Bearing the words "For President, Abraham Lincoln" and "For Vice
President, Hannibal Hamlin" as well as a likeness of Lincoln, the 6
1/2-by-5-foot 1860 presidential campaign banner was installed in the
Old State Capitol on Tuesday following six months of restoration
that will preserve this unique piece of history for generations to
come. The banner had hung in the site for many years prior to the
restoration, and visitors may once again see it on the building's
top floor, just outside the legislative chambers.
Lincoln-Hamlin banner helps the Old State Capitol tell an important
part of the Lincoln story," said Justin Blandford, site manager. "It
helps us shed light on the effort that was put forth to win the
election and at the same time provides an opportunity to discuss
Lincoln's first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, who has been nearly
forgotten. The conservation work that was conducted on this banner
will help ensure its future preservation and will enhance its
appearance for the guests who come here to enjoy it."
The restoration was performed by the Chicago Conservation Center.
The $3,650 restoration cost came from the budget of the Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the Old State
Capitol. The banner was acquired and installed during the time the
building was disassembled and completely restored in the late 1960s.
The Old State Capitol has many direct, close ties to Abraham
Lincoln. He was one of several state legislators, dubbed the "Long
Nine" because all were more than 6 feet tall, who voted to move the
capital of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield, where the Old
State Capitol opened in 1839. He served in the building as a state
representative, argued cases there as an attorney in the Supreme
Court chambers and did extensive research in the building's law
library. Lincoln made his famous "House Divided" speech, outlining
his stance on slavery, from the Hall of Representatives in 1858.
Lincoln monitored voting results in the Old State Capitol and
greeted well-wishers there following the presidential election.
Finally, Lincoln's body lay in state in the Hall of Representatives
in May 1865 during his final funeral service.
Hannibal Hamlin, 1809-1891, was Abraham Lincoln's running mate in
1860 but was dropped on the 1864 ticket in favor of Andrew Johnson,
a Tennessee War Democrat. Hamlin had a long and distinguished
political career before and after his association with Lincoln. He
was a congressman representing Maine from 1843 to 1847, U.S. senator
from 1848 to 1861 (interrupted briefly in 1857 when he served as
governor of Maine) and 1869-1881. Hamlin was also minister to Spain
during 1881-1882. He was appointed collector of the Port of Boston
in 1865 but quit a year later in disagreement with President
Johnson's reconstruction policies.
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Hamlin's sons Charles and Cyrus were both Union generals during
the Civil War. Hamlin's daughter Sarah and son Charles were at
Ford's Theater the night President Lincoln was assassinated.
Hamlin was a strong supporter of black rights, pushed for the
Emancipation Proclamation and helped win Lincoln's agreement to use
black soldiers in the army. He also argued successfully to include
New Englander Gideon Welles in Lincoln's cabinet.
However, like many vice presidents before and since, he played
only a small role in the president's administration. The vice
president did not attend cabinet meetings, and because Mary Todd
Lincoln disliked him, Hamlin seldom visited the White House. Aide
William O. Stoddard noted: "It seems that a sort of etiquette has
been established, in accordance with which it is not considered good
taste for the second officer of the Republic to meddle much with
public business, and which, at all events, keeps him away from the
Hamlin described the position as a "nullity" and complained: "The
slow and unsatisfactory movement of the government do not meet with
my approbation, and that is known, and of course I am not consulted
at all, nor do I think there is much disposition in any quarter to
regard any counsel I may give much if at all." Hamlin's attempts to
secure patronage appointments also frustrated him: "I am only a
fifth wheel of a coach and can do little for my friends."
Still, Hamlin always respected Lincoln, saying of their
relationship: "I always gave [President Lincoln] my views, and when
asked, my advice. His treatment of me was on his part that of
kindness and consideration, and my counsels had all the more weight
with him, that he thus practically knew them to be disinterested and
free from any taint of intrigue or factional purpose."
Historic Preservation Agency news release]