Artifact Spotlight - Huron Map

12/15/2020 nlc

By Dr. Christian McWhirter

This is a map of Huron, Ill., drawn by Abraham Lincoln himself in May 1836. The catch is Huron never actually existed. Before coming to Springfield, Lincoln spent about seven years in New Salem finding himself. He tried his hand at a variety of different jobs, including storekeeper, postmaster, and, of course, politician.

Here, we see Lincoln trying out another career: surveying. As with other times Lincoln faced new tasks, he tackled the art of surveying by learning from the experience of others and educating himself however he could. According to contemporary accounts, he became pretty good at it and this cleanly-drawn map testifies to that. Huron was to be the main Sangamon River crossing between Springfield and Havana, as well as the terminal point of a proposed canal. Alas, none of these things came to pass and Lincoln's careful work is the only relic of the town. Illinois and Lincoln were both in their formative years, and this map shows both engaging in projects that ultimately did not hold.

By 1836, Lincoln was already serving in the Illinois House of Representatives and he would earn his license to practice law only four months after completing this map. The next year, he moved to Springfield, formed his first law partnership with John T. Stuart, and was firmly on his way to a dual career in politics and the law. Surveying was behind him but this map, and a few others like it, are vivid reminders of a time when Lincoln was still trying to figure out what sort of person he would be.

This item can be seenon our Papers of Abraham Lincoln site:

Dr. Christian McWhirter is the Lincoln Historian at the ALPLM

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