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Chicago was his kind of town

  • Benjamin Walker stars in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"
Benjamin Walker stars in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" ('Abraham Lincoln: Vampire…)
November 08, 2012|By Georgia Garvey, @gcgarvey | RedEye

From the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop on the Near North Side to the Lincoln Restaurant featuring Abe's mug on the sign in North Center, you can't hang out in Chicago and escape seeing our 16th president. Hey, the phrase "Land of Lincoln" is stamped on our license plates, for Pete's sake.

Though Lincoln obviously made his name in the state capital, Springfield, Chicago gets plenty of Lincoln love, too. Honest Abe actually visited Chicago plenty of times. In fact, after he was assassinated, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln moved to Chicago with two of her sons.

"I think people need to know that Chicago occupied a special place in Lincoln's heart," said DePaul professor and Lincoln expert Mark Pohlad, who said the president visited the city at least a dozen times. "He and Mary had plans to retire here ... They loved it."

The city is dotted with interactions with the man who would later go on to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery, in 1863.

"Something like a third of the city saw his body" after his death, Pohlad said. "Lincoln would still recognize Lake Street, and all the photographers' studios that he stopped in."

He also might recognize his own name, which made an unexpected appearance on some sample ballots this election cycle. A 25-year-old Chicago woman was surprised to see Lincoln and Stephen Douglas listed as candidates instead of President Obama and Mitt Romney on her ballot this election Tuesday. Gov. Quinn frequently refers to Lincoln in speeches and when disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges, prosecutors specifically called out Blagojevich as an embarrassment to Lincoln.

Though Kentucky was where Lincoln was born, James M. Cornelius, curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum said Illinois was "the only place he ever chose to live."

As to whether or not Chicago might have been Lincoln's home had he not been the target of an assassin's bullet, Cornelius said it's impossible to know.

"It's hard to imagine that he wouldn't have spent a lot more time in Chicago after [his term in office]," he said. "He would have been much in demand. And Mary would have liked all the shopping."

ggarvey@tribune.com | @gcgarvey


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