The Lincolns of Springfield, Illinois

Springfield, Illinois, was Abraham Lincoln’s home for most of his adult life. In Springfield, he practiced law and launched his political career. And in Springfield, Lincoln established his family when he married Mary Todd on November 4, 1842.

The newlyweds did not have a wedding portrait taken, but after Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846, they had separate photographs taken by Springfield photographer Nicholas H. Shepherd. These are the earliest known photographs of Mary, age 28, and Abraham, age 37.

The Lincolns set up housekeeping as boarders at the Globe Tavern, where their first son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was born in 1843. In May 1844, the couple bought a house at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. In that house, three more sons were born—Edward (Eddie) Baker Lincoln in 1846, William (Willie) Wallace Lincoln in 1850, and Thomas (Tad) Lincoln in 1853. Also in that house, Eddie Lincoln died a month before his fourth birthday, though the other boys grew and flourished.  

Boston photographer John Adams Whipple took this photograph of the Lincoln home in the summer of 1860. Abraham, Willie, and Tad are standing inside the fence.

During his years in Springfield, Lincoln practiced law in partnerships first with John Todd Stuart, then with Stephen J. Logan, and finally with William H. Herndon. The Lincoln-Herndon law office was at Sixth and Adams Streets, across from the State Capitol.  These desk items—ink jar, pen holder, inkwell, and blotter shaker—were used in the Lincoln-Herndon office.

Lincoln also spent extended periods each year traveling the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit to argue cases. He carried this black leather portfolio wallet while on the road. “A. Lincoln, Springfield, Ills.” is handwritten in black ink on the inside of the flap.

This ebony, gold-headed cane was presented to Abraham Lincoln in June 1857 by fellow Springfield lawyer John A. McClernand. The gold head of the cane is engraved “J.A. McClernand to Hon. A. Lincoln, June 1857.” This may be the “ponderous gold-headed cane” that Lincoln carried at his first inauguration on March 4, 1861.

According to the photographer, when Mary Lincoln saw this photograph, she “pronounced [it] the best likeness she had ever seen of her husband.” The photograph was taken by Samuel Montague Fassett of Cooke and Fassett Photographers in Chicago on October 4, 1859, as Lincoln was becoming increasingly involved in national politics.

The Lincoln family had a dog named Fido. When the family moved to Washington, Fido was left behind in Springfield where he was photographed by F.W. Ingmire in 1865.

On May 18, 1860, Lincoln the Springfield lawyer became the Republican Party’s nominee for president of the United States. This photograph was taken by Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860. Hesler came to Springfield from Chicago to photograph the presidential candidate.

This photograph of the Lincolns’ oldest son, 17-year-old Robert Todd Lincoln, was taken by an unknown photographer about the same time.

Also in 1860, Springfield photographer Preston Butler took this photograph of Mary with 9-year-old Willie and 7-year-old Tad.

On August 8, 1860, Lincoln stood surrounded by supporters outside the Lincoln home following a Republican rally for the presidential candidate. Lincoln is standing to the right of the front door wearing a white suit.

When the Lincoln family left Springfield and moved to Washington in February 1861, the house at Eighth and Jackson Streets was rented. The Lincoln family intended to return to their Springfield home after Lincoln’s time as president. They never did.