Lincoln: The Image

Introducing Mr. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was not always the most famous and instantly recognizable of Americans.

Only in 1858, when the 49-year-old frontier lawyer ran for a seat in the United States Senate against the country's best-known politician, Stephen A. Douglas, did Americans beyond the borders of Illinois first come to know Lincoln's name. This familiarity spread rapidly following the widely attended and commonly reported Lincoln-Douglas debates. Although he went on to lose the election that fall, the fame he won by sharing the limelight with Douglas transformed Lincoln into a legitimate contender for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.

Abraham Lincoln remained a contender only, not a front-runner, for his party's presidential nod. His managers at the Republican National Convention in Chicago pursued a strategy of making "Honest Abe" every delegate's second choice for the nomination. When front-runner Senator William H. Seward of New York faltered, Lincoln forces catapulted the Illinoisan to a third ballot victory. True to the tradition of the day, after winning the nomination in May 1860, Lincoln stayed at home and did no personal campaigning.

These prints, in a sense, represented, and introduced, the candidate throughout the country.