It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Sep 23, 2011

Fake Business Card of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is best known for his policies on abolishing slavery and his belief in self-government; he took his job as president very seriously. About the night he knew he'd won the election he later said, "I went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me."

Lincoln had another side to his personality; he had a good sense of humor and liked to make jokes. Even as a boy, Abe must have thought about pranks and jokes. When he was about sixteen, he wrote in a school copybook:

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When


All his life, Lincoln used to turn his quick wit on himself. Once he said: My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it. I never did like to work, and I don't deny it. I'd rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh - anything but work”.

Another story he told had to do with 'being stopped on a street one day by a man who thrust a revolver in his face. "What seems to be the matter?" inquired Lincoln with as much calmness as he could muster. "Well," replied the stranger, "some years ago I swore an oath, that if I ever came across an uglier man than myself I'd shoot him on the spot." A feeling of relief came over Lincoln on hearing this and he answered, "Shoot me, then, for if I am an uglier man than you, I don't want to live."

But the best joke, probably, related to Abraham Lincoln is not the joke he played, but the joke a joke that the opposing Democratic Party played on him during the 1864 presidential election. It was a fake business card, which was printed by the Democratic committee the same year prior to the elections.


Lincoln, Abraham. "A. Lincoln. Attorney and counselor at law. Springfield, Illinois ... My old customers, and others, are no doubt aware of the terrible time I have had in crossing the stream, and will be glad to know that I will be back ... ready to swap horses, dispense law, make jokes split rails and perform other matters in a small way.

The point is that for a good part of 1864 Abraham Lincoln had little faith that he would win or even be renominated. Despite the decisive Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg the year before, the Confederacy had sustained recent victories outside Richmond at the Crater and Cold Harbor. Three long and bloody years of war, with still no end in sight, had rallied significant political support for peace. The Democratic challenger, his former general, the popular George B. McClellan, bowed to his party's convention vote for peace, even though he personally believed in continuing the war.

The presidential contest of 1864 would determine whether the United States would compromise its fundamental purposes. The war, triggered by an election, would see another election stand as the pivotal point of the entire conflict.

In spite of the gloomy political prediction, the Republicans had the last laugh on this joke, while distributing the Lincoln’ business card, because he actually won the election for president in 1864 with 55% of the popular vote versus 45% for McClellan.


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