Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Nails the President’s Surprising, High Voice

For his new movie role as Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis obviously did his homework

In theaters November 16th, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie Lincoln seeks to chronicle the life of the 16th President during the run-up to the end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. A trailer for the movie, which is based on a book by biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, was released yesterday to a mixed reception. On Reddit, however, some discussion churned over the pitch of lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis‘ voice.

One user said, “It was a bit surprising seeing Lewis with a high voice, I expected it will open in a low Gettysburg accented voice, really interesting how that played out.”

Or, “s others have mentioned, really surprised with choice of tone for his voice. Can someone tell me is he perhaps imitating Lincoln’s voice as history remembers him?”

Others, the astute vanguards of historical accuracy, responded, “Yes It has been recorded that Lincoln’s voice is high-pitched. I think some woman even wrote that his voice was “shrill.”"

That woman, who described Lincoln as shrill, was actually a man. A man named Harold Holzer. Last year, Smithsonian‘s Megan Gambino interviewed Holzer to find out, What Did Abraham Lincoln’s Voice Sound Like?

“Lincoln’s voice, as far as period descriptions go, was a little shriller, a little higher,” says Holzer. It would be a mistake to say that his voice was squeaky though. “People said that his voice carried into crowds beautifully. Just because the tone was high doesn’t mean it wasn’t far-reaching,” he says.

Further, “Lincoln’s accent was a blend of Indiana and Kentucky,” said Gambino.

“It was hard to know whether it was more Hoosier or blue grass,” says Holzer. The way he spelled words, such as “inaugural” as “inaugerel,” gives some clue as to how he pronounced them.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Secret Message Found in Lincoln’s Watch
Lincoln’s Contested Legacy
How Lincoln’s Assassination Launched the Funeral Industry

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