Honestly, Abe

Among all the political celebrities milling around the Xcel Center this week, perhaps none has gotten more attention from delegates—or more camera-pan air time from the news networks—than Abraham Lincoln.

Well, “Abraham Lincoln,” to be precise about it.

The full-suited, stovepipe-hat-wearing, strikingly tall Mother of All Media Bait who’s been striding around the RNC events this week is, in fact, Lance V. Mack, a professional Lincoln impersonator. (One could mention the irony of someone pretending to be, you know, Honest Abe; but details.) Mack, who previously taught German at the University of Michigan (he also speaks Japanese, as evidenced by the short conversation he carried on with a Japanese journalist who’d come up to have his picture taken with “the president”), has been impersonating the sixteenth president since 1990, when his wife off-handedly mentioned his resemblance to Lincoln. Since then, the impersonation has evolved from a hobby to a full-time job. (Mack charges $500 for school visits and $1,000 for other honoraria, in addition to travel, lodging, and board.)

Mack, who currently lives in Marion, Iowa, is here in St. Paul not for the RNC, per se, but for Civicfest, a city celebration whose timing, you know, conveniently coincided with the convention coming to town. “They invited me to come over to the convention,” Mack Lincoln told me, “and I’m very honored to be here. After all, I was the first real Republican president.”

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.