The Railsplitter Candidate

The Railsplitter Candidate (HM12KA)

Location: Decatur, IL 62523 Macon County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 50.526', W 88° 57.267'

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The City of Decatur was chosen as the site for the 1860 Republican State Convention with Abraham Lincoln as the most prominent Republican present. As the convention delegates were beginning to take their first, formal balloting, Richard Oglesby, future three-term Illinois Governor, one term United States Senator, and citizen of Decatur, asked that the convention members allow an "old Democrat" to come and present something to the Convention. John Hanks, the "old Democrat" (and a second cousin of Lincoln), and one Isaac Jennings, walked in, carrying fence rails with a banner that read:
"Abraham Lincoln"
"The Rail Candidate for President
in 1860"
"Two rails from a lot of 3,000 made in
1830 by John hanks and Abe Lincoln
Whose father was the first pioneer in
Macon County."

Abraham Lincoln was called upon to make a comment about the fence rails in which he states: "I cannot say whether I made those rails or not, but I am quite sure that I have made a great many just as good!" Thus, "The Railsplitter Candidate" was born.

Shortly before the Republican Convention, Richard Oglesby and John Hanks traveled to the old Lincoln home near the Sangamon River west of Decatur in rural Macon County. There they obtained two fence rails to be used for the "Railsplitter" demonstration. Hanks verified the rails were genuine by "whittling" them. Lafayette Whitley, who was a boy at the time claimed," father would not have let them have them if he had known how the election was going, for he was a staunch Democrat."

The use of political imagery and symbols was nothing new in American politics. William Henry Harrison had used it to great benefit in his "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" presidential campaign of 1840. Other imagery featuring American Indians, laborers, flags, and political figures (George Washington was a favorite) helped to convey a particular political message to the largely uneducated voters. The use of the "Railsplitter" image conveyed to the voting public a sense of a common, hard-working man of the people who was without "nobility" or deception. by coupling this profile with technological advancements in the graphic arts, campaigners applied the "Railsplitter" icon to everything from medals to envelopes and glassware to stationery - which helped propel Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. Even today, the "Railsplitter" image is a common one encountered by the public.

HM NumberHM12KA
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 10th, 2014 at 6:12pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 332779 N 4412059
Decimal Degrees39.84210000, -88.95445000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 50.526', W 88° 57.267'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 50' 31.56" N, 88° 57' 16.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 100-192 N Water St, Decatur IL 62523, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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