Society Wants This Lincoln Portrait In Every Courthouse For State's Bicentennial

Jan 8, 2018

This photograph of Lincoln taken by Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860 is the basis for the ISHS portrait.
Credit 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.

"Places where he might have served," Furry said, "either as a trial lawyer, or on the bench, or just been a presence there in the community."

Furry says they've found sponsors for around 30 portraits so far, including in DeKalb and DuPage Counties.  He said portraits are now scattered from Jo Daviess in northwest Illinois to Marion County in the south. 

One foundation underwrote portraits for Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean and Woodford Counties, counties in the circuit where Lincoln practiced law. Furry says the Society is in talks with several organizations for the remainder.  

The picture of a beardless Lincoln is based on a photograph taken in 1860, just after he became the Republican nominee for President.  Furry says it's not the image of the 16th President that most people grow up with.

"It's also the Lincoln that everyone knew in Illinois. He did not have a beard until the last four or five weeks before he left Illinois for good, and never came back. And so, he is the 'Illinois Lincoln.'"

Furry said the Society thinks this is a great way to mark the Illinois Bicentennial.  He said he's hopeful portraits can be placed at courthouses in the rest of Illinois's 102 counties by later in 2018.