Wooden Campaign Parade Axe, 1860

The idea of creating the image of Lincoln as “the rail splitter” was the inspiration of Illinois politician Richard J. Oglesby. He sought to find “one thing in Mr. Lincoln’s unsuccessful career as a worker that could be made an emblem … [to] make enthusiastic the working people.”
Like other candidates of his time, Lincoln stayed home in Springfield, Illinois, while party leaders spoke on his behalf. Political clubs decorated their headquarters with fence rails and organized massive rallies throughout the North. The imagery of “Old Abe the Rail Splitter” presented Lincoln as a down-to-earth common man and served as a powerful symbol of free labor and individual enterprise.
Gift of Ralph E. Becker, 1961
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
associated person
Lincoln, Abraham
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 1 in x 15 1/2 in x 49 in; 2.54 cm x 39.37 cm x 124.46 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Government, Politics, and Reform
Political Campaigns
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Campaign Collection
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
Additional Media

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