“Best of…” 2005-f

From: K.S.

Subject: Barefoot Abe book

Date: Nov 2005


My wife was cleaning out some stuff to arrange for Christmas, and I noticed an old children’s book I’d never seen before. I asked her about it, and she said she had bought it from eBay once to give to me, but  then misplaced it.

Anyway, I was fascinated with it. It’s called Barefoot Abe and is about Abraham Lincoln. It was published in 1938, and each page has a large illustration on it relating to the text on that page.  Every illustration covering Lincoln’s life from childhood through about the age of 21 shows him always barefoot. Many illustrations also include Lincoln’s father barefoot as well as his sister, step-brother, and others.

Of the total about 50 pages, 30 show barefoot people. Where the illustrations show children, they are always shown barefoot, including some school classes. And I’m sure these drawings are historically accurate. Among other things, the illustrations show Lincoln doing the following activities while barefoot:

  • Sawing wood
  • Going to school
  • Fishing
  • Crossing a river on a log
  • Climbing a tree
  •  Riding a horse
  • Gathering firewood
  • Hunting
  • Constructing a floor in a cabin
  • Doing farm work
  • Chopping wood with an axe
  • Piloting a boat on a river
  • Fighting off thieves on a boat (the thieves were barefoot also)

When I saw these drawings of him doing all these things, I could just imagine that there is probably no way that a children’s book nowadays would ever be published showing someone doing all these “dangerous” things without “proper footwear” for “safety reasons.” After all, even if people really did go barefoot that much back then, what kind of message would it send to impressionable children to show that? They might even start thinking going barefoot is safe and acceptable.

FYI, I looked for the book on the Internet and noticed some used copies are available from various out-of-print booksellers, including some later printings.