Lincoln Farewell Address Reading at Old Main

Knox joins reading of, by and for the people

College among sites for worldwide recitation of Lincoln's Farewell Address

February 11, 2011

Lincoln's Farewell Address ReadingDave and Lori Bruning (photo left, in front of Lincoln plaque) came to Galesburg from Matherville in Mercer County, an hour away, to be part of the group reading, at Knox College's Old Main, of Abraham Lincoln's Farewell Address.

The event was an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for simultaneous group reading, timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's remarks on February 11, 1861, when he departed Springfield, Illinois, for Washington, D.C.

"It's our chance to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, since we're not going to build the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks or anything like that," Lori Bruning said. For the Brunings, a visit to Galesburg and Knox was also an opportunity to celebrate their love of Lincoln and Civil War history.

Lincoln's Farewell Address ReadingLori Bruning describes herself as a fan of "Mother" Ann Bickerdyke, a Civil War Nurse from Galesburg memorialized in a statue at the Knox County Courthouse, across the street from Old Main, while Dave is a Lincoln buff. "We once dressed up as Abe and Mary Lincoln for a parade" in Viola, Illinois, Dave said. Dave also noted that his brother, Ron Bruning, graduated from Knox in 1961.

The Brunings were among some 41 people -- Knox faculty, staff, and students, and campus visitors -- who gathered for the public reading at Knox's Old Main -- the only remaining building from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. They braved a day probably no warmer than February 11, 1861, when Lincoln spoke at the Springfield train station, and almost as windy as October 7, 1858, when Lincoln and Douglas debated in Galesburg.

Lincoln's Farewell Address ReadingPhotos: above, from the Galesburg Public Library, Jane Easterly brought a cardboard cutout of Abraham Lincoln; below, retired judge Harry Bulkeley, one of two official witnesses, counts the participants for the world record bid; bottom, history professor Catherine Denial distribues copies of Lincoln's Farewell Address prior to the reading.

The official attendance figure of 41 was recorded by retired Circuit Judge Harry Bulkeley and the Rev. David Parker of First Presbyterian Church in Galesburg. They served as two "independent witnesses" of the reading, as specified by the Guinness World Record requirements.

Statements from Bulkeley and Parker, along with supporting documentation of the event, will be forwarded to the State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield, which is coordinating the bid to set a world record for the greatest number of people to do a simultaneous reading.

Lincoln's Farewell Address ReadingThe exact text of Lincoln's remarks, and the differences between Lincoln's spoken and written texts, are among the topics explored further in an award-winning book, Lincoln's Sword, by Douglas Wilson, professor emeritus of English and co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.