What's Up With The Abe Lincoln Statues In Downtown Boise?

Feb 12, 2018

Monday, February 12 would have been President Abraham Lincoln’s 209th birthday, which is a big deal for people like Dave Leroy. Leroy is Idaho’s unofficial Lincoln scholar, and has amassed quite a collection of artifacts connected to our 16th President over several decades.

So when one of our listeners was curious to know more about why there are two statues of Lincoln in downtown Boise, we turned to Leroy to explain. Click 'listen' below to hear inquisitive listener Ashlie Baty pose her Lincoln questions to Leroy.

 

The former state Attorney General – who is currently running for Congress – donated 210 items to the Idaho State Archives to create a permanent exhibit dedicated to Lincoln. Leroy is giving a free tour at the archives Monday at 3 p.m. to folks interested in learning more about Lincoln’s connection to Idaho. 

In the first room of the exhibit, he points out some replicas from the famous leader’s office in the 1860s:

“The table on which the Emancipation Proclamation and the Idaho [Territory] Bill were signed," says Leroy, "a replica of Lincoln’s chair and the mantle and the portrait of Andrew Jackson just as they hung in Lincoln’s office.”

This piece of floorboard is from Lincoln's first home. It's one of 210 items donated to the Idaho State Archives by Dave Leroy.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

But much of what’s in the exhibit is original. There’s a floorboard from Lincoln's first home and documents he signed during his time in office. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing in the collection is in a double glass display at the end of the tour.

“And finally in the last couple of cases, we have a lock of Lincoln’s hair, taken at his autopsy in the White House on the day that he died.”

Leroy acquired a lock of hair that taken at Lincoln's autopsy in 1865 during an auction in L.A.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Though he never set foot in Idaho, Leroy says Lincoln has his fingerprints all over the state. Leroy points to Lincoln’s efforts to get a large swath of land named the Idaho Territory in 1863, and suggests that had he not been assassinated – he "would have insisted" on visiting Idaho during a planned visit to California. 

Northern papers celebrated the creation of the Idaho Territory after Lincoln signed it into law. Claiming the territory for the Union was a strategic move in the Civil War.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

This story is our latest installment in our “Wanna Know Idaho” series and came from Ashlie Baty. If you don't want to miss any of our Wanna Know Idaho stories, be sure to subscribe to the podcast!

 

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Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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