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on May 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite

I don't believe this, not for a second.

Too much fluff writing and not enough specifics, details or high res images of the "Springfield Gazette" along with lack of links to the patent application and so on.

Too many red flags. Lincoln is one of the most studied men in history. Everything in Lincoln's life has been pored over meticulously and thousands of books have been written about his life.

If this story were true, you'd have heard of it before. Remember, just finding a signature of his is worth thousands. The Smithsonian would have published this story a long time ago if there were any truth to it.

Seems like it's just an experiment in fiction by a blogger who fancies himself a writer.

I contacted the curator at the Lincoln Museum by email. His reponse:

This is entirely a hoax. Clever, too. We have an official stastement to that effect due within the hour. -James

James M. Cornelius, Ph.D. Curator, Lincoln Collection Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum 112 N. Sixth St. Springfield, IL 62701-1310 217.785.7954 http://www.alplm.org

It's a great hoax. On the edge of plausibility, with several related verifiable facts that make it seem allllmost possible. Toss that in with the I Want To Believe syndrome, and it's bound to spread.

Well done.


Apologies, the original site was having some difficulties which is why I submitted a link to the blog post instead.

I'm getting a 404


Links back to a blog post wherein P.T.Barnum and his "there's a sucker born every minute" line is discussed, but no hint of the number or other identification/content for the alleged patent application[1] is. Intriguing, but dubious.

[1] - ETA.

Its probably a hoax, its too close not to be, but when I saw the preview for the movie "Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter" I thought, now that is not a combination I would expect, and of course "Abraham Lincoln - Patent Troll" would be equally unexpected. However, if you were doing a work of fiction you would have the descendents of Abe, who had slowly, patiently, keep the application alive in the patent office for over 167 years by tweaking the wording, a modest change there, only to have it issue in 2012 just before Facebook goes public.

Ok, its more like a National Treasure plot but still.

Despite Lincoln having four sons sadly he has no living descendants. His line ended 1985 with the death of his 81 year old great-grandson.

There is a disputed descendent, born 1968 and today living in Florida, but his DNA was never tested:


It's curious that his lineage dying out is an example of a very counter-intuitive theory - that the one person who is the common ancestor of everyone alive today lived as recently as the time of Christ. Basically very few people keep their genetic lines open for more than a few generations, those that do are ancestors of enormous numbers of us.


One could always contact the Lincoln Museum. Lincoln might have prepared the application but not filed it.

The story is he filed it but it was denied.

I'm suspicious, but it doesn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility.

Lincoln did own a newspaper in Springfield, and he did actually own a patent on a completely unrelated topic.

This is all a secret conspiracy to get people to visit the Lincoln Museum.

Except that it mentions the response from the patent office that his application was denied.

The original article states that the author was physically presented this rejected patent application at the Lincoln museum.

Can't find a single mention of the Springfield Gazette in relation to Lincoln via Google, or at the Lincoln Museum site. Also can't find any evidence in searching, that the Springfield Gazette has ever existed. Certainly is suspicious.

You didn't try very hard...


"A few years before, Mr. Lincoln had purchased the newspaper, The Springfield Gazette, which was a German-written newspaper that he had delivered to Mount Pulaski and other parts of central Illinois that had heavy German populations."

That said, I'm pretty sure this blog post is a piece of fiction. The "privacy controls" section is pretty telling IMHO.

It's a neat story, but I am suspicious too. The photo in the Springfield Gazette is a mirror image of this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Abelincoln1846.jpeg . Wikipedia claims this photo is from 1846, but the newspaper is from 1845. Also, I would be surprised if a photo could be printed with that level of detail in 1845.

I wonder if this more of a tribute to P.T. Barnum (the first subject mentioned in the article) than Abraham Lincoln.

Remember they didn't have raster images in 1845. That would have been a physical stamp of some kind that was inked and pressed along with the type (or maybe afterward, since this seems to be a one-off). The historian in the story claims Lincoln used this picture a lot, so it's likely that he commissioned a physical block made for this purpose, quite high-quality and reusable in multiple publications.

That's ridiculous. If Abraham Lincoln was the inventor of Facebook, he would have invented Facebook.

Where did this meme originate?

If this is real, which various other people have raised question to. Could it count as prior art in a reexamination [1] of some of the Yahoo patents that Yahoo is using to sue Facebook? [2] Specifically the "social network patent", which is apparently a patent for "World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities"[3].

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reexamination 2: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/03/yahoo-patent... 3: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sec...

The really interesting question (which no doubt some people will think is easily answered as "no one") is, who invented this even earlier than Lincoln?

To reuse Thomas Mann's metaphor, history is like a set of coulisses, walls sliding away to reveal something else behind. Every time you think you've found the bottom of the well, something slides out and reveals another bottomless chasm further on. So it is with ideas.

I'm sure some of the earliest writings were not unlike today's Facebook walls...


Interestingly, the Civil War started because Jefferson Davis was dissatisfied with the implementation of the opt-out clause in the Terms of Service.

The ironic part, is that if this does turn out to be false, it will continue to be reshared on facebook as fact for years to come

I searched for the readable headlines ("the pilgrim fathers" "a thrilling icident" "the pacific") and found this: http://spiderbites.nytimes.com/free_1864/articles_1864_12_00...

So no, it doesn't look legit.

Seriously, why do titles like this make it to the top of HN?

Yeah, Lincoln totally outpwned Zuck, because the idea of a place to give updates about your life is so mind-boggling, and that idea itself is why Zuck is rich.

He probably wanted people to know about the Vampire Scourge and his efforts to eradicate vampires.

Why the focus on Facebook? No one claims that Zuckerberg invented social networking sites.

Abraham Lincoln Patents Friendster in 1845 somehow doesn't sound quite as interesting or impressive.

It turns out that Abe does hold a patent:


But it's patent #6469 for "A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals" There are other Lincolns in the patent database, but none of them appear to have a patent for Facebook:


I guess it does say that this patent was rejected, but this does seem somewhat suspicious that there are no records of it to be found.

The original idea behind Facebook might actually be something like this idea by Bentham - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon only better monetized...

Are you people nuts? This is more fake than a /b/ green text spaghetti story.

I skimmed until He went on to propose that "each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship."

at which point I stopped to come here and tell you that if this quote - or, indeed any part of this story - is genuine I promise to upload a youtube video of me eating my top hat.

also, I just noticed, but ye "olde Caps" were for Nouns. nice Try though...

I'm at the circus graveyard right now and there is no headstone for Morty Smith! I would post a picture but "I'm going old school" and left my phone at home. ;)

You gotta love this guy's story. It's really well done.

Now, suspend your disbelief for just one more moment... maybe Nate is actually sending us all a cleverly delivered message: If you invest in Facebook you are a sucker. Or if you don't invest you're a sucker. Or maybe it's some other message. Choose your own interpretation.

But you can be sure that almost every element in that story is there for a reason. The choices of PT Barnum, Honest Abe, and Facebook, and of course refused patent applications, were not arbitrary. Suckers, honesty, researching connections between people, lack of any protectable intellectual property, etc.

Just really well done.

I very much appreciate this, my friend. I'll leave the interpretations up to the readers. :)

So maybe this is a conspiracy. Is Zuck related to Booth?

Just goes to show you that nothing these days is original. Its just an original combination of old ideas.

That's true. For example, this is basically just a rehash of that last blog post claiming that Franklin Delano Roosevelt invented Cracked.com.

This made me laugh, haha

Does this mean the Winklevoss twins will sue the Lincoln estate as well?

Even if this is not a hoax, the premise that Zuck invented facebooks is wrong, as anyone who has watched the movie well knows.

Or anyone who used any of the myriad of social networks before facebook became dominante - Friendster, Orkut, MySpace, etc.

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