Bicentennial gift honors 16th president
PRINCETON — Bureau County paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln Monday afternoon as an Alexander Hesler photograph of the 16th president was unveiled in a ceremony at the county courthouse.
The photograph was presented by Bureau County Circuit Judge Marc Bernabei and Third District Appellate Court Judge Robert Carter.
The photograph was taken in Springfield on June 3, 1860 for Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign — exactly one month after Lincoln had been nominated for the presidency at the Republican National Convention in Chicago.
Carter said a sharp photo of Lincoln was needed for campaign materials, including buttons, posters and newspapers.
“This would be the first presidential campaign in American history ... that used photographs of candidates,” he said.
The campaign committee did not approve of the photographs Lincoln had given them prior to the Hesler photograph, because his hair was tussled and disheveled.
Despite Lincoln’s claim that he liked the photographs, because they portrayed his true image, the committee feared he might appear unkempt next to his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas.
Hesler’s iconic photograph of Lincoln portrays him as a dapper, confident man.
“It’s through to be the finest pre-presidential image of Lincoln in existence,” Carter said.
Lincoln said of the photo: “That looks better and expresses me better than any I have ever seen. If it pleases the people, I am satisfied.”
William Furry, executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society, was present for Monday’s unveiling ceremony. Furry has traveled the state to deliver copies of the photograph to each of Illinois’ 102 counties in commemoration of the state’s bicentennial year.
Furry said he’s been met with nothing but enthusiasm over the Lincoln photo.
“Everywhere I go, people are excited about having this portrait, not only because it’s Abe Lincoln, but because of the bicentennial year and this portrait sort of says who we were before the Civil War, where our hopes and aspirations for the country were at that time,” he said.
Furry also said the original copy of the photograph, as well as three others that were taken on the same day as this iconic photo, were destroyed in the Chicago fire in 1871. Luckily, Hesler’s assistant had made a glass-plate positive of the image, which was bequeathed to the Illinois State Historical Society in 1993.
The photograph, which will be hung in Bureau County Courthouse, is a canvas print encased in a richly stained wood frame and measures 30 inches wide by 40 inches tall.
The permanent installation was made possible by donations from the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and their respective foundations — the Illinois Judges Foundation and the Illinois Bar Foundation.