Once a year, somewhere in the United States, dozens of men dress up as President Abraham Lincoln and descend on a new town or city in what's become the largest gathering of Abe Lincolns in the world.
It’s the annual convention of the Association of Lincoln Presenters. This year’s conference was held in sleepy Freeport, IL, the site of one of the original and most pivotal Lincoln-Douglas debates during his failed run for the Senate. Local librarian Laura Keyes is spearheading the conference, and with much experience — she has been playing Mary Todd Lincoln for over a decade.
This year, around 70 Abes showed up, accompanied by about a dozen Marys. They spent the weekend learning about Freeport’s Lincoln history, and learning from each other: the best place to find a stovepipe hat, for example, or how to handle tough questions on Lincoln’s legacy.
Some of the Lincoln presenters, which is their preferred title to “impersonators," do it because they admire the former president. Some do it simply because they look like him. But most do it because they’re history buffs, and they want to keep Lincoln’s legacy alive, like Homer Sewell, who’s been presenting as Lincoln for 43 years.
“Is the world a better place because Mr Lincoln was here? Is it a better place because Homer Sewell was here? I hope so,” Sewell told VICE News.
This segment originally aired April 24, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.