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Storming the Castle: "Old Abe" on Guard

Currier & Ives, University of Kentucky
New York
Origin Date:
overall: 17 1/2 in x 23 in
Item ID:
Holding Institution:
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum
Available for Viewing:
Fine Art


This print is a facsimile of an original Currier & Ives 1860 political cartoon featuring the four presidential candidates: Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party, Stephen Douglas of the northern Democratic Party, John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party, and John Breckinridge of the southern Democratic Party. During the 1860 election campaign the "Wide Awakes," a marching club composed of young Republican men, appeared in cities throughout the North. They often wore uniforms consisting of visored caps and short capes, and carried lanterns. Here Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln (left) is dressed as a "Wide-Awake," and carries a lantern and a spear-like wooden rail. He rounds the corner of the White House foiling the attempts of three other candidates to enter surreptitiously. At far right incumbent James Buchanan tries to haul John C. Breckinridge in through the window. Buchanan complains, "I'll do what I can to help you Breck, but my strength is failing and I'm afraid you'll pull me out before I can pull you in." Breckinridge despairs, ". . . I'm too weak to get up--and we shall be compelled to dissolve the Union." His words reflect his and Buchanan's supposed alliance with secessionist interests of the South. In the center Democrat Stephen A. Douglas tries to unlock the White House door, as Constitutional Union party candidate John Bell frets, "Hurry up Douglas! and get the door open, so that I can get in, for the watchman [i.e., Lincoln] is coming." Douglas complains that none of the three keys he holds (labeled "Regular Nomination," "Non Intervention," and "Nebraska Bill") will open the door, ". . . so I'd better be off, for old Abe is after me with a sharp stick." Part of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum