Fascination with Abraham Lincoln no mystery to Highland Park enthusiast
Highland Park resident Daniel Weinberg, president and owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, joined the business as a partner in 1971. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
HOMETOWN: Highland Park
THE SHOP: Owns the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, 357 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago. www.ALincolnBookShop.com
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “(Abe) knew how to compromise to move the country ahead. He also knew when to not compromise. He was a genius and a humble one, too.”
Updated: March 5, 2013 10:56AM
HIGHLAND PARK — Highland Park resident Daniel Weinberg moves in a world of collectors, historians, writers and academics who just can’t get enough of Abe Lincoln.
So the widespread fascination with the 16th President that’s been reignited by the recent Steven Spielberg movie comes as no surprise to Weinberg, who owns the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.
Q: You must be enjoying a nirvana right now with all the attention Abe is getting.
A: Sure, it’s great. I wish “Lincoln” were a trilogy, frankly. Seriously, Lincoln is always news. He is always on the front page for something. ‘New photos have been found.’ ‘He’s gay.’ ‘He has Marfan’s disease.” My dad, Jack Weinberg, was a psychoanalyst and gerontologist and he brought over some physicians from China. One of them asked me what I did, and when I told him, he recited the Gettysburg Address. He’d learned it in school. Lincoln is an international figure.
Q: How did you end up turning Lincoln into a career?
A: I was doing my doctorate at New York University and working part-time at Paperback City. I really liked the work and the contact with people who liked books. I came home to visit my parents in Glencoe and said, I like the book biz. They took me to visit Stuart Brent of Stuart Brent Books, and Ralph Newman, who founded the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in 1938 and was looking for someone to take over the business. I came in as a partner in 1971. We look like a museum with documents, prints, photographs, campaign material, assassination material. More recently I got involved in the trade aspect because I invented the Virtual Book Signing. We’d had signings here and there, but less and less people would come to them. I said, OK. I’m going to go to them. The customer in Spokane sitting at a computer with a Margarita is virtually with me in the bookshop. We have real authors and they sign the books.
Q: Tony Kushner, Oscar nominated for the “Lincoln” screenplay, and Lincoln authority Harold Holzer were in for a virtual book signing and discussion on Feb. 15. How did that come about?
A: I have known Harold for decades because we are both in the Lincoln world. I got to know Tony more recently. He first came in the shop because he was writing for Spielberg. He was in Chicago because “Angels in America” was being shown at the Court Theater. He’s been in now a few times. He was kind enough to say yes to my invitation.
Q: Is there anything the public is learning about Lincoln from the movie that was not previously well known?
A: I think a lot of people have been surprised to learn he was a politician. He was a consummate politician. He knew how to read people, and form opinions, and lead people to where he wanted them to be. He knew how to compromise to move the country ahead. He also knew when to not compromise. How do you describe a genius? He was a genius and a humble one, too. And his verbiage carries the day, just like Tony Kushner’s verbiage carries this movie.