Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
On April 19th, 2005, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois, was formally dedicated. President George W. Bush attended, as did First Lady Laura Bush, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Illinois Senators Barak Obama and Richard Durban, and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Museum, years in the making, cost $150 million, and is twice the size of any other presidential museum. Its holdings include an original draft of the Gettysburg Address and an outstanding collection of pre-presidential documents and artifacts concerning Lincoln's life and times.
Photos and text © Gleaves Whitney 2005
Old State Capitol
Designed in the Greek Revival style that was all the rage on the 19th-century frontier, the Old State Capitol in Springfield opened its doors in 1839, when Abraham Lincoln was 30 years old. A successful attorney and sometime legislator, he spent much of his career doing research and defending clients within its walls.
Lincoln's law office that he shared with William Herndon was across the street.
The cornerstone of the Greek Revival statehouse was laid on the Fourth of July in 1837, five months after legislators, including a second-term representative named Abraham Lincoln, voted to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield.
Five years earlier, in 1832, Lincoln made his first run for a House seat. He was only 23 years old. Earlier that same year he served as a captain in the Black Hawk War.
The returning veteran did not win this first foray into politics. But his views were well known. He subscribed to the Whig party platform that called for more internal improvements, lower interest rates, and greater educational opportunities for citizens.
The second time he ran for a House seat, in 1834, he won. He was 25 years old. The young legislator decided to take up a new career -- he began studying law in earnest.
This statue of Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas stands on the second floor of the Old State House. Democrat Douglas and Republican Lincoln could not have been more unlike; the former was short and stocky, the latter lanky and gawky. Politically they were often on opposite sides of any given issue, and at various points they directly opposed one another in elections. But once President Lincoln decided on war, Senator Douglas supported the president.
This is the Hall of Representatives where, in 1858, Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln gave his famous "House Divided" speech. In the November contest, Lincoln won the popular vote but lost the vote that counted -- in the Illinois legislature -- and Stephen Douglas was returned to the U.S. Senate.
This is also the chamber in which Lincoln's body lay in state before his burial on May 5, 1865.
Almost everyone knows that Lincoln was a clever trial lawyer, but few realize how prominent he was. No backwoods hayseed, he argued more than 300 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court (pictured at right) on the second floor of the Old State House.
In the early 1840s, some of the cases Lincoln argued were before an ambitious Democrat sitting on the Illinois Supreme Court -- Stephen A. Douglas.
This statue of Stephen Douglas, "the Little Giant," stands guard at the entrance of the Illinois Capitol in Springfield.
Douglas unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1852 and 1856. Finally, in 1860 he won the nomination of his party -- but lost to Lincoln in the general election. (He came in second in a field of four.)
Douglas would not live long after the contest. He contracted typhoid fever and died on June 3, 1861, just two months after the outbreak of the Civil War.