Antil's engaging new book, "A Lincoln Treasure Trove," includes little known facts and anecdotes about Abraham Lincoln.
Fred Antil has been entertaining and educating audiences with his knowledge, research, and stories of Abraham Lincoln as a Lincoln re-enactor for years. Now, people of all ages can enjoy his new book "A Lincoln Treasure Trove," with its fascinating, lesser-known stories about our 16th president.
Antil's book has received great reviews. Book Nook Editor and Historian Hugh Boyle says, "whether you're a true Lincoln scholar, or just want to know more about our greatest President, Antil's book should be on your reading list." Dick Sakulich, from the Bucks County Courier Times, calls the book "delightful."
A former Marine officer, hospitality executive, and Cornell University professor, Antil has two master's degrees and a doctorate. Recently, Antil spoke about his new book and living at Ann's Choice, an Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
How long have you lived at Ann's Choice?
I moved here from upstate New York in 2014. Two stepdaughters live in this area and urged me to consider Ann's Choice. They insisted that it would have been Ann's (their late mother) choice for me. I attended a sales luncheon and talked to two residents, who were longtime friends. They loved it here. I was sold, and I am delighted I made that decision.
How did you become a Lincoln re-enactor?
Grandkids, I have 16, invited me to read to their classes. I started with young Lincoln books then began dressing up like him. Adult audiences heard about Mr. Lincoln and began to call. Serious research and hundreds of presentations followed.
Tell us about your book "A Lincoln Treasure Trove."
Every presentation is different, so research is all-important, I retraced Lincoln's steps through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington DC. and studied everything I could. I've accumulated an amazing collection of facts, anecdotes, lists, and other material about Lincoln. A new resident at Ann's Choice showed me his impressive historic book collection and told me of his daughter, an editor connected with a small western publishing house. I worked with her, and "A Lincoln Treasure Trove" was the result.
Your book includes many little known facts about Lincoln. What is your favorite?
My favorite is perhaps the fact that we all think of Lincoln and his top hat and beard. But for most of his 56 years, he did not have a beard. He had no beard when he was elected president at the age of 51. He grew the beard in the next month or so before he left for Washington. He only had a beard the last four and half years of his life. I also like the fact that a man with almost no formal schooling, and who, as an adult, filled out a questionnaire by answering "Defective" to the question, Education?, could be called Doctor, having been awarded three Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees during his presidency. Two were from future Ivy League schools, Columbia and Princeton. Lincoln also changed education in America forever. In 1862 he signed the Land Grant Act which his predecessor, Buchanan, had vetoed. This Act provided Federal land to each state which they could sell to build schools of Agriculture and Engineering. Every state in the Union now has at least one Land Grant College. These include Penn State, and Cornell (later becoming an Ivy League school itself). But, ironically, my favorite Lincoln" factoid" is a question I cannot answer. Why did Lincoln's wife and four sons, one named Thomas after his grandfather, and living for a dozen years within 100 miles of Lincoln's father, never meet? Still trying to get my arms around that question.
You founded the popular History Club on campus? Tell us about this club?
In moving to this area, I found that interest in Colonial America and the Revolutionary War is as strong as it is in the Civil War. I have gotten involved with Craven Hall (a restored Colonial farmhouse) and the John Fitch Steamboat Museum (coincidentally Lincoln is the only president with a patent, and it happens to be a device to help stuck steamboats get off a sandbar), thus broadening my interest in History. I was surprised to find the History Club at Ann's Choice was inactive. Using material from the Internet I began a monthly meeting. It started in a 50 seat classroom, but was soon standing room only. We now meet in a large auditorium. We have been meeting for over two years and any historical person, event, place or idea is fair game because of the wealth of material available on the Internet. I am fortunate to have a fellow resident, Fred Keill, handle the A/V portion. I thought only teens like my grandkids could be real "techies," but Fred K. proves that not all seniors are as technically inept as I am. We meet at 10:30 am on the second Wednesday of each month. At our next program, we will learn about P.T. Barnum, the world's greatest showman.
What other activities do you enjoy on campus?
I enjoy the Lifelong Learning (ACLLA) lecture series, and other speaker programs offered. One of my favorite faculty members from ACLLA is Hugh Boyle, a renowned local Historian*. The concerts /movies here are most enjoyable, and I liked being in the Chorus, but time demands have forced me to drop that, at least for a while.
*Hugh Boyle recently reviewed Antil's book.
"A Lincoln Treasure Trove" is available on Amazon as well as the Doylestown Bookshop and the Civil War Museum in Doylestown.
About Ann's Choice: Ann's Choice, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 103-acre campus in Warminster, Pennsylvania. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,900 residents and 1,000 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Ann's Choice can be found at AnnsChoiceCommunity.com.
Photo: Ann's Choice resident Fred Antil with his new book "A Lincoln Treasure Trove." (photo credit: Harry Beam)