Artifacts from Lincoln’s 1860 Campaign are on display

LINCOLN, IL — The Lincoln Heritage Museum unveils its new exhibit, “Nation’s Choice” on February 15 in celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s 207th Birthday. The Nation’s Choice exhibit highlights President Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign while educating visitors about his journey to becoming president.

A series of events led to Lincoln’s march towards the Republican nomination for president; the Republican state convention in Decatur, the emergence of his railsplitter campaign and his Cooper Institute speech.  These events and the support of Illinoisans helped Lincoln win the race to the White House.

During his campaign, Republicans paraded through the streets in caps and oilskin capes carrying torches and called themselves, “Wide Awakes”. An observer of a torchlight parade in Chicago wrote that the massive, emotionally charged political procession estimated at 10,000 was “undoubtedly the largest and most imposing thing of its kind ever witnessed in Chicago.” A torch from the “Wide Awakes” is on display in the Nation’s Choice exhibit.

President Lincoln’s presidential campaign is important to study because many of the 2016 presidential hopefuls are encountering similar experiences. Anne Moseley, Assistant Director of the Lincoln Heritage Museum explains the similarities between the presidential race of 1860 and the 2016 presidential race.

“It was a great experience to put this exhibit together because the presidential election of 1860 covered topics that are still going on today. These include immigration, civil rights, new technology, and the struggle of the working man.” Moseley also said, “I hope this exhibit shows our students and visitors the power of each American’s vote,”

Lincoln Heritage Museum Director, Tom McLaughlin echoes Moseley’s encouragement for visitors to start discussions about the upcoming election after visiting the new exhibit.

“It is our hope that the Nation’s Choice exhibit will give our visitors a better understanding of the political climate in 1860 and hopefully prompt some discussions on the similarities and differences of the 1860 election compared to our current election in 2016.”

The Nation’s Choice exhibit showcases artifacts from Lincoln’s 1860 campaign. Some artifacts include: campaign tokens featuring Lincoln and Hamlin, a Wide Awake torch, and wood from a rail Lincoln split during the campaign.

The Nation’s Choice exhibit will be open to the public, February 15.