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Abraham Lincoln was indisputably a minority president, having received less than forty percent of the popular vote. Hence, his nearly 2,000-mile train trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., was designed in part to promote national unity. However, during dozens of stops where Lincoln made nearly as many speeches, the journey quickly assumed the aura of a prolonged victory celebration. The route wound through seven states, stopping in major cities such as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Albany, New York, and Philadelphia where the celebratory noise was deafening. Choirs sang, cannons roared, and thousands cheered. Lincoln rose to the occasion, joking with the crowd one minute and promising to maintain the Union the next. Lincoln’s message encouraged hope, but it was a false hope because he continued to treat secession as an artificial crisis manufactured by designing Southern politicians. The seriousness of the situation must have dawned upon Lincoln after he was presented with evidence of a plot against his life. At that point, the president-elect agreed to complete the last two-hundred miles of his journey to the White House incognito.

Lincoln’s Face and Hand

Despite the ever increasing demands on his time during this critical election year, Lincoln responded unhesitatingly and on the shortest notice to photographers, painters, and sculptors seeking to capture his image. Leonard Wells Volk made the plaster cast for the life mask of Lincoln at his Chicago studio in March 1860. Volk made the cast of Lincoln’s hand in Springfield a day or two after the tall Illinoisan was named the Republican Party candidate for president. After Lincoln shook hands with hometown well-wishers, his right hand became swollen. When Volk suggested the nominee hold something, Lincoln broke off a broomstick, a portion of which is visible in the casting.

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Lincoln's Farewell Address to Springfield

The conflicting emotions of Abraham Lincoln are readily apparent in this impromptu but moving address, which he delivered from the rear platform of the passenger car that waited at the Springfield train station to take him to Washington. The trip had hardly begun before several members of the presidential party encouraged Lincoln to record his remarks for posterity, and he, obliging, scribbled a few lines. The movement of the train and the strain caused by hundreds of handshakes by well-wishers had a marked effect on Lincoln’s penmanship. He turned in frustration to his trusted secretary, John Nicolay, to complete the speech.

Abraham Lincoln. Farewell Address to Springfield. Holograph manuscript, February 11, 1861. Robert Todd Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (086) Digital ID# al0086

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Publishing the Farewell Address

Lincoln’s Farewell Address given at the railroad station in Springfield on February 11, 1861, attracted so much attention that it quickly found its way into print, both in newspapers and in broadsides. The printer dated the address February 12, perhaps the date the broadside was issued.

President-elect Lincoln Farewell Address, 1861. Broadside. Alfred Whital Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (085) Digital ID # al0085

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