Lincoln's Legacy

Lincoln look-alike Steve Wood

In the mid-1990s Steve Wood got an invitation that would change his - and his wife's - life. It was to play Abraham Lincoln in a re-enactment of a Lincoln-Douglas debate. After shaving off his moustache for the event, he realized that he was a pretty good Lincoln look-alike.

Wood, at the time a UNH Cooperative Extension forester/educator, then walked in a few parades as Lincoln and soon was invited to speak as him. His wife, Sharon, was beside him dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln right from the start and after a few years began speaking along with her husband. The two, both members of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, make presentations at schools, libraries, historical societies and community events.

Over the years they've added more content to their talks, including the story of NH's Sarah Josepha Hale's successful petitioning of Lincoln to declare a Thanksgiving holiday. They've gotten awards as the "Best Abraham and Mary Lincoln Team" and Steve took second place in the Lincoln Look-Alike Contest in 2000. The resemblance is strong enough that Steve, even when he's not dressed as Lincoln, makes heads turn.

When did you first realize you resembled Lincoln? I didn't think I did because of my shaggy beard and full handle-bar moustache. Once I trimmed the beard and removed the moustache for the debate re-enactment I was very surprised at the way I looked.

Did you have an early interest in Lincoln? Not any more than anyone else. My interest grew after portraying him.

What's your goal with the re-enactments? To educate and inspire my audience to learn more about Lincoln and his times as it relates to our country's history.

Is it a full-time job? At times it certainly seems to be, especially in 2009, the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.

How much research have you done to prepare? Probably hundreds of hours in total. Reading and research is an ongoing part of being Mr. Lincoln.

What do you admire most and least about Lincoln? I admire his ability to focus on and work around obstacles to his goals. His unconcern for his personal safety and taking unnecessary risks (by today's standards) was not one of his strong points.

What is the biggest misconception about Mary? The stereotype of Mary as a mad woman persists, despite greater understanding of post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders that she may have suffered.

What did you think of the latest Lincoln movie? Realizing that it is historical fiction and not a documentary, we thought it was very well done; not entirely accurate, but definitely worth seeing.

Anyone react to your Lincoln look while you were there? Murmured comments from some folks and most noticeably a double-take from an usher as we were leaving.

What's something we don't know about Lincoln? He is our only president to have been awarded a patent for an invention - a device for freeing river boats or barges that were stranded on sandbars.

Do you ever wish you had lived in Lincoln's time? We spend a fair amount of time doing just that - briefly putting ourselves into the past knowing that we're able to return to the present. We feel privileged to be able to enjoy "the best" of both worlds.

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