About the State Historical Society > News > 2009

State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release October 20, 2009

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

State Historical Museum launches traveling exhibit Wednesday

“Lincoln and Iowa” focuses on President Lincoln’s ties to Iowa

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum will launch a new traveling exhibit Wednesday that will visit Iowa schools in conjunction with the state’s two-year celebration of President Lincoln’s life and legacy.

“Lincoln and Iowa” is part of the State Historical Museum’s “History on the Move” outreach program that serves educators and students in their communities. The exhibit focuses on Lincoln’s historic ties to Iowa and was developed in cooperation with the Iowa Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

“We know Iowa educators have very little time and even fewer resources to give their students additional learning opportunities beyond the classroom,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and vice chair of IALBC. “That’s why programs that can travel to their schools, like this one, are so important during these difficult economic times.”

The exhibit was developed with support from Union Pacific Railroad Foundation, Windsor Charitable Foundation, IALBC and Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

“We are very pleased and grateful the Union Pacific Railroad Foundation and the Windsor Charitable Foundation share our commitment to education and we thank them for their support,” Pederson said. “This is a terrific example of how private and public resources can be leveraged to serve educators and students.”

The exhibit will travel to Iowa schools in conjunction with a play about Abraham Lincoln produced by Old Creamery Theater of Amana. Schools that book the play will also get the traveling exhibit by contacting Old Creamery Theater at 319-622-6034 or at www.oldcreamery.org. Schools outside of the Greater Des Moines area can also book the exhibit independently by contacting SHSI’s Maureen Korte at 515-281-5111.

Lincoln’s ties to Iowa and the railway system were cemented in history when he signed the Pacific Railway Act on July 1, 1862, authorizing construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Central Pacific, an existing California railroad, started in Sacramento and built east, while Union Pacific started in Council Bluffs and built west. Though Lincoln did not live to see the driving of the Golden Spike in 1869, the transcontinental railroad was one of the greatest achievements of his presidency.

“Building the transcontinental railroad is widely considered one of the greatest achievements of the 19th century,” said Brenda Mainwaring, Union Pacific director, public affairs for Iowa and Nebraska. “Union Pacific has a long and storied tradition in supporting educational efforts, and History on the Move is an excellent opportunity to help Iowa students learn more about Lincoln’s role in the development of the railway system across Iowa and his other ties to the state.”

Iowa joined the 49 other states last year in kicking off a two-year series of state and national events marking the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday when SHSI opened an exhibit featuring several original Lincoln documents, including his letter to Keokuk politician Hawkins Taylor describing 1859 campaign travels and a handwritten message to a joint committee of Congress accepting a second term as president.

The documents, written in 1859 and 1865, are part of the State Historical Library’s Special Collections section. They are being preserved in a secured storage area inside the State Historical Building, where they are protected from sunlight and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Both documents have been authenticated by scholars as originals and are cited in the “Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.”

Some of Lincoln’s other ties to Iowa are below:

PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS – Lincoln appointed Samuel F. Miller of Keokuk to the United States Supreme Court, and James Harlan of Mount Pleasant as U.S. Secretary of the Interior

BRIDGE AT DAVENPORT – The first bridge across the Mississippi River, built in 1856, connected Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and was a major breakthrough for western travel and commerce. Lincoln had a key part in a lawsuit between riverboat interests and the railroads over the bridge.

VISIT TO COUNCIL BLUFFS – TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD – Lincoln traveled to Council Bluffs in August 1859 and met with Grenville Dodge, who convinced him the transcontinental railroad should be routed through Council Bluffs.

HARLAN-LINCOLN HOUSE, MOUNT PLEASANT – Lincoln’s son, Robert, married the daughter of Iowa Sen. James Harlan, whom Lincoln appointed Secretary of the Interior in 1865. Robert and Mary Harlan Lincoln wed in 1868. The family spent considerable time at Sen. Harlan’s house in Mount Pleasant.

LINCOLN’S IOWA LAND HOLDINGS – Lincoln’s military service in the Black Hawk War of 1832 led to him assuming ownership of two tracts of land in Iowa, one in Crawford County and one in Tama County.

LINCOLN IN DUBUQUE – Lincoln traveled to Dubuque in late April or early May 1859, probably on railroad business.

SPEECH AT BURLINGTON – In the midst of the legendary Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Lincoln made a side trip to Burlington to make a political speech.

More information about events in Iowa commemorating Lincoln’s life and legacy can be found on-line at www.iowalincoln200.org. More information about the ALBC is available at www.lincolnbicentennial.gov.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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