama launched his campaign from Abraham Lincoln's hometown, used his bible to be sworn in and quotes Lincoln at the drop of a stovepipe hat. Now it seems the two share something else: an encounter with a fly.

Daniel Weinberg, the owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, has a photograph of Lincoln with a house fly on him.

Weinberg doesn't know if the fly survived the encounter or if it suffered the same fate as the one that had the audacity to land on Obama during a television interview Tuesday and found itself on the business end of a presidential hand.

But Weinberg joked that Lincoln likely let the fly live, something that would have pleased the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which announced it was sending Obama a contraption that traps but does not kill bugs.

"He was the great pardoner," pointed out Weinberg.

One thing Weinberg does know is that unlike the fly that landed on the current president, the one that landed on Lincoln had the upper hand - at least for a while.

That's because, said Weinberg, the two crossed paths when Lincoln was in Alexander Gardner's Washington, D.C. photo studio, when Lincoln went there to sit for a photographic portrait in August of 1863.

To sit for such a photograph at the time, Lincoln had to remain absolutely still. If he moved to, say, swat a pesky fly, it would have caused the photo to blur, Weinberg said.

So even if he knew about it, Weinberg said that if Lincoln wanted a photograph of the quality of the one he got he would have to keep his hands where they were and not do as Obama did, and, as the president said, hit that "sucker."

That doesn't mean Lincoln didn't mete out swift justice if a tiny intruder got too close.

That was clear during a speech in which Lincoln, a young congressman at the time, spoke out against President James K. Polk's Mexican War policy. Lincoln told of his experiences during the Black Hawk War.

"Did you know I am a military hero," Lincoln said in a speech in July 1848. Then Lincoln, acknowledging that he never saw combat, said he did have "a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes."

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