Abe Lincoln election banner almost ready for public view - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Abe Lincoln election banner almost ready for public view

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An election banner from 1860 is nearly ready for public view in Peoria.

It's one of the materials used 157 years ago to propel a certain Illinois attorney to the White House.

"Women who didn't even have the right to vote at the time were carrying this banner in support of Lincoln," said Colleen Johnson, executive director of the Peoria Historical Society    

Made of satin, the oil painted banner - three feet wide and four feet long - was given to the Peoria Historical Society in 1897.

It was carried in street parades as Abraham Lincoln pursued his dream of becoming President and was given to the Wide Awakes, an abolitionist group, by the Ladies of Peoria 60 years before women could vote.

 "It is, for sure, our most priceless artifact that we have. It's the most important. And I don't know that you could put any value on that piece of history," Johnson said. .

The inscription displayed reads:

"This is to certify that I have hired A. Lincoln for four years from March 4, 1861
U. Sam."

But in 2017, the outlook for this piece wasn't very good.


It could no longer be hung upright.

"It's not really tearing but it's crumbling just a tiny bit," Johnson said. 

For the past six months, the banner's been undergoing a restoration in partnership with Caterpillar before it's unveiled again at Cat's visitor's center for Black History Month.

"If we got to a place where we had it in a secure location, in a case, that about every month or two It would be ok to flip it very gingerly," Johnson said.   

That is the goal now for an election year relic that stands for much more today.

"Things that unite us as a country. And things that unite us Central Illinois and Peoria and stop thinking about the things that divide us right now," Johnson said.  

You'll also be able to see the banner at the Riverfront Museum as part of their Bicentennial display that also debuts in February.

We're marking this year long journey with a series of regular reports titled: Home and History: Celebrating 200 Years.

Illinois became the 21st state in the union on Dec. 3, 1818.
 

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