The Great Commoner
Volume 17, No. 1  Spring 2015
Graveside Ceremony on April 10
   The annual graveside ceremony marking the birth of Thaddeus Stevens will be held on April 10 at
4:30 p.m. at the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery at Chestnut and Mulberry Streets in Lancaster, PA.  
Besides the usual presentations, the event will also mark the completion of a new fence for the
cemetery and the unveiling of a new bust of Thaddeus Stevens.
  The ceremony will be followed by a free dinner at the Elks Club at 219 N. Duke Street in
Lancaster. If you plan to attend the dinner, please send an email to or call 717-334-1912.
Membership Meeting And Video Premier on March 21
  The Thaddeus Stevens Society will meet on Saturday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at the Thaddeus
Stevens College of Technology at 750 East King Street in Lancaster, PA. Pizza and soda will be
available. The meeting will be followed at 7 p.m. by the premier of a new video about Stevens by
David Atkinson and David Sollenberger.
   Attendees are asked to gather in front of Mellor Hall, the college’s main building, which has a
clock tower. We will then go to a meeting room. Topics to be discuss include a contribution to the
new fence at Stevens’s cemetery and the purchase of a Stevens bust. If you arrive late, please call
717-253-0099 and someone will let you in.
  After the meeting, we will go to the college’s gymnasium where a new video about Thaddeus
Stevens will be shown. The video is the first of what will hopefully be a series of videos on historic
figures in Pennsylvania.
   If you plan to attend, please send an email to or call 717-
Special Movie Issue
Thaddeus Stevens Post Office in Danville, VT To Be
Dedicated April 18
   The newly renamed Thaddeus Stevens post office in Danville, VT will be dedicated on April 18
at noon. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, inspired by the
Lincoln movie, was successful in getting
legislation through Congress giving the post office its new name to honor the Great Commoner.
   Society President Ross Hetrick plans to be on hand to present the post office with a framed print
of Stevens. Plans are shaping up for a car pool of people from the Gettysburg and Lancaster area
to go up to Danville on Friday, April 17, to be there for the event. If you are interested, please call
or email Ross Hetrick at 717-334-1912,
Open House At Property Owned By Stevens on April 4
   The new owners of a house once possessed by Thaddeus Stevens at 138 W. Middle Street in
Gettysburg, PA will have an open house from 1 to 5 on April 4, Stevens birthday. Sarah and John
Goulet recently bought the historic log house, which was owned by Stevens from 1852 to 1856
and then sold to his housekeeper, Lydia Hamilton Smith.
   It was one of many properties Stevens owned in Gettysburg over the years. But what is
particularly interesting is that both Stevens and Smith lived in Lancaster when they owned this
property.  It has been wonderfully restored to its original condition and should be a real treat to
see. If you plan to attend, please call 717-334-1912 or email
Exploring the Stevens Movie
By Ross Hetrick
   The movie Lincoln is the best thing to have happened for the reputation of Thaddeus Stevens
in more than 100 years. It spurred dozens of articles and radio shows about Stevens. It inspired
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to push through legislation renaming the Danville, VT post office
after Stevens and, closer to home, it more than doubled the Stevens Society membership, pushing
it up to 130. And while the initial excitement over Stevens has faded in the two years since the
movie’s release, it continues to have a favorable influence.
   Yet, the inclusion of Stevens in the movie was not preordained. Stephen Spielberg years ago
bought the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln, Team of Rivals, which only
mentions Stevens in passing. It was only because the movie script was written by Tony Kushner,
the celebrated writer of  the play, Angels In America, that Thad got his day in the sun. And while
the portrayal is very favorable to Stevens, it still contains elements that show that Kushner was
influenced by longstanding myths about the Great Commoner.
   Click here to see story:
History Versus Hollywood
By Beverly Wilson Palmer
   Thanks to the movie Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones's brilliant acting, Thaddeus Stevens is
now practically a household name.  When I compiled the microfilm and book editions of him
back in the 1990s, I found that I usually had to explain that he was a noted legislator, an
anti-slavery leader,  and architect of Reconstruction measures after the Civil War.  Of course
when I visited Peacham in 1994, I met with fans of Thaddeus Stevens, but to most people, even
students of American history, he remained an obscure 19th century congressman.  
  Then in 2011 when I was giving a talk at the US Capital Historical Society on Stevens and
Charles Sumner, a friend from Lancaster, Pa., came up to me with the exciting news:  Tommy
Lee Jones is going to play Stevens in the new Lincoln movie!  Knowing little about the content
of the movie, I wondered why an actor of the stature of Jones would accept such a part.  Then  
when the movie came out last November, I understood.  I can't say the press came rushing to
seek out my opinions of the film, but the alumni magazine for Dartmouth (Stevens was class of
1814) interviewed me for an article on him.  Colleagues along with family and friends asked me,
"what did you think?"  In this talk I'd like to elaborate on that answer, to examine the parts of
Lincoln which are historically accurate and those that, as I said to the curious, are "pure
   Click here to see story:
Possible Sequel to Lincoln
By Ross Hetrick
   The movie takes place from December 4, 1865, when the southerners are kicked out of
Congress, to August 11, 1868 when Stevens dies. The important events are the Congressional
approval of the 14th Amendment, the passage of the Reconstruction Acts and the impeachment
and acquittal of Andrew Johnson.
   The plot includes the relationship between Stevens and Vinnie Ream, a young, beautiful
sculptress who is befriended by Stevens, who then gets her a commission to do the statue of
Lincoln for the Capitol building. But during the Johnson impeachment, she betrays him, yet he
comes to her rescue when other Radical Republicans want to punish her.
   Click here to see story: