Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Lincoln Prize

Q&A with 2015 winner Harold Holzer

Holzer wins 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for book on Lincoln and the press

The 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize will go to winner Harold Holzer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for "Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion" (Simon & Schuster).

HolzerThe Prize is awarded by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Holzer was chosen from 114 nominations as the 2015 recipient. He will receive $50,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' life-size bust “Lincoln the Man” in a ceremony April 23 in New York City.

The Prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, and the national History Teacher of the Year Award program.

In his book, Holzer examines Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong relationship with the press, particularly with the powerful and influential New York editors James Gordon Bennett, Horace Greeley, and Henry J. Raymond, and explores how, in the age of Lincoln, the press and politics often functioned in tandem as a single, tightly organized entity. In addition, Holzer chronicles how acute conflicts arose between the government and the press during the Civil War, as Lincoln sought to defend the Union against an insurrection that challenged the president’s ability to balance the demands of national security with the protection of individual rights—including freedom of the press.

Holzer rightly emphasizes the “war for public opinion” that took place between Lincoln and his Democratic Party rivals over thirty years, a rivalry that set the terms of the debate regarding the future of American slavery, particularly among northern white voters. While Lincoln stands as the protagonist of this historic drama, Holzer also offers a timely examination of the role of the press in a free society and popular government, especially for a nation that found itself dealing with a rebellion.

2015 Lincoln Prize

"Holzer's book breaks new ground, assembles unforgettable characters, and tells a gripping story about Lincoln and the war for public opinion in the media of his time. It is great history and an engrossing read, for specialists and general readers alike," Gilder Lehrman Institute President James G. Basker said.

“There is no question that the scholarship produced about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era continues to flourish, as demonstrated by the strength of the finalists for the 2015 Lincoln Prize,” said Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs. “Harold Holzer’s meticulously researched prize-winning book offers new insight into the relationship between politicians and the press during the Civil War era, as well as into Abraham Lincoln as a leader. This book will no doubt draw the attention of those with interest in Lincoln and the Civil War, as well as those with interest in the evolution of the United States press.”

The three-member 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize jury – Lucas E. Morel, Washington & Lee University Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics and Politics; three-time Lincoln Prize-winner Allen C. Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College; and Joan Waugh, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles – recommended six outstanding finalists to the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board which makes the final decision.

In addition to Gilder, Lehrman, Basker and Riggs, the Board includes Gettysburg College Trustees Emeritus James R. Thomas and H. Scott Higgins.

Past Lincoln Prize winners include: Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary "The Civil War"; Doris Kearns Goodwin for "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" in 2006; and Eric Foner for "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery" in 2011. The 2014 Prize went to co-winners Guelzo, for "Gettysburg: The Last Invasion," and Martin P. Johnson, for "Writing the Gettysburg Address." Steven Spielberg also received a Special Achievement Award in 2014 for the movie "Lincoln," which won two Academy Awards, was nominated for twelve and grossed over $275 million worldwide.

About Holzer

Harold Holzer is one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television, Holzer serves as chairman of The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, successor organization to the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), to which he was appointed by President Clinton in 2000, and co-chaired from 2001–2010. President Bush, in turn, awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. And in 2013, Holzer wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama. He is serving currently as the first Roger Hertog Fellow at The New-York Historical Society. Holzer has authored, co-authored, and edited more than 45 previous books on Lincoln and the Civil War. He recently announced his retirement from the Met, where he has worked for 23 years, most recently as senior vice president for public affairs. Holzer won a second-place Lincoln Prize in 2005 for his book, “Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President.”

About the Finalists

William Blair – “With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era” (UNC Press) presents a close look at the difficult and complicated subject of treason, and looks beyond the legal or judicial treatment of treason to examine its de facto definition and even punishment by civilians loyal to the American union.

Richard Brookhiser – “Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln” (Basic Books) is a compelling new biography of Abraham Lincoln that highlights his lifelong struggle to carry on the work of the Founding Fathers.

James B. Conroy – “Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865” (Lyons Press) explores the most critical meeting of the Civil War. Given short shrift or overlooked by many historians, the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 was a crucial turning point in the Civil War.

Jonathan W. White – “Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln” (LSU Press) challenges the reigning paradigm that the Union army's overwhelming vote for Lincoln's reelection in 1864 meant that the soldiers supported the Republican Party and its effort to abolish slavery.

Joshua Zeitz – “Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image” (Penguin) provides a timely and intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of his two closest aides and confidants.

About the
Gilder Lehrman
Lincoln Prize

The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize is awarded annually for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era.

The $50,000 prize was co-founded and endowed by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, principals of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation.

The Institute devotes itself to history education by supporting magnet schools, teacher training, curriculum development, exhibitions, and publications, as well as endowing several major history awards.

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