A high quality reproduction of a famous photo of Abraham Lincoln was unveiled during a brief ceremony at the McDonough County Courthouse. The image was captured by highly regarded photographer Alexander Hesler in Springfield in June, 1860, which is right after Lincoln won the Republican nomination for president.
“Lincoln said that of all of the photographs taken of him, this was his favorite. So that’s one of the reasons it was selected,” said John Coady, a retired judge and immediate past president of the Illinois Judges Association.
That organization along with the Illinois State Bar Association and their foundations donated the reproduction. The groups are giving the same gift to every courthouse in the state to celebrate Illinois’ bicentennial. The project is the brainchild of the Illinois State Historical Society, which owns the glass-plate positives of the portrait.
“Technologically the photo is stunning. There’s such clarity. Taken in 1860 and to have this type of appearance is just wonderful,” said Coady.
Circuit Court Judge William Poncin said McDonough County’s reproduction will be displayed on the second floor of the courthouse.
“It’ll be in the hallway between the 203 courtroom and the judges’ chambers entrance, which is probably the most visible wall space we have right now that doesn’t already have a portrait hung on it,” said Poncin.
“The volume of traffic on the second floor far exceeds anything else in the courthouse so it will be very, very visible to the people who are coming for court business.”
The portrait is printed on canvas and is framed. It is large, measuring 30 inches wide and 40 inches tall.
Western Illinois University Professor Emeritus John Hallwas called it a “striking” photograph. He said people around the state should visit their local courthouse to view the image.
Hallwas praised the idea of placing a Lincoln portrait in every courthouse in the state.
“One of the reasons (for the project) is to sort of pull Illinois together during this bicentennial around this magnificent set of values and these high purposes that Lincoln had. It’s good for all of us to make that connection with him,” said Hallwas.
“He isn’t just a historical figure. He can still be – and has shown this countless times – extremely inspiring to people today who are faced with issues of making their government behave and respond to high values.”