Exhibit celebrates Lincoln

Victoria Berkow GateHouse Media Illinois
Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site curator Jean Myers points out items on display in an exhibit of Abraham Lincoln ads and images from the past 150 years.

The likeness of the nation’s 16th president is inevitably dotted throughout the state in plaques, paintings and statues. Abraham Lincoln bobbleheads are another matter.

Yet a bouncing, big-headed Lincoln adorned with his trademark top hat is one of many peculiar trinkets found at the Metamora Courthouse’s latest exhibit, “In Lincoln’s Image.”

The show celebrates how Honest Abe has been used in the past 150 years through an array of diverse keepsakes. “Lincoln’s Image” preludes a special program in April commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War’s end and Lincoln’s assassination.

This isn’t the first time the courthouse, where a young Lincoln handled more than 70 trials, has played home to the oddities of Lincoln land.

“We put on this show two and a half years ago, and it was the most popular one we ever did,” said Jean Myers, the site manager and curator of the courthouse.

Myers said half a dozen local Woodford County collectors loaned their Lincoln memorabilia for the show, which will run until May.

The stuff ranges from ordinary, such as wooden figurines, painted plates and brass paperweights, to unusual, such as a 3D Lincoln book (glasses required), a miniature Mount Rushmore that doubles as a thermometer and, of course, that bobblehead.

“We have a little bit of everything. Some of it is weird or kitschy, some of it is serious,” Myers said. “Why do we need a Lincoln bobblehead? I don’t know the answer to that.”

No matter what he’s plastered on, Myers said, Lincoln’s image has been used to promote products throughout the decades.

That includes the minuscule portrait of Lincoln carved into a walnut by a 1950s prisoner, and the bizarre salt and pepper shakers of Abe and Gen. Robert E. Lee that magnetically kiss.

Donated knickknacks and pieces from Myers’ own collection, including a Lincoln-shaped maple syrup bottle that converts into a coin bank, span the show’s niches.

But the bulk comes from local collectors.

“Some have collected for 20 or more years,” Myers said. One collector “is a young fellow, about 13 years old. Another is in a nursing home and had relatives bring items in,” Myers said.

All of this Lincoln-mania leads up to the Musical and Theatrical Commemoration program, featuring the Metamora Courthouse Civil War Dancers and live music of Lincoln’s favorite tunes.

The program also includes a play depicting Lincoln and Mary Todd’s last night together before visiting Ford Theatre.