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Lincoln portrait to hang in Effingham courtroom

Fri, August 03, 2018 1:04 PM | Kevin Fagan (Administrator)

by Dawn Schabbing Daily News

Full Article

EFFINGHAM — In another way to commemorate the Illinois bicentennial celebration this year, a reproduction of a famous Abraham Lincoln photograph was unveiled at the Effingham County Government Center Friday.

Measuring 30 inches wide by 40 inches tall, the image printed on canvas is that of the beardless Lincoln. The photo was originally taken on June 3, 1860, in Springfield by photographer Alexander Hesler.

The large portrait will be hung in Courtroom B of the center, located at 120 W. Jefferson, Effingham.

The image was used for Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign and was considered by Lincoln to be his favorite photograph, said Fourth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Kimberly Koester.

The portrait is part of an effort to have a wood-framed copy in each of the 102 counties in Illinois by the end of this year to commemorate the state's bicentennial. The Effingham portrait was made possible by donations from the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar As, the Illinois Judges Foundation and the Illinois Bar Foundation. Thirty-two counties stepped forward to sponsor portraits without the help of the Illinois Judges Association, while the association has sponsored the rest.

“It is appropriate that Lincoln be honored. It's widely known about Lincoln and how he distinguished himself as a lawyer in the state of Illinois before he went to Washington as president,” said retired Judge John Coady, who began his legal career in Effingham.

Coady said many don't know that Lincoln also served as a judge in Illinois.

“The rules then were that if the sitting circuit judge was unavailable to preside, the parties with their attorneys could agree to a member of the local bar to preside over a case and serve as judge,” he said.

Coady said Lincoln presided over 95 cases in downstate Illinois in 1858.

Koester will participate in eight other ceremonies in counties across Illinois that have their own memories and contacts with Lincoln.

“The Illinois State Historical Society owns the glass plate, positive image, made from a long-gone original negative,” said Koester. “Anyone who sees this reproduction will agree with the Illinois State Historical Society that it is perhaps one of the finest presidential images of Lincoln ever taken.”

Koester said she has another Lincoln portrait in her judge's chambers, along with several Lincoln quotes, because he has always been one of her favorite historical figures.

“His leadership and deep insight that he showed during his years as a lawyer, as a politician and finally as our president is unmatched,” said Koester.

Coady said this particular portrait came about after Lincoln was nominated in Chicago by the Republican party to seek the office of president of the United States. The campaign committee wanted a photograph of him, so he brought several with him.

“But, they found them unsuitable,” said Coady. “His hair was messy in a number of photographs. It was important that they have a striking photograph of Abraham Lincoln.”

That's when they retained Alexander Hesler, a photographer from Chicago, for purposes of creating images for newspapers, buttons, posters and pamphlets. This was the first presidential campaign to use photographs, Coady said.

Lincoln's honesty, integrity and commitment to the law are ideals that people still expect from lawyers and judges today, he said.

Local historian Delaine Donaldson, who serves as the president of the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association, noted local ties to the 16th president.

Donaldson referred to a local tailor, Joseph Horn of Teutopolis, who repaired Lincoln's jacket, which had gotten torn while he was riding the circuit. That brought a long-time friendship between Horn and Lincoln.

Donaldson said there are plenty of stories throughout history of the connections Effingham County residents have had to Lincoln the lawyer, the legislator, and the president.

“Always in the county, there's been a connection, either directly or in terms of the mindset of this man, (Abraham Lincoln,)” said Donaldson.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138

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