Lincoln scholar Current, 100, dies

Richard Nelson Current, a prolific and award-winning Abraham Lincoln scholar who for decades was a leader in his field and helped shape a more realistic view of the iconic president, has died. He was 100.

Current died Oct. 26 in Boston, fellow Lincoln historian Harold Holzer said Thursday. Current’s many books included “The Lincoln Nobody Knows” and “Lincoln the President,” winner of the Bancroft Prize in 1956. He had many other interests, writing about Daniel Webster, the invention of the typewriter and the state of Wisconsin. In his 80s, he and his wife, Marcia Ewing Current, co-wrote a biography of dancer Loie Fuller. In his 90s, he translated essays and stories by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, teaching himself the language of his ancestors.

“He never lost his sense of curiosity. It was remarkable,” Marcia Ewing Current, married to the historian for 28 years, said Thursday.

Holzer noted that Current was the last survivor of a trio of Lincoln experts who emerged after World War II: Current, David Herbert Donald and Don E. Fehrenbacher. Current’s most influential work likely was “The Lincoln Nobody Knows,” which came out in 1958. Eric Foner, who decades later wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Lincoln and slavery, would praise Current’s text as “the most judicious analysis of everything from Lincoln’s family life and political career to his ever-controversial views on slavery and race.” Holzer read the book as a boy and cited it as inspiration for pursuing his own career in Lincoln studies.