About the State Historical Society > News > 2010

State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release May 14, 2010

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

State Historical Museum traveling exhibit visits Council Bluffs

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

(COUNCIL BLUFFS) – A State Historical Museum traveling exhibit about Iowa’s ties to President Abraham Lincoln visits the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs Saturday through June 13, 2010.

WHTC is at 3434 Richard Downing Avenue in Council Bluffs. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is free and open to the public. Call 712-366-4900 or visit www.iowahistory.org for more information.

The exhibit, “Lincoln and Iowa,” helps teachers, students and others learn about President Lincoln’s historic ties to Iowa. The exhibit was developed with support from the Iowa Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Union Pacific Railroad Foundation, Windsor Charitable Foundation and the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

“This program is a perfect example of how a public-private partnership can work to serve teachers and students beyond the classroom, and to give all Iowans an opportunity to learn more about President Lincoln and Iowa,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and vice chair of IALBC. “We are thankful to receive support from the Lincoln Commission, Union Pacific Railroad Foundation, the Windsor Charitable Foundation and RIIF.”

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 in 2008 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.


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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