ALPLM Acquires Picture Gifted to Pike County Man by Lincoln

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 28, 2023 at 2:29pm

The descendants of a Pike County man who once received a gift from Abraham Lincoln, have now donated that gift to the museum that honors the 16th President.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum announced today, that it has acquired an original photograph that Lincoln gave to a man who had been gravely injured while preparing for a rally during the historic 1858 U.S. Senate race between Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.

Charles Lame was nearly killed when a cannon went off prematurely the day before a Lincoln political rally in Pittsfield. According to an article written for the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society in 1968 by Historian Leroy H. Fischer, it was common practice at the time for an unloaded cannon to be fired during these types of events.

Lame reportedly was injured when he and another man were test-firing the cannon and it went off as Lame was ramming gunpowder into the barrel. The blast burned his face, and the ramrod went through his arm and ended up embedded in a tree a block away.

Lame was rushed to his home, where he eventually recovered from the incident without losing his arm, and lived another 40 years until his death in 1897.

The day after Lame was injured, Lincoln arrived and held his rally delivering a two-hour speech in the Pittsfield town square.

After the rally, Lincoln tried to visit Lame, but the doctor would not allow visitors. Lincoln arranged for Lame to receive a photo that had been taken that day. The photo is an ambrotype, a negative image on glass. The images were displayed on black backgrounds. That background showed through the clear portions of the negative image, creating the illusion of a black-and-white photo. The oval image is 2 ¾ inches high by 2 ¼ inches wide.

Two copies of the photo were made per Lincoln’s request. The photo was passed down by Lame’s descendants until it was inherited by Mrs. Mary Davidson of Hendersonville, Tenn. She passed away in August 2022, and her children decided the image should come to Springfield, where it could be preserved and enjoyed by future generations.

The photo will be displayed in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Treasures Gallery starting Monday, Oct. 2.