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Lincoln University (now Lincoln College) was founded during the Civil War and is the only college named for Abraham Lincoln while he was still living, located in the only town to be named for Abraham Lincoln prior to his presidency. The college was established in 1865 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Church wanted to create a college in the north because the denomination's other schools were located in the south. At the same time a movement to form a college started in the new community of Lincoln, Illinois.
On February 6, 1865, the Illinois General Assembly granted the charter that established the university. President Abraham Lincoln was aware the school would be named in his honor due to his friendship with several members of the university's inaugural Board of Trustees. The groundbreaking for University Hall, the first college building, was held six days after the charter had been granted and on Abraham Lincoln's last living birthday, February 12, 1865.
Lincoln Heritage Museum began as the Lincoln Room in 1941 with a large donation of Abraham Lincoln artifacts from Lincoln University alumnus, Judge Lawrence Stringer.
The Lincoln College Lincoln Room, 1950s.
Over time the collection grew with notable donations coming from Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the last descendant of the Lincoln family. As Lincoln College’s collection expanded, the Lincoln Room transformed into the Lincoln College Museum within the McKinstry Library.
Lincoln College Museum, 2010.
Lincoln Heritage Museum, 2020.
By 2014, the museum had outgrown its space again and Lincoln Heritage Museum was formed in the newly constructed Lincoln Center at Lincoln College. Lincoln Heritage Museum is divided into two sections. The first floor exhibit area displays over a hundred rare and historic objects like furniture owned by Abraham Lincoln, a table that Abraham Lincoln studied on in New Salem, hand-painted campaign banners from 1860, Abraham Lincoln’s law books, and much more. The second floor features the Lincoln Heritage Museum Immersion Tour which transports visitors back in time to Ford’s Theater on the fateful night of April 14, 1865. Visitors then travel alongside Mr. Lincoln on his life review through over a dozen 19th century room recreations.
The mission of Lincoln Heritage Museum is to interpret the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and the world in which he lived, and to be an educational resource to the community. Lincoln Heritage Museum invites all to learn from Lincoln, and live like Lincoln.