Looking for Lincoln
Maintained by the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition; accessed on April 25, 2008
Abraham Lincoln prepared a brief autobiography in 1859 at the request of a friend who was promoting the Illinois lawyer as a presidential candidate. Sending the manuscript to his friend (dated December 20, 1859), Lincoln commented: “There is not much of it, for the reason, I suppose, that there is not much of me.” Since Lincoln dismissed himself so concisely, one can only wonder what the 16th president of the United States would make of the sustained interest in every aspect of his life. Countless biographies, poems, novels, studies, plays, and films attest to the American public’s fascination with Lincoln since his assassination in 1865.
As the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth approaches in 2009, places associated with him have drawn the attention of heritage tourism planners at the national, state, and local levels. One such group is the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, a consortium of Illinois communities that share in the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The coalition helps communities enhance their Lincoln sites and interpretive programming and provides marketing support. The coalition’s website, Looking for Lincoln, is dedicated to historic places associated with Lincoln’s life in Illinois. The site presents itineraries for automobile travelers who want to tour sites where Lincoln lived and traveled throughout the state.
Four “hub” tours focus on the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Charleston, Decatur, and Springfield. Each tour takes two to four days of travel, visiting nearby towns and sites and returning to the hub city at the end of each day. Visitors can also choose a city or town from a drop-down menu and get detailed information on local historic sites, including hours of operation and directions. Links from the home page provide a map of the region and a calendar of events that visitors may want to include in their travels.
Travelers with children will enjoy the website’s “History Hunt.” Creatively designed to present clues and answers to questions about each featured site, these activity pages also offer a “Mystery History Object” to locate on a tour of the site and interesting historic facts under the heading “Betcha Didn’t Know This.” Unfortunately, the website lacks a brief essay on Lincoln’s life in Illinois, or even an informative bibliography for those interested, so one must look elsewhere for a historical context about Lincoln’s life and information on local customs and history.
The Illinois historic sites featured on the tours range from the New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstructed log village that interprets Lincoln’s six years in New Salem and the beginning of his political career; to the Lincoln College Museum in Lincoln, which contains a collection of Lincoln-related artifacts. The Reuben Moore Home near Charleston, where Lincoln and his extended family gathered on January 31, 1861, to celebrate his election to the presidency, is included. Those concentrating on historic sites directly associated with Lincoln will appreciate seeing the Lincoln Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site, where Lincoln practiced law with his partner, William Herndon, from 1834 to 1852, as well as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Both are in the Springfield Hub Tour, which offers the most places associated with Lincoln.
The site lacks direct information on local lodging, but a link to the Illinois Bureau of Tourism website leads travelers to that information. Overall, the Looking for Lincoln website successfully fulfills its mission of presenting travel itineraries to places in Illinois associated with the life of the nation’s 16th president.
National Park Service