A recent outing to the Finger Lakes took us to the Seward House, a treasure-trove of Lincoln-era history dedicated to the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, William Seward. Seward is also known as the "Seward's Folly" Seward for buying Alaska (not seen as such a folly now!).
Seward was a central character in the Spielberg film, Lincoln. Played by David Strathairn, he is very much part of the "Team of Rivals" that formed the basis of the Doris Kearns Goodwin book that Spielberg and screenwriter, Tony Kushner used to craft the film's narrative.
We found out on our visit to the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York that Strathairn came here to research his character. What he found was a completely intact American Civil War-era home, including a basement which Seward and his family used as a stop on the underground railway. Seward was also a friend of Harriet Tubman and helped her get funds for her own Finger Lakes-area home, which is also now a museum.
Although the moral center of the film is very much Tommy Lee Jones' character Thaddeus Stevens, we found out that Strathairn's Seward was a major part of abolitionist history (he even had a portrait of John Brown on his wall).
The Museum also includes treasures like flowers pressed by Seward that were in Lincoln's coffin, given to him by Mary Todd Lincoln and the bloody sheets that Seward was lying on when he suffered a knife attack at the hands of one of the Lincoln conspirators.
Spielberg and history fans will want to spend at least a few hours pouring over the objects and documents here and soaking in the atmosphere that inspired Strathairn's great ensemble performance amidst his other Team of Rivals team-mates.
Plan your Spielberg-inspired trip back in time at www.Iloveny.com