Abraham Lincoln

Library of Congress (LC-DIG-pga-03942)

On May 17, 1955, the Illinois General Assembly approved the official state slogan: Land of Lincoln. Before that, Illinois was known as the Prairie State. But Illinois had an older, unofficial slogan that dates back to the state’s earliest days: the Sucker State.

During the 1800s, Illinoisans were known far and wide as “suckers.” But this term predates the derogatory usage of “sucker” as someone who is easily deceived.

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On April 22, 1856, crowds cheered and bands played in Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, as a train chugged across the very first bridge to span the Mississippi River. The bridge connected the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad in Illinois and the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad in Iowa.

Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

William H. Bissell was Illinois’ 11th governor, elected in 1856 and endorsed by Abraham Lincoln. He is known for many Illinois firsts: first Catholic governor, first Republican governor  -- the party was only two years old at the time of his election -- and first governor to die in office.

Kevin Wood

I refuse to just grow a mustache and say, “Well, my time is done for a while,” and wait for something to happen. –Lincoln Presenter Michael Krebs

Due to Illinois’s shelter-at-home order, many of us are quarantined, working remotely or unable to work at all. But what about our Lincoln presenters? How has the coronavirus disrupted their profession, which relies almost exclusively on live events, many of them taking place in schools and senior centers?

Mona Buss

Many artists have had to put their shows on hold due to COVID-19. A Lincoln presenter found himself in the same boat until he had a conversation with a musician friend.  

George Buss has presented himself as Lincoln for the past 30 years. He became a full-time Lincoln presenter after he retired from teaching. He said his interest in Lincoln was piqued as he read a history book in seventh grade. It mentioned the City of Freeport.

WNIJ

On this episode, we feature Navy veteran Rick Otey, who took up the mantle of Lincoln at age 67 and uses Lincoln to help those around him (especially veterans). Join host Clint Cargile as he travels to Rick’s hometown of Tremont, Illinois, a town rich with Lincoln history.

In part one, we visit Rick at the Tremont History Museum and then he gives a tour of Lincoln sites around Tremont. We also hear the little-known story of a duel Lincoln took part in, and its connection to Tremont.

WNIJ

Drinkin’ with Lincoln continues. This episode’s guest is not the 16th president, but someone very close to him. Join host Clint Cargile as he interviews Mary Lincoln presenter Laura Keyes. Laura has portrayed Mary Lincoln for over a decade. She also portrays several other strong historical women: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Irene Adler, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Drinkin’ with Lincoln returns! For our season 2 premiere, we visit with Abe and Mary Lincoln presenters Max and Donna Daniels, also known as Abe & the Babe. Max and Donna’s career has spanned three decades and they are known in the Lincoln community for their humor, their generosity, and for mentoring a new generation of Lincoln presenters.

WNIJ

For our Season One finale, we celebrate the unveiling of a new Abraham Lincoln statue in Naperville, Illinois. It is the world's only statue depicting young Lincoln laughing.* And it wouldn't be a proper Lincoln statue unveiling without a proper Lincoln presenter: stage actor and 25-year Lincoln veteran Michael Krebs.

WNIJ

For our third episode, we head down to Charleston, Illinois, a city bursting with Lincoln history, where we meet up with Joe Woodard, a veteran Lincoln presenter who also happens to be beardless. A beardless Lincoln? How is that possible? But Lincoln didn't grow his beard until the 1860 election, so anyone portraying Lincoln's career as a prairie lawyer in Illinois should, for authenticity's sake, be clean shaven. Woodard's tonsured chops have defined his Lincoln career, giving him opportunities not available to his bewhiskered colleagues.

WNIJ

For our premiere episode, we are joined in DeKalb, Illinois, by full-time Lincoln presenter Kevin Wood. Kevin is also a running Lincoln. He runs races. In his Lincoln getup. Hat and all. And he is a multilingual Lincoln. He gives presentations in English and Spanish and translates Lincoln documents into French and German. He can recite the Gettysburg Address in all four languages.

Spencer Tritt

Naperville unveiled a statue in Central Park recently to commemorate multiple milestones: the 200th anniversary of Illinois, the 50th public art installation of the city’s Century Walk group, and the world’s first statue to depict a young Abraham Lincoln laughing.

According to Mary Lou Wehrli, “Laughing Lincoln” began as the vision of her father, Don Wehrli, a colorful local salesman, community organizer and city councilman who got his start selling jams and jellies at Disneyland.

Library of Congress

The Illinois State Historical Society wants to see a particular portrait of Abraham Lincoln -- before he was president -- in every courthouse in Illinois. The Society hopes to make that happen during the state's Bicentennial year. 

Society Executive Director William Furry said Lincoln is an iconic figure, particularly in Illinois, and courthouses are especially appropriate spots to hang his picture.

ALPLM

John Wilkes Booth is a villain in history.  Yet, he had a prominent spot in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

Since the facility opened in 2005, a sinister statue of Booth shadowed the Lincoln family as visitors entered the main plaza.  But that's not the case anymore. 

Spokesman Chris Wills said a decision was made to remove the statue.  “The leadership here…talked it over, listened to what guests had to say and staff, and decided that wasn’t the appropriate place to deal with John Wilkes Booth and what he did.”

 

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger is working on a bill that would expand the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to portions of the WNIJ listening area.

One of these areas is Freeport.  It's well-known as the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, with a statuary park and other exhibits commemorating the event.

Freeport Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Connie Sorn says it’s also where Douglas formed the Freeport Doctrine. This claimed that states could pass laws for or against slavery, regardless of Supreme Court decisions.

EDWARDSPLACE.ORG

One of the nation's most historical instruments -- a piano that was played for the wedding of the 16th President of the United States -- will be restored to working order.

Edwards Place is the oldest surviving home in Springfield. Family members of Mary Todd Lincoln owned the home, and Abraham Lincoln himself spent time there courting Mary and socializing.

Now, Edwards Place wants to restore its piano -- one of only two surviving instruments that Lincoln is known to have listened to.

WUIS

  Abraham Lincoln's hometown re-enacted his burial 150 years later in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. 

A funeral procession made its way through the streets of the capital city this weekend. It was replete with men wearing Civil War soldiers’ costumes and women in hoop skirts carrying black mourning parasols. 

There also were replicas of the ornate coffin, hearse and train car that carried the 16th president's body. 

The Illinois National Guard's leader, Adjutant General Daniel Krumrei, says the guard is headquartered at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

Lincoln Was Here: Connecting The Dots In Northern Illinois

Apr 22, 2015
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago. He was shot while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Tourists to Illinois often head to Springfield to learn more about the 16th President. That’s not the only place to learn about his life and legacy. Susan Stephens and Jenna Dooley set out to trace his steps across northern Illinois.