150th anniversary: Emancipation Proclamation goes on display today
at Lincoln Presidential Museum
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[September 05, 2012]
SPRINGFIELD -- One hundred fifty years
ago, on Sept. 22, 1862, buoyed by the recent Union victory at the
Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln announced his
intention to issue an Emancipation Proclamation, which he did on New
Year's Day 1863. To commemorate this momentous anniversary, the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is putting its signed copy of
the Emancipation Proclamation, plus two new artifacts, on display in
the museum's Treasures Gallery starting today (Wednesday). The items
will remain on display through Jan. 21, 2013.
"Every year in our country, the legal and social equality of all
races continues to come closer to our ideal," said James M.
Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the presidential
library and museum. "The great break with the past, the seminal
event, the leap forward, began with Lincoln's pen in September 1862.
People at the time -- black or white, American or European, North or
South -- knew this, and their experience tells us to celebrate this
document and its anniversary."
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the officially printed
commemorative copies that Lincoln signed in full, along with
Secretary of State William Seward and Lincoln's private secretary,
John G. Nicolay. The president signed the original Emancipation
Proclamation in private with only a few witnesses at his side -- no
"photo opportunity," as we like to say today.
It is fortunate that the commemorative printing was ordered,
because Lincoln's original manuscript was lost in the Chicago Fire
of 1871. The proclamation measures approximately 27 by 20 inches. It
was most recently displayed during a five-day special viewing around
his birthday in 2012, and during the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial.
Next to it will be two artifacts never before displayed.
One, created in the 1870s, is a bronze statue of Lincoln breaking
the shackles of a slave. The sculptor was probably a Frenchman, Léon
Falconnier. It was inspired by a giant Washington, D.C., statue by
Thomas Ball for which Frederick Douglass gave the dedication speech
in 1876. In that speech Douglass declared Lincoln "the white man's
president," though he had earlier deemed him "the black man's
president." Falconnier may have wanted to capitalize on Ball's work,
which, though less popular today, was commissioned and paid for by
freedmen and helped solidify the image of Lincoln as the liberator
of a race. Lincoln in fact had urged freedmen to show their
gratitude to God and not to him, since freedom is a human right.
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Visitors will be asked to give their thoughts about the sculpture
as part of an "interactive experience" about the trio of historic
The other item on view for the first time will be an 1864 notice
of a slave sale in Louisville, Ky. This sale, nearly two years after
the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, shows that the
proclamation did not apply to the border states during the Civil
War, thus keeping these slave-holding states in the Union. The next
year, Congress voted to change the U.S. Constitution with the 13th
Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the entire United States.
For more information about programs and exhibits at the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, visit
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
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