Abe’s Youth: Shaping the Future President

Since his death, Abraham Lincoln has been celebrated as savior of the Union, proponent for emancipation, president of the United States, and skilled statesman. Although Lincoln’s adult life has been well documented and analyzed, most biographers have regarded his early years as inconsequential to his career and accomplishments.

In 1920 a group of historians known as the Lincoln Inquiry were determined to give Lincoln’s formative years their due. Abe’s Youth takes a look into their writings, which focus on Lincoln’s life between 7 to 21 years of age. By filling in the gaps on Lincoln’s childhood, the authors shed light on how his experiences growing up influenced the man he became.

As the first fully annotated edition of the Lincoln Inquiry papers, Abe’s Youth offers indispensable reading for anyone hoping to learn about Lincoln’s early life.

The book includes a foreword by Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame and is co-edited by William E. “Bill” Bartelt, a Lincoln historian and retired educator. Bartelt’s books include There I Grew Up, which tells the history of Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana years and helped inspire The Better Angels, a 2014 biographical drama-historical film about Lincoln’s formative years. He is considered the greatest living scholar on Abraham Lincoln’s youth in Indiana.

Praise and Reviews

“William Bartelt and Joshua Claybourn have done Lincoln scholars and the general public an immensely valuable service. Aware of both the value and the limitations of the Lincoln Inquiry’s evidence regarding Lincoln’s Hoosier roots, they have here produced a careful, meticulous and balanced volume of primary source material that will be indispensable for anyone who wishes to investigate Lincoln’s Indiana years.”
~ Brian Dirck, professor of history, Anderson University, and author of Lincoln in Indiana

“The editors have at last made easily available a host of sources, barely known or unknown even to Lincoln experts, and this compactness alone provides their purpose. Yet for the casual reader interested in the springtime of Lincoln’s life, these now-uncovered tales also trot along at a summertime clip. It is fine reading — what Herndon missed, the Indiana historians found. Among these 30 short sections, we find rich clues to such questions as ‘Why did Lincoln become a Henry Clay Whig rather than an Andrew Jackson Democrat?’ and ‘Was his background a burden, or an inspiration, to his later greatness?’ Women like Ida Tarbell and Bess V. Ehrmann; men like John Iglehart and Roscoe Kiper now blaze our path anew. Here you will even find precise details from a settler on how to make a fire, and the fascinating terms those folk used for the tools.”
~ James M. Cornelius, Ph.D., editor, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

“Newly published book is a must-read. . . . The book is a most fascinating glimpse into our region’s past and well worth the price.”
~ Spencer County Leader, 24 September 2019

Media & Public Appearances

  • Abraham Lincoln Institute Symposium (6 July 2020): Bill Bartelt presents at the 2020 Lincoln Institute Symposium (online) in conjunction with Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Click here for more details.
  • Dubois County Historical Society (26 March 2020): Bill Bartelt presents before the Dubois County Historical Society at 6:30 p.m. (ET) at the Dubois County Museum. Click here for more details.
  • 2020 ALA Symposium (12 February 2020): Bill Bartelt and I presented the Dr. Thomas F. Schwartz Lecture at the 2020 Abraham Lincoln Association Symposium in Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Click here for more details.
  • Spencer County Historical Society (23 October 2019).
  • Spencer County Leader, “Newly published book is a must-read” (24 September 2019).
  • Southern Indiana Civil War Roundtable (15 August 2019): Bill Bartelt and I presented before this group to discuss the new book and its implications. Click here for more details.
  • 2019 Lincoln Day (10 February 2019): Bill Bartlet was the featured speaker at the annual Lincoln Day program at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Click here for more details.