Lincoln on the Verge

June 3, 2020

Former Athenaeum trustee Ted Widmer presents his new book, Lincoln on the Verge, an account of the Great Emancipator’s two-week journey to Washington as President-Elect and the deeply uncertain and perilous future he faced on his way to take the oath of office.

The government Lincoln was about to inherit was bankrupt and on the verge of collapse. To make matters worse, reliable intelligence confirmed a conspiracy to assassinate him as he passed through Baltimore. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the Republic hung in the balance as Southerners vowed to prevent Lincoln’s inauguration by any means necessary. Drawing on extensive new research this account reveals Lincoln as a work in progress, showing him on the verge of greatness, foiling an assassination attempt, and forging an unbreakable bond with the American people.


Ted Widmer, Distinguished Lecturer at the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York, is familiar to many long-time patrons of the Athenaeum, including some whose memories go back half a century. His great-grandparents met at the circulation desk in 1905, and he has been a regular visitor since the 1970s, when he did extensive research in the children’s library. In 2010, he helped to launch a major Civil War history project in the pages of the New York Times. “Disunion” published hundreds of pathbreaking articles between 2010 and 2015, including the articles that led to Lincoln on the Verge. Since then, Ted has remained a steady contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post and New Yorker.

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Categories: History