Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Land of Lincoln

That’s what it says on the Illinois license plate and now I know why. Abe was born in Kentucky and his family lived there, in Indiana, and in Illinois (in log cabins) when Abe was growing up. In his early 20’s he moved to New Salem, IL and lived there for six years, which is just about how long the town lasted. Lincoln came to New Salem in 1831, operated a store, served as postmaster and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834. He moved to Springfield to practice law in 1837, and shortly later the county seat moved out of New Salem,  and the town pretty much disappeared.

New DSC_0119Salem is now an historical park with about 22 buildings reconstructed in what may be their original locations. The reconstruction began in the 1930s as part of the CCC program during the depression. I’ll just mention a few of the more interesting aspects of Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site.


This building, which housed the town cooperage (barrel making) shop is the only original building in the site, so honest Abe probably spent time in this building.



This building houses a wool carding machine, a major labor-saving device for the process of converting wool to thread and yarn. At first, I couldn’t understand how a piece of heavy machinery could operated in a location with no waterway to provide power.


Here’s a picture of the carding machine, and you can see the pulleys and belts used to drive it. But again, what was the power source?

The answer to that question came from the docent and a quick look below the floor.


An ox walked on this circular treadmill or turntable which turned a shaft, which drove the belt, which turned a pulley which was attached to the carding machine. Ingenious these 19th century Americans.



This is a reconstruction of one of the stores in which Lincoln worked.



And this is a horse Penny managed to find. DSC_0142And here she was without any carrots.

New Salem is just one of many Lincoln-related sites to visit in the Springfield area. His former law office is open to the public. We didn’t visit there.

And before I forget, when we arrived at New Salem we saw a fascinating hummingbird banding effort by the local Audubon Society.



The little hummers were being trapped in two cages. Apparently hummingbirds are suckers for red sugar water. They’re then carefully placed in bags for transport to the banding table.



That’s where somebody with very steady hands and a very strong magnifier puts an itty bitty band on the bird’s leg. The hummers are then released. The whole process takes about 10 minutes from capture to release.

Three major Lincoln-related attractions in Springfield are the Lincoln Home National Historic Monument, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the Lincoln grave site. Okay, that’s four attractions, but the Museum is actually part of the Library.




The museum tracks Abe’s life as a young man (maybe that’s him in New Salem),




through the presidency, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation  DSC_0077and the assassination.



Here’s the whole family standing in front of the White House. I don’t know who those people are behind them, maybe Secret Service. Oh, wait…




The National Park Service has restored the Lincoln home and a bunch of homes surrounding it. The home is open for tours but there was a long wait for a tour so we didn’t go in. That may be Mary Todd Lincoln escaping the tourists, but I can’t be certain.



The Lincoln grave site in a local Springfield cemetery may be the most ornate and ostentatious of all presidential burial sites. I can’t imagine Mr. Lincoln approving of such a grave, but there probably wasn’t much he could do about it at the time.

Surprisingly (at least to me) the mausoleum is open to the public.


The actual grave is deep inside the mausoleum (I’m not sure mausoleum is the correct word, since he is buried under this grave stone). I’m sorry to say that the whole thing reminded me of a Pharo’s tomb, with a lobby, tunnels leading to the burial site, and artifacts like flags and sculptures inside the monument. I’m sure Abe would have hated it.

We made one more stop in Springfield (and no, we didn’t even look for the Simpson’s home) and that was the Illinois State Fair. We were at the Iowa State Fair a few years ago, and this was similar. They even had a butter cow, but if you’ve seen one butter cow, you’ve seen them all.


They did have some very familiar horses, and we watched them get dressed and march through the fairgrounds.


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