Lincoln’s Gift from Homer, New York

A Painter, an Editor and a Detective


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About the Book

Although Illinois enjoys the indisputable title of “The Land of Lincoln,” one small town in New York State played a significant role in the sixteenth president’s history. Three native sons of Homer—a detective, a journalist, and a painter—helped inscribe Abraham Lincoln’s place in the nation’s iconic imagery. Private investigator Eli DeVoe foiled an assassination plot against Lincoln before his first inauguration; journalist William Osborn Stoddard, an early Lincoln supporter, became an influential secretary of the president; and artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter painted The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet, which still hangs in the U.S. Capitol. This exploration of these men and the town that produced them offers insight into the complexities of presidential image-making, and reveals why a small New York town has become a choice destination for Lincoln historians.

About the Author(s)

Martin A. Sweeney, the town historian of Homer, New York, writes frequently for local newspapers and is a member of the Lincoln Forum of Gettysburg.

Bibliographic Details

Martin A. Sweeney
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 44 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6369-5
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8718-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix

Preface      1

Prologue      3

1. Homer: The Place of the Silversmith      7

2. “Proximus Ascendi”      11

3. A Clever Drawing on the Schoolhouse Door      22

4. Having Interests and Aspirations Different from Others      26

5. “That Grim Object Lesson”      31

6. Honing His Craft      39

7. The Lemon Tree Comes into Bloom      45

8. An Ambition Rising Fast      55

9. “Something in This Man’s Face and Manner”      59

10. A Request “Bold, Even to Presumption”      63

11. Foiling the Plot to Kill “Nuts”      67

12. On Loan to the White House      73

13. A Desk Near the President’s Chamber      79

14. The Sound of Breaking and Falling Chains      87

15. “Do You Think You Can Make a Handsome Picture of Me?”      92

16. “Turned in Loose” for Six Months at the White House      97

17. “It Is as Good as It Can Be Made”      102

18. Last Days in the Service of Lincoln      108

19. Assassination and the Iconic Image of Lincoln      116

20. Lobbying for Carpenter and the Painting      121

21. A Dream Fulfilled and Dark Days      125

22. Carpenter’s Last Three Decades      129

23. “To Portray the Man as He Was Revealed to Me”      136

24. “I Have Certainly Not Stolen a March on Anybody”      144

25. Homer and the Lincoln Legacy      150

Epilogue      154

Appendix A: Central Illinois Gazette Story (May 4, 1859)      157

Appendix B: Central Illinois Gazette Editorial (December 7, 1859)      158

Appendix C: Gideon Welles’s Version of the September 22, 1863, Cabinet Meeting      161

Appendix D: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (September 22, 1862)      163

Appendix E: The Final Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863)      166

Appendix F: Carpenter and Stoddard Describe Lincoln’s Sleepless Nights      169

Appendix G: Remarks of William O. Stoddard of New York      172

Chapter Notes      177

Sources      193

Index      199

Book Reviews & Awards

“the organic nature of this homegrown gem is what gives the book its charm…it’s the tale of two friends from Homer whose stories are well known to Lincoln buffs”—Civil War News; “This is the story of two friends from Homer, NY, whose ambition and talents won them assignments in the Lincoln White House and special roles in presenting the image of the Great Emancipator to the public eye. This meticulously researched study sheds light on the leaders of the Homer community and the way many of its citizens were involved in intersecting events that became Civil War history.”—Eleanor Stoddard, granddaughter of William O. Stoddard.