The new Lincoln pennies are dishonest about Honest Abe


The U.S. Mint is officially the P.T. Barnum of currency. It's addicted to showmanship. Yesterday, in a heartwarmingly goofy ceremony at Washington DC's Lincoln Memorial, an actor dressed as Abe unveiled its four new designs for the penny, all of which will be released in 2009 to commemorate the 200th birthday of the put-upon Civil War president. They're just the latest pocket party favors for our ongoing patriotic fervor.

While Lincoln will appear as usual on one side (facing right, the only president to do so on our circulating coins), the flip side will depict four Abe-ish icons issued in rotation: a log cabin inscribed with his birth year, an image of Lincoln the rail splitter studying on a log, a portrait of the young legislator in front of Illinois' state capitol, and a shot of the U.S. Capitol under construction as it was when he was our troubled country's leader.

But as historian James W. Leowen investigated in his 1999 book Lies Across America, the log cabin is a fake. That right. The cabin pawned off on the public as the one Lincoln was born in, and the one that will be engraved on our money, was built in 1895, 30 years after Abe's death, as a tourist draw.