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    [Abraham Lincoln] First Issue of the Chicago Rail Splitter. Four pages of six columns, 14" x 20.5", June 23, 1860, Chicago, Illinois. This campaign newspaper was used to promote the most polarizing presidential candidate in American history, Abraham Lincoln, by cultivating his image as a man of the people and utilizing his nickname, the "Rail-Splitter", which was based on the arduous rail-splitting work he had done earlier in his life.

    The goal of the newspaper, as stated by editor Charles Lieb on page two of this inaugural issue, was to "earnestly advocate the principles of Republicanism because they are founded in right. . . . We will expose the double-dealing of the Black Democracy." Lieb sought to accomplish that goal by including articles on the life and political positions of Lincoln and vice-presidential candidate Hannibal Hamlin. To popularize the mostly unknown Lincoln, Lieb included in the paper poetry and easy-to-memorize song lyric. This issue also contains the platform of the Republican Party, as well as swipes at Democrats and secessionists. On page one, Lieb promised that "every number will contain an elegant and spirited wood cut". In this first issue, the woodcut is on page two and entitled "Portrait Gallery.-No. 1". It humorously shows Lincoln toppling rival Stephen A. Douglas by using a rail resting on the fulcrum of a rock labeled "Constitution". Part of the nameplate on page two are the names of the Illinois Republican candidates for president (Lincoln), vice president (Hamlin), eleven presidential electors, governor, lieutenant governor, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction.

    Editor Lieb summoned the readers of the Rail Splitter to action by writing on page one, "Every Republican who reedives [sic] this number of 'The Rail Splitter' if he has not already done so, will we hope, send us his subscription, and interest himself in getting up a good club of subscribers." Subscriptions were fifty cents a copy and the paper was to be published weekly "until after the result of the Presidential election shall be ascertained and announced in its columns". In all, eighteen issues were published on Saturdays between June 23 and October 27 (the promised final issue announcing the results was never produced). Interestingly, another campaign newspaper devoted to the successful election of Lincoln and also called the Rail Splitter was published 300 miles away in Cincinnati. The two Rail Splitters were independent of each other and had different editors, publishers, and articles. Only thirteen of the Cincinnati issues were published.

    Fifty-one-year-old presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln needed all the favorable publicity he could get before the 1860 election. After serving one term in Congress in the 1840s and losing two senatorial bids in the 1850s, Lincoln, the craftiest in the talented field of presidential nominees, came from the backwoods of Illinois to be the unlikely winner of the Republican nomination on May 18, 1860, a month before the first issue of the Rail Splitter was published. He received plenty of negative press: after winning the nomination, Democratic newspapers throughout the country took every advantage of mocking the details of his life, as well as his appearance. With the help of the Rail Splitter, though, Lincoln overcame vast obstacles and secured the presidency in November. This historically valuable issue is fragile, with some separation at the central vertical fold. The edges are chipped and ragged. Good condition.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2009
    16th-17th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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