Departing the Gateway Arch and St. Louis and heading for Chicago, we faced the drive across flat farmland with dread. Then we realized our oldest daughter had made this drive many times. So we called and inquired about potential stops along the way. Her empathetic and informed response: “Well, duh, you could stop in Springfield – home of Abraham Lincoln!”
Arriving in Springfield, we found Abraham Lincoln everywhere – in portraits, caricatures, Photoshopped-posters, souvenir centers, bronze statues, seriously played by actors and frivolously portrayed by impersonators. In fact, the sad, tired image of Honest Abe veritably haunts you at every turn in Springfield.
After ticketing and an introduction at the Abraham Lincoln Home Historic site visitor center, our first stop was touring Lincoln's home. Then, we explored the surrounding two blocks of the preserved historic neighborhood, learning more about daily life and Lincoln's Springfield neighbors.
In addition to history, we relearned that the Midwest can be extremely hot in the summer. So we charted our path to the nearby (and well-air conditioned!) Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. Since we were casual visitors and not presidential scholars, we focused on the museum and its plethora of well-presented exhibits.
Walking through exhibits on Lincoln’s upbringing, his early life as a lawyer, his entry into politics then his time as president, Lincoln’s words evoke vivid mental imagery, together pulling you into a 19th century America that is splitting apart at its geopolitical boundaries. The divergent positions are presented stunningly. Lincoln’s careful consideration of the Emancipation Proclamation is represented in a long hallway where Lincoln sits alone, the approach to him featuring competing banners overhead and ghost-like figures in the walls that shout literally and figuratively their positions.
Current times sneak into the museum, too. The late journalist and long-time host of Meet the Press, Tim Russert, helped develop an exhibit that presents and reports the 1860 campaign in a current-day advertising and reporting format.
After a few hours of watching videos, reading, listening to audio and walking, we were overloaded with Lincoln lessons. So we headed back down the street to find a quick and cool snack before continuing our trek to Chicago.
And wouldn't you know it -- we ran into Honest Abe and Mary in the square, just outside of Subway and Cold Stone Creamery.
For more on this visit to Springfield and the land of Lincoln, see our blog at OurTravelCafe.com, where advertising links may earn revenue for the site or author.
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