“Mr. Lincoln has been so well known personally, to so large a number of our people, and has so long been regarded as one of our own citizens, that his death seemed to fall with the most crushing severity upon our inhabitants.
From 1837 until he left for Washington, D.C. in early 1861, Abraham Lincoln spent more time in Bloomington than anywhere else other than his hometown of Springfield.
Here he earned a living as an attorney on the Eighth Judicial Circuit, representing everyone from regular folk to powerful corporations.
Here he came to know Bloomington and its people, developing professional and personal relationships.
Here Lincoln returned to politics with renewed vigor, reawakened by the threat of slavery’s expansion.
And it was here, assisted by a group of devoted McLean County friends, that Lincoln was vaulted to national prominence as the leader of the reinvigorated anti-slavery movement – the new Republican Party.
Lincoln and the Eighth Judicial Circuit
For more than two decades, the Eighth Circuit brought Lincoln to McLean County and its seat of Bloomington.
Friends and Allies
During his years on the Eighth Circuit, Abraham Lincoln came to trust and depend on several leading citizens of McLean County.
Expansion of Slavery
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 threatened to extend slavery into northern territories. This danger thrust Lincoln back into the political spotlight where he would lead a new anti-slavery movement all the way to the White House.
Lincoln's Lost Speech
On May 29, 1856, delegates from across Illinois gathered at Bloomington's Major's Hall to oppose the expansion of slavery.
The Varied Caseload of A. Lincoln, Attorney
Lincoln took legal work where he could find it. His cases ranged from murder trials to mundane civil actions, and most everything in between.
The Lincoln Autobiography
Despite his loss to Douglas in 1858, Lincoln’s supporters did not give up on him. In fact they began looking ahead two years to the U.S. presidency.
Before telegraph lines connected Central Illinois communities in the early 1850s, most of Lincoln’s correspondence and legal documents were written using a quill or nib pen dipped in ink.
In 1858 Lincoln faced Stephen Douglas in an epic U.S. Senate race highlighted by seven debates. The expansion of slavery was at the forefront of these debates.
The Dark Horse Candidate
Led by his Bloomington friends, Lincoln captured the 1860 Republican nomination for president.
From Candidate to President and Beyond
Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 largely over the issue of slavery’s expansion.
Real or Not Real?
After Lincoln's death, people began collecting bits and pieces—relics, if you will, associated with the martyred president. Can you tell the genuine items from the pretenders? Sometimes it is difficult for museum professionals to know.
Susan K. Hartzold
Digital Curation by
Assistance Provided by
- Anthony Bowman
- Tod Eagleton
- Guy Fraker
- Rochelle Gridley
- Gina Hunter
- Milan Jackson
- Hannah Johnson
- Greg Koos
- Lauren Lacey
- Mike Matejka
- George Perkins
- Carol Straka
- Candace Summers
- Deb VanAntwerp
- Daryl Watson
- Beth Whisman
- Jeff Woodard
- Mark Wyman
- Kate E. Kettelkamp
- Gary Iverson
Susan K. HartzoldIn recognition of the generous support of