Essay Topic Drawing Topic What Is It? Submission Guidelines


By Donna Gauvin, Grade 5, Glover

Monday, February 12th, 2018
Release of the 2018 essay topic and drawing theme

Friday, April 13th, 2018, 5 p.m.
Deadline for submissions of essays and drawings

Monday, May 7th, 2018
Winners announced

Sunday, May 20th, 2018
Lincoln Essay & Drawing Contest Awards Ceremony

Sponsored by B. R. Alexander & Co. and Citizens Bank



Essay Topic for Grades 6-8

This year’s essay topic links to a special temporary exhibit currently on display at the museum: Massachusetts’ Help to Ireland During the Great Famine. More than 1 million Irish immigrated to America in the years during and immediately following the Great Potato Famine, many settling in this state as it had become known for its generous outpouring of support. Yet once they settled here, Irish were generally treated as outcasts. Then the Civil War began, and these recent immigrants came together to fight for the Union cause under the flags of the 9th and 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiments, eventually joining with other predominantly Irish units from New York and Pennsylvania to form the famed Irish Brigade.

However, as Irish casualties rose and President Lincoln’s and the Republican Party’s abolitionist goals moved to the forefront of Union cause, Irish support for the war began to slide. The Brigade was ultimately disbanded in 1864.

Students should write an essay exploring the rise and fall of the Irish Brigade. Some questions to consider are: What motivated the newly arrived immigrants to enlist? How did the Irish units distinguish themselves during the war? How were Irish both victims of racism and guilty of racist attitudes themselves?


Drawing Topic for Grades K-5

Miss Forbes used to open the Lincoln Cabin to the community twice a year, on Lincoln’s birthday and Memorial Day. Hundreds of people would visit, including former slaves, Civil War veterans, residents from Milton and neighboring towns, and schoolchildren. It was – in Miss Forbes’s own words – “a place where young and old, rich and poor, and people of every diverging interest may meet as Americans in a common love of Abraham Lincoln.” She hoped that others would be inspired as she was to see the humble beginnings of so great a leader.

Forbes House Museum archives include film from 1920’s Lincoln Day events hosted by Miss Forbes. The film was recently conserved and digitized by the Harvard Film Institute. Please contact to request a link and password for access to the film footage.

Using Miss Forbes’s quote above and the archival film footage as inspiration, students should draw their vision of a community-wide Lincoln Day Celebration.


What is the Lincoln Essay & Drawing Contest?

The Lincoln Essay & Drawing Contest was established in 1924 by Mary Bowditch Forbes (1878-1962), granddaughter of China trade merchant, captain Robert Bennet Forbes (1802-1889). Miss Forbes greatly admired President Abraham Lincoln, and in 1909 began collecting Lincoln and Civil War artworks and memorabilia, which are now part of the Museum’s permanent collection. To promote appreciation for our 16th president, Miss Forbes requested original essays and drawings from students each year, inspired by the life and work of Abraham Lincoln.

Today, the Museum continues the tradition, and sends an annual request for essays and drawings from students throughout Milton and Greater Boston. Each year, the FHM Lincoln Committee, comprised of Museum Trustees, K-8 educators, Lincoln historians and Civil War enthusiasts, meets to debate and select a question and topic. The question and topic are then released to the public, and students must use the question or topic as the subject for their essay or drawing.

Individual student submissions are encouraged. The FHM Lincoln Essay & Drawing Contest was established as a civic exercise, challenging students to excellence outside the scope of their regular school work.

K-8 educators are also welcome to introduce the essay and drawing question or topic to their students as part of a classroom lesson or unit of instruction. A submission of individual essays and drawings, gathered into one package by an educator, is accepted and encouraged.

First, second and third place winners are chosen among the entries for each grade level.  Essays are accepted from students in grades 6 through 8; drawings are accepted from students in kindergarten through grade 5.

Prizes will be awarded to the first place winner of each grade level and are being generously provided by B.R. Alexander & Co. and Citizens Bank. All winners will receive a free family membership to the Forbes House Museum, along with other surprises!

An awards ceremony is held each year to celebrate the winning students’ accomplishments.  This year, the ceremony will be held at the Forbes House Museum, 215 Adams Street, Milton.

Philippe Bienick, Grade 4, Tucker

Penelope Jain, Grade 3, Tucker


Submission Guidelines*

ON THE BACK of your essay or drawing you MUST include:


Essay Guidelines for Grades 6-8:


Essays will be judged on:

  1. Ideas/Voice (The topic, focus, and details make the essay truly memorable)
  2. Historical Accuracy/Research (The essay accurately references historical events, quotes, sources)
  3. Organization (The organization makes the essay informative and easy to read)
  4. Sentence Fluency/Conventions (Writing shows smooth sentence structure, punctuation, spelling and grammar)


Drawing Guidelines for Grades K-5:


Drawings will be judged on:

  1. Originality (The image is clear, unique and original)
  2. Artistic Merit (The composition, form and color of the art is pleasing to the eye)
  3. Historical Accuracy (The art references the topic and shows understanding of who, what, where and when)


Essays and drawings can be dropped off at the Museum office or mailed to:

2018 Lincoln Essay and Drawing Contest
Forbes House Museum
215 Adams Street
Milton, MA 02186


The Museum will also accept essay submissions only (no drawings) by e-mail:


In the body of the e-mail you MUST include:


*Upon submission, essays and drawings become the property of the Forbes House Museum and remain in our archives at the Museum’s discretion. The FHM reserves the right to reproduce essays and artworks for publicity and promotion of the Museum and its programs, which includes press releases, electronic media announcements, brochures, posters and postcards.


For more information about the Lincoln Essay & Drawing Contest, call the Museum at 617-696-1815