Famed Lincoln portrait unveiled at courthouse
A high-quality reproduction of a famous Abraham Lincoln photograph was unveiled during a ceremony which was held Thursday morning, Sept. 13, at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
The ceremony at the Union County Courthouse was one of four such events held on Sept. 13 in four area counties.
Similar events also were conducted at the Johnson County Courthouse in Vienna, the Massac County Courthouse in Metropolis and the Pulaski County Courthouse in Mound City.
The photograph of Lincoln was taken in Springfield by photographer Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860, at the Old State Capitol in Springfield. The photograph was taken for Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign, which he won.
Historians consider Hesler’s portrait one of the best taken of Lincoln during his pre-presidential years.
The permanent installation at the Southern Illinois courthouses is made possible by donations from the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and their respective foundations: the Illinois Judges Foundation and the Illinois Bar Foundation.
Printed on canvas, the image of the beardless Lincoln is encased in a richly stained wood frame and measures 30 inches wide by 40 inches tall.
Efforts are underway to have the portrait placed in each of the courthouses in all 102 counties in Illinois. As of last week, the portraits had been placed in nearly 80 percent of the counties in the state.
The Illinois State Historical Society acquired the original glass plate positives of two of the four Hesler photographs of Lincoln through a 1993 bequest made by the late Lincoln collector King V. Hostick.
The original plates, now kept in a vault in Peoria, are deemed by Christie’s Auction House in New York to be the only such positive glass images in existence. The original glass negatives were destroyed in the great Chicago fire.
A large crowd was in attendance at the unveiling ceremony which was held Sept. 13 at the Union County Courthouse. Union County Presiding Judge Mark Boie presided at the ceremony.
Boie welcomed those who gathered in the lobby at the courthouse for the ceremony.
“I was asked if I planned on quoting Abraham Lincoln today, and my first reaction was no, to be honest,” he said.
“I could only wish that I was as eloquent a speaker as President Lincoln was.
“However, the more I thought about it, I decided I would look for a quote. And I can tell you, that is a daunting task. There are so many brilliant quotes and speeches to pick from.
“But, given the public and political turmoil in this state and country, I thought this might be one to share and consider:
“‘If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character, which have originated in this government, have been adjusted.
“We are truly excited and honored today as we welcome and install this outstanding photograph of our great nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
“Obviously, President Lincoln’s legacy gives every citizen of the State of Illinois so much to be proud of.
“And, the citizens of Union County are fortunate to have its own history with President Lincoln as a site of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates that took place not too far from the courthouse on September 15, 1858, just two days away from exactly 160 years ago.”
When the portrait was unveiled, sounds of appreciation were heard from those who were attending the ceremony.
Fifth District Appellate Court Justice David Overstreet shared that Lincoln “not only saved the republic,” but he also was “one of the greatest lawyers that Illinois has produced.”
“He represents the highest ideals that we have in this country,” Overstreet said.