As part of a state-wide celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, the Lexington History Museum presents an exhibit highlighting the sixteenth president’s connections to the city of Lexington. The exhibit, named Lincoln and his Wife’s Hometown, will be open until October 2010, and features rotating smaller exhibits, such as Christmas During the Civil War, 1861-1865, and the upcoming exhibit Window on the War: The Frances Peter Diary, opening February 12th.
Abraham Lincoln, born in what is now LaRue County, Kentucky, first came to Lexington in 1841 to visit a friend named Joshua Speed. This trip led to Lincoln rekindling his relationship with Mary Todd, a native of Lexington, and the two wed in 1842 and moved to Springfield, Illinois, to start their family.
In 1846, Lincoln was elected to Congress, and on his family’s trip to Washington, D.C., decided to stop in Lexington for three weeks to enjoy his wife’s hometown. During his time in the city, Henry Clay gave a rousing two-and-a-half hour speech, cosponsored by Robert Todd, in which he denounced the Mexican War as “unnecessary and of offensive aggression.”
A third trip to Lexington in 1849 took an unfortunate turn, as a deadly cholera epidemic swept through the city and much of the state, killing hundreds of people, including Mary Todd Lincoln’s father. There was a dispute over Robert Todd’s will, and everything was given to Todd’s second wife and their eight children, leaving Mary Todd Lincoln and her three siblings from her father’s first marriage with nothing. Abraham Lincoln was chosen to represent his wife and her siblings from Robert Todd’s first marriage in court in their efforts to distribute their father’s possessions and estates equally.
The last Lincoln family visit to Lexington was in 1850, after four-year-old Edward Lincoln passed away. While it was Abraham Lincoln’s first visit to Lexington in the springtime, he was consumed with grief over his young son’s death, and buried himself in books that covered the mysteries of the afterlife.
The Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown exhibit features dozens of pictures of Abraham Lincoln and his family, a short History Channel movie that changes to reflect the smaller rotating exhibits, Todd Family documents, and more. Children will enjoy the Play Date with History section in which they can learn about Abraham Lincoln’s children, Robert, Eddie, Willie, and Tad, and play with the toys they might have played with.
To find out more about Lincoln’s Lexington experiences, stop by the museum and check out the exhibit to celebrate our sixteenth president’s bicentennial. Or, to learn more about statewide events, visit Kentucky: Lincoln’s Bicentennial.