Nancy and I were seniors in high school on November 19, 1948, the day the Gettysburg Address was returned to the place where it was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln 85 years earlier.
The document, reported to be the copy Lincoln held when he delivered his famous speech, arrived in Gettysburg on the Freedom Train. A parade of red, white and blue railroad cars carried exhibits of 127 priceless American treasures on a tour of the entire country. In over 300 cities where the train stopped, a rededication week of public celebrations of the United States was scheduled.
In addition to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the train carried the original United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Truman Doctrine, the Bill of Rights and many other national treasures. Each historic document was displayed in a beautifully designed protective case highlighted by indirect lighting.
Despite heavy rain, 7,685 persons visited the Freedom Train on the 19th. Nancy’s diary notes that it took her an hour to go through all the cars. She also commented on the Marines guards in every car. Four years later, Nancy married her very own Marine. Sixty-nine years later he’s still hers.
In addition to the visit by the Freedom Train, Rededication Week in Gettysburg included the issue of a special commemorative stamp honoring Lincoln’s Address, and a patriotic program in the Majestic Theater which was broadcast all over the country on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Schools were dismissed early that morning so we could attend the program.