Monday, October 22, 2012

October 24th, 2012 Presentation and Book Signing for Guy Fraker’s “Lincoln and the Eighth Judicial Circuit”

 The Lincoln Heritage Museum invites you...


to join us for a special presentation and book signing by

historian- author- local attorney

Guy Fraker

with his newly released book Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 7pm
Lincoln Heritage Museum, Lincoln, Illinois
Presitation free to the public- Book Sale/ Signing to follow

For 23 years Abraham Lincoln rode Central Illinois' Eighth Judicial Circuit, building his law practice and his political base. The circuit, with its leaders and lawyers, was truly Lincoln's "ladder to the presidency."

"If you want to understand why and how President Lincoln became the lawyer in the White House, read this book. No one has described the tedium of the Lincoln law practice as well as this author- his friends, enemies and associates, as well as the people they represented, are all here." - Frank Williams, Retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court

Books are $34.95. For more information
(217) 732-3155 ext. 295 or
Lincoln Heritage Museum. 300 Keokuk Street Lincoln, IL 62656

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lincoln Heritage Museum's Grand Soiree

The Lincoln Heritage Museum invites you to join us in night of support of the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Saturday, September 29th, at the Lincoln Center on the Lincoln College Campus. This highly anticipated event will have a elegant dinner, auction, a first look at the new museum design, and entertainment provided by Lincoln College’s jazz band and choir.

The Grand Soiree will begin at 6 p.m. and all funds received will go to the Lincoln Heritage Museum. To reserve your seat, or for information on how you can be an underwriter or table host, please contact Ron Keller at (217) 732-3155 x295 or at

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tea Time With Helen Edwards

Edwards Place is offering kids ages 6-12 a chance to step back in time and learn what life was like when the Edwardses and Lincolns lived in Springfield. This special workshop will take place on June 9 from 1 to 3 pm. Anne Suttles of the Lincoln Heritage Museum will portray Helen Edwards as she teaches children about how to set a table, ladies’ clothing in the 19th century, what ladies read, proper social etiquette, and the “language of the fan.” Children will also make a rag doll and decorate a fan of their own to take home. The cost of the workshop is $15 per child. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 217-523-2631 or emailing The deadline to register is June 7.
The Edwards Place is located at
700 North 4th Street
Springfield, Illinois 62702

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Tad Lincoln!

On April 4, 1853 Thomas Lincoln was born. Originally named after Abraham’s father Thomas Lincoln, but Thomas is not how he is remembered. When Thomas was born his father described him as “wiggly as a tadpole” and started calling him Tad. Over the years scholars would recognize Thomas as Abraham’s father, and Tad as his son. This small but fond nickname placed Tad in the history books in regards to Lincoln but his character as an individual created who he was. Not much is record about Tad’s early life in Springfield. It is known that Tad did not like academics like his brother Willie and did not have a drive like his oldest brother Robert.  This was probably in part of Tad’s learning disability and speech impediment. According to Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook she quotes the White House guard William Crook as he later recalled:

"Taddie could never speak very plainly. He had his own language; the names that he gave some of us we like to remember to-day. The President was 'papa-day,' which meant 'papa dear.' Tom Pendel was 'Tom Pen,' and I was ‘Took.' But for all his baby tongue he had a man's heart, and in some things a man's mind. I believe he was the best companion Mr. Lincoln ever had — one who always understood him, and whom he always understood."[1]

Even though Tad had his distractions and difficulties he did have a knack of using his wild imagination to make life interesting for the Lincoln family and would in his own way help his father. This is seen mostly by his mother and the White House staff.  Most of the instances  with Tad took place in the White House and Tad was usually pared with his quiet and poetic brother Willie. According to Inside the White House in War Times editor, Dr. Michael Burlingame, quotes William O. Stoddard as he describes Willie and Tad in the White House:

“What a yell! But it comes from the forces belonging to quite another seat of war. Tad has been trying to make another seat of war. Tad has been trying to make a war-map of Willie, and there are rapid movements in consequence on both sides. Peace is obtained by sending them to their mother, at the other end of the building, but the President does not return to his desk. He is studying one of the maps he has pulled down from the spring-roller above the lounge on the eastern side of the room. It is an outline map of West Virginia and the mountain ranges, and it is likely that something important is going on there.”[2]

With Willie and Tad pared together there was always a commotion going on. But this was the parenting Mary and Abraham continued from the day Robert was born they viewed that children were brought up with the philosophy of letting their children be children, and that is exactly what Willie and Tad did they were children.

Tad carved his name into to top of the
rocking chair, LHM
Tad Lincoln rocker, 
Lincoln Heritage Museum (LHM)

When the Lincoln’s moved to the White House in 1861 the boys Robert, Willie, and Tad continued their studies. Robert left for Harvard and Willie and Tad had tutors in the White House. Willie and Tad had their own plans. They were famous for creating their own regiment out of the White house staff. They even had a doll Jack who according to Tad and Willie caused the most trouble. In the introduction to Julia Taft Bayne’s book Mary A. Decredico describes some of the instances Julia had with Willie and Tad: “The Taft and Lincoln boys staged a circus and charged five cents admission; they built forts and played soldiers; they were often found frolicking with Tad’s goats, Nako and Nannie, or with the dogs or pony that well-wishers gave them. Their mischief often involved the president. As Julia recalls, she “entered the study to find the four boys pinning down the president and begging her to help keep him down.
On another occasion, Julia Taft recounts that Tad’s doll, dressed in the gaudy uniform of a Zouave, was repeatedly executed for being asleep on watch. After the firing squad, he was accorded a military burial, much to the annoyance of the White House gardener, who found his flower beds dug up.”[3] These were just a few of the instances she describes in her book Tad Lincoln’s Father that give a bit of light to the effects Tad and Willie had on their father and those that surrounded them. But during the early years the Lincoln’s were in Washington tragedy would strike the Lincoln family. According to many scholars both Willie and Tad contracted typhoid fever but only one of the boys would recover. Doris Goodwin states in her book Team of Rivals,
“Slipping in and out of consciousness, Willie would call for his friend Bud Taft, who sat by his bedside day and night. Late one evening, seeing Bud at his son’s side, Lincoln ‘laid his arm across Bud’s shoulder and stroked Willie’s hair.’ Turning to Bud, he said quietly, ‘You ought to go to bed, Bud,’ but Bud refused to leave, saying, ‘If I go he will call for me.’[4]

Willie was a much loved boy by both his parents and his friends. The Taft children were very close to Willie, but like his father Tad would have a tough time getting over his brother’s death like his father. But the Lincoln family continued on Robert still at school and Tad alone without Willie was still at the White House. Lincoln became busier and busier as the war went on and had little time with his two remaining sons and the war was becoming overwhelming. Tad trying to be closer to his father would interrupt meetings Lincoln had with cabinet members, and in some ways reminded Lincoln of his morals that he stood by. According to a story told by Ward Hill Lamon,

"The introductions were gone through with, and they turned out to be gentlemen Mr. Lincoln had been avoiding for a week. Mr. Lincoln reached for the boy, took him on his lap, kissed him, and told him it was all right, and that he had introduced his friend like a little gentleman as he was." Tad later explained that he called the men his "friends" because "they looked so good and sorry, and said they were from Kentucky, that I thought they must be our friends." His father replied: "That is right, my son. I would have the whole human race your friends and mine, if it were possible."[5]

Tad in his own way helped to keep Lincoln take a break from the weariness of the war and remind him of pleasanter times. In many ways this is what Abraham and Mary’s son provided for them, Tad was a constant reminder of happiness and hope. The Lincoln boys were the glue that held Lincoln together through the good and the bad times and shaped his way of thinking. In addition the boys helped to keep Lincoln on his path through his life and gave him new insights into the light and the dark in the world.

[1] Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, p. 23
[2] Michael Burlingame, editor, Inside the White House in War Times, p. 12
[3] Mary A. DeCredico. Julia Taft Bayne, Tad Lincoln’s Father. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.2001
[4] Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2005: 419
[5] Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 167-168

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Special Presentation and Book Signing with historian-author Jason Emerson

The Lincoln Heritage Museum invites You

 to join us for a special presentation and book signing by


Jason Emerson










and his newly released book

Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln

April 15, 2012 at 7 pm

Lincoln Heritage Museum, Lincoln, Illinois

Presentation free to the public  -  Book signing to follow


50 years after the last biography of Robert Lincoln, historian and author Jason Emerson illuminates the life of this remarkable man, uncovering new insights into Robert’s relationship with Abraham and Mary Lincoln.


More than a biography; it is a tale of American achievement in the Gilded Age

This presentation will be Emerson’s first appearance in Illinois since his newly released biography on Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son.   Entitled Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln, the new publication has been long-anticipated by the Abraham Lincoln scholarship community.

Although he was Abraham and Mary Lincoln's oldest and last surviving son, the details of Robert T. Lincoln's life are misunderstood by some and unknown to many others. With the last biography of Robert Lincoln published nearly a half-century ago, Emerson draws upon previously unavailable materials to offer the first truly definitive biography of the famous lawyer, businessman, and statesman who, much more than merely the son of America's most famous president, made his own indelible mark on one of the most progressive and dynamic eras in United States history.

As a president's son, a Union soldier, minister to Great Britain, and a U.S. secretary of war, Robert Lincoln was indisputably a titan of his age. Much like his father, he became one of the nation's most respected and influential men, building a successful law practice in the city of Chicago, serving shrewdly as president of the Pullman Car Company, and at one time even being considered as a candidate for the U.S. presidency.
Emerson has already garnered much praise for his book.   Respected historian Wayne C. Temple said of Giant In the Shadows that it is “beautifully written,” and calls the book, “one of the best Lincoln books to appear in many years.”

“Having had several conversations with Jason about this book,” says Lincoln Heritage Museum director Ron Keller, “I can safely say that some of the conclusions that Emerson makes in Giant in the Shadows will dramatically alter people’s perceptions about the complex relationships that Robert had with his parents Abraham and Mary Lincoln.” 

As an added interest to the Logan County region, Emerson notes in his book several references Robert Lincoln made to the city of Lincoln, Illinois.

Jason Emerson is a journalist and an independent historian who has been researching and writing about the Lincoln family for nearly 20 years. His previous books include The Madness of Mary Lincoln, Lincoln the Inventor, and The Dark Days of Abraham Lincoln’s Widow, as Revealed by Her Own Letters. He lives near Syracuse, New York.

The presentation is free, and books will be available for sale afterwards for $39.95 plus tax.

For more information, contact Ron Keller at the Lincoln Heritage Museum at 217-732-3155 or

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012: The most important election since 1860?

1860 Presidential Campaign Banner for Abraham Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin (LHM)

“It is the most important election since 1860,” said former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in a campaign speech this month in his home state of Georgia.    Such a comparison to the epochal election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 might be taken seriously, except that, well, we’ve heard similar talk before… a lot. 

Such presentist notions are thrown around without abandonment in every presidential election.  Why should 2012 be any different?   Unfortunately, Gingrich did not design his statements to be historically retrospective of 1860 as much as he intended this as campaign rhetoric to energize the masses against the President Obama.   Gingrich undoubtedly used this comparison to emphasize the urgency of the current issues we face, and I can only include that Gingrich truly does believe the election is of that magnitude.   However, as bad as the current economic downturn is, to say that it rivals what Abraham Lincoln faced when he took office finding the nation torn in half is preposterous.   After all, Lincoln himself found no comparison to what he faced in the Civil War, saying that “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.”  

As long as such a comparison of 2012 is made to 1860, I must wonder if Mr. Gingrich envisions himself as the modern-day Abraham Lincoln who will save the union from the direction the country is taking.   But Gingrich is not alone in evoking Lincoln.   President Obama also cloaked himself in Lincolnesque language this week as well.   In his annual State of the Union address, the president told the nation, “I’m a Democrat.  But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”  Consider that statement from a president whom many Republicans decry as a “socialist,” you will understand why they view his words quite incredulously.  

In the days of multi-million dollar campaigns and constant media barrage of political speechmaking by the candidates, it is difficult to compare modern politicking and governing to Lincoln’s era.   Candidates don’t campaign the way aspirants for office did in 1860, nor would we want them to.  It must be noted that Lincoln gave no campaign speeches for president from the time he was nominated to the time he was elected.   He allowed his party regulars and backers to do the work for him.   He claimed he did not wish to be misinterpreted by the media.   Today, we would expect nothing less than frequent public appearances and ready answers to any question thrown out to him.   But politics in 1860 required then something that perhaps we have little of today: a long attention span and intense devotion to being informed on the candidates.   Lincoln had his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas compiled to serve as his 1860 presidential campaign literature.   Newspapers generally served as party organs—mouthpieces for either the Republican or Democratic Parties.   Thus, readers had to be careful that what they read might be information filtered through partisan lenses.   Yet, they became ever more engaged.   Today, many do not even bother to read a newspaper.  And the difference in political participation between that and our current generation is striking. 

Truly, Abraham Lincoln had the benefit of living in an era of intense civic participation and political engagement.  Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation of America in the 1830s is accurate in that democracy was “the spirit of the age.”  Thousands would travel lengthy distances to assemble and hear a political speech by Abraham Lincoln or Stephen Douglas or countless others that might consume two to three hours.  Yet those witnesses would not complain in extreme boredom that the speaker droned on, but more often would testify to the orator’s lofty sentiments and platitudes.  Beyond that, the voting public demonstrated that same political zeal at the ballot box.   Lincoln’s 1860 presidential election witnessed the highest voter turnout in American history at a whopping 81.2% of the voting population, second only to 1876 election that saw an 81.8% turnout.   In contrast, the 2008 election, with a clear contrast between John McCain and Barack Obama, with full availability to anything anyone would want to know about the candidates, and with the prospect that the first African-American president might be elected, yielded a still disappointing 57% turnout. 

Lincoln believed fiercely in ensuring and perpetuating the privilege and right to vote.  He held that as what made our republic “the last best hope of earth.”    Unlike countries that experience brutal dictators and monarchs, we can live freely and exercise the opportunity to change our government at will.   It was to the first free-state governor of Louisiana in 1864, that for the first time in our nation’s history, a president suggested giving the right to cast a vote—the bedrock of democracy—to a black man.   President Lincoln proposed to the governor that some of the colored people…be let in.”  He continued, “They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom.”   That says it all.    He made a similar plea to the people in his last public address on April 11, 1865.   Because of such boldness to proclaim the right to vote for the previously disenfranchised, he was assassinated four days later. 

Yet today, with no such hindrances blocking our access to the polls, we stay away.

Which leads us back to where I started—calling upon Lincoln.    So the 2012 campaign heats up, and both parties find themselves calling upon the memory of Lincoln—albeit for political grandstanding purposes.   However, whatever the motivations, they still call upon the memory of Lincoln.  Let’s keep doing so.   This is an election year, perhaps not the most important since 1860, but an important step in the life of our republic that happens every four years.  The fate of the nation is in the hands of the people.   Let’s make a choice.  Let’s act.  Let’s keep the jewel of liberty alive, as Lincoln would have wanted.  When we do so, and then when the next president, whoever it might be, is inaugurated next January, may that president still call upon Lincoln, and lead the nation from the better angels of his nature.