Shortly after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) , the 16th President of the United States, a small group of business and civic leaders in Jersey City, NJ met to mourn the grave loss to the nation, a loss which each of them felt personally and intensely.
They vowed to meet each year on the anniversary of his birth, February 12th, in his memory. They would discuss the obstacles he overcame in his early years, his firm and fair philosophy, his vision and courage. and his many achievements. In addition to music of his time, the annual memorial ceremonies have included presentations, re-enactments and speeches as well as readings and reports by authors and scholars who have specialized in Lincoln’s history.
Despite weather and wars, the successors of this small group have never failed to meet. No other organization has a longer record of annual dinners honoring Lincoln.
In the late 1920’s the members of the Lincoln Association initiated a plan to erect a monument to their hero. Members sold public subscriptions for 25 cents each.
The final $3,500 needed for the statue was contributed by Jersey City school children in pennies and nickels. James Earle Frazer, designer of the buffalo nickel and builder of monuments in New York and Washington, was commissioned to design and build the memorial at the intersection of Belmont Ave and Hudson Boulevard.
Later, the Association was instrumental in having the park renamed in honor of Lincoln. In 1963, the thoroughfare was renamed in honor of yet another assassinated president. The statue’s location is now known as the intersection of Lincoln Park and John F. Kennedy Blvd.
At the dedication of the statue, in 1930, the Lincoln Association began another tradition. Each year members gather to hear recitations of some of Lincoln’s memorable addresses and correspondence and to lay a wreath at the foot of the statue.
Although the Lincoln Association has officers and trustees, it has no formal membership. Everyone who reveres the memory of Lincoln is welcome to participate in the monument ceremony and attend the annual dinner, where speakers further illuminate the man and his memory.
The number of books, papers and speeches about Lincoln are exceeded only by the Bible, it is said. With all that, the members of the Lincoln Association agree with these words of Homer Hock:
“There is no new thing to be said of Lincoln. There is no new thing to be said of the mountains, or of the sea, or of the stars. The years may go their way, but the same old mountains lift their granite shoulders above the drifting clouds, the same mysterious seas beat upon the shore, and the same silent stars keep holy vigil above a tired world. But to mountains and seas and stars men turn forever in unwearied homage. And thus with Lincoln. For he was mountain in grandeur of soul;- he was sea in deep undervoice of mystic loneliness;- he was star in steadfast purity of purpose and of service. And, he abides.”