By 10:30 a.m., the heat index had already crept above ninety degrees. Somehow, though, the Abraham Lincoln impersonator was barely glowing in his three-piece suit and top hat as he mingled with the crowd at Jefferson Barracks Park, in south St. Louis.

According to Steve Stenger, the county executive, more than four thousand people had gathered for this, the official Great American Total Solar Eclipse viewing party for St. Louis County, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the path of totality.

“This will be my first total solar eclipse,” Lincoln told me, bemoaning the fact that he had been in the wrong place to see both the annular eclipse of 1831, on his twenty-second birthday, and the dramatic total eclipse of 1834. For most of the assembled crowd, the same was true: this region hadn’t seen a total solar eclipse since 1442.

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