Donald Trump recently said that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was “ridiculed” at the time by the “fake news” press. Mr. Trump said: “You know when Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, you know he was ridiculed. And he was excoriated by the fake news. They had fake news then. They said it was a terrible, terrible speech.” Well, I teach Civil War history, and I have a lecture that I give on widely-held myths about Abraham Lincoln, and this myth is high on my list. It is widely-believed that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address got universally bad reviews at the time, but in reality, the reviews of Lincoln’s speech mostly fell along party lines. Republican newspapers thought the speech was great. Democratic newspapers thought it was mediocre, and predictably, Confederate newspapers thought the speech was just awful. There was one thing that everyone who was at Gettysburg did agree upon –  everyone was surprised at how short Lincoln’s speech was. Lincoln only spoke for 2 minutes. Just before Lincoln spoke, Edward Everett, a famous orator of the day, delivered a speech that was 2 hours long, and most people assumed that Lincoln would speak at least as long as Mr. Everett. Here is the review of the Gettysburg Address that appeared the next day in the Providence Journal (a Republican newspaper.) “We know not where to look for a more admirable speech than the brief one that the President made at the close of Mr. Everett’s oration. Could the elaborate and splendid oration be more beautiful, more touching, more inspiring than those thrilling words of the President? They have in our humble judgment the power and charm of the very highest eloquence.” That sounds like a pretty good review to me! Lots of other Republican newspapers gave the speech their highest praise. Another widely held myth about the Gettysburg Address is that Lincoln wrote it on the back of an envelope while he was on the train to Gettysburg. That isn’t true either. Lincoln knew that this was going to be an important event with lots of famous people and newspaper reporters present. Lincoln worked on his speech for weeks. 5 early drafts of the Gettysburg Address still exist and are at the National Archives. A lot of what people think they know about Abraham Lincoln is really just a collection of popular myths garnered from politicians and movies – two equally unreliable sources of historic information.
Vampire Hunting. The movie ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’ has been on TV a lot lately. Just in case you were wondering, this movie is not historically accurate. At various times in his life, Abraham Lincoln worked as a farm hand, a railsplitter, a boatman, a storekeeper, a postmaster, a soldier, a surveyor, a lawyer, a state legislator, a Congressman, and President of the United States. However, I am unaware of any evidence that Abraham Lincoln hunted vampires.


Energy vampires are electrical devices that consume electricity when they are turned off. Everyone has them. Your home is using electricity 24 hours a day, whether you are home or away. Most energy vampires use electricity to receive a signal, like from a remote controller; or they have a clock, timer, and sensor inside them that is always running. I think that a lot of people would unplug the infrequently used gadgets in their homes if they knew just how much it was costing them to leave them plugged in. Some small electrical devices use a surprisingly large amount of electricity when they are turned off. For example, an Xbox One consumes over 100 watts of electricity an hour while it is turned off. That is because it is always in standby mode, which means that it is using electricity so it can receive a signal from a remote controller. It can cost you $50 a year to keep an Xbox One or Playstation plugged in, even if its just gathering dust and nobody ever uses it. Larger energy vampires can burn up a lot more than $50 a year. Some plasma TVs consume over $150 in electricity per year while they are turned off. There are also a lot of small electrical gadgets that you might not think of as energy vampires at all, but that actually are. For example, many coffee makers use electricity while they are turned off. If you have a coffee maker that is programmable or that has a clock in it, it is using electricity while it is turned off. Even if you never make coffee at home, a programmable coffee maker will cost you about $15 a year in wasted electricity just because you left it plugged in. Many other small appliances that you might not think of energy vampires actually do use electricity while they are turned off, including toasters, blenders, hair dryers, and electric toothbrushes.

Kill-A-Watt Monitor. If you would like to know just how much electricity your household gadgets and appliances are using while they turned off as well as on, I have a Kill-A-Watt electricity monitor that you can borrow. This monitor is very easy to use. It was designed at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.  The Kill-A-Watt monitor shows you just how much every electrical device in your home costs you by the day, month, and year. You might be surprised by just how much some infrequently used electrical gadgets cost you. The Berkeley Lab estimates that between 5% and 10% of all the electricity consumed by average the U.S. home is used by energy vampires. The Department of Energy estimates that energy vampires cost American consumers $20 billion a year.