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From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln's Illinois 1830-1861 - Rare 1855 Corn Planter and Artifacts Excavated from Lincoln Era Privies added to exhibition at Illinois State Museum

  From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln's Illinois 1830-1861 - Rare 1855 Corn Planter and Artifacts Excavated from Lincoln Era Privies added to exhibition at Illinois State Museum   

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A rare 1855 corn planter is now on display at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield as part of the special exhibition, From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois, 1830 – 1861.  The corn planter, as well as archaeological artifacts excavated from the site of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and other historical materials, were recently added to the exhibition. The exhibition includes many historic artifacts owned by the Illinois State Museum that are on public view for the first time.

The corn planter on exhibit at the Illinois State Museum is number 158 of 300 produced in 1855 by the Brown Manufacturing Company in Galesburg, Illinois.  Brown’s design is the first commercially successful horse-drawn corn planter in the country.  George W. Brown, a farmer and carpenter from Knox County, Illinois invented the implement in 1852, and set up a manufactory in Galesburg in 1855. In that year, Earle W. Hovenden purchased this planter  and was the first to use a mechanical planter in Peoria County. “We are excited to be able to include the Brown’s corn planter in the Illinois State Museum’s exhibition. This is a treasure from the Illinois State Museum’s collection, and this is the first opportunity the Museum has had to present this artifact. Brown’s planter, along with John Deere’s self-scouring plow (also on display), are terrific examples of the technological innovations taking place in Illinois in the years Abraham Lincoln lived here. These inventions are key parts of the story of agricultural expansion in Illinois and the West,” said Angela Goebel-Bain, curator of From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois, 1830 – 1861.

Other objects recently added to the exhibition include a selection of artifacts representing household life in Springfield in the mid-1800s. Excavated by Fever River Research in 2001, this collection of objects has not previously been on public exhibit. The objects were excavated from household privies located on the Springfield city blocks where the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum now stands. In the years before trash collection became a city service, household rubbish was often deposited in families’ privies or other pits. Artifacts deposited in privies represent the goods of everyday living and provide insight into a family's life. The artifacts on display include glass, china, porcelain and other household items from the mid 1850s.

The objects were excavated from 1835 and 1845 privies at the home of Simeon Francis, editor of the Sangamo Journal and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. The privy pits were positioned just outside the back door of the Francis home, located on the corner of North Sixth and Jefferson Streets. Another selection of artifacts is from the household of Oliver M. Sheldon, a grocer and liquor importer originally from New York, whose house was on North Sixth Street between Mason and Madison Streets in Springfield. Abraham Lincoln occasionally visited the home and was known to play euchre with the family and other guests.  The items excavated in Sheldon’s privy pit include an array of medicine bottles, vanity bottles, processed food, and single-serving liquor bottles. The abundance of individually packaged commercial products reflects a nation-wide trend toward the availability of consumable goods and presents a stark contrast to the earlier deposits found at the Simeon Francis home. The material excavated from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum help document quality of life in Springfield during the Lincoln era, as well as changes in manufacturing, marketing, and availability of consumer goods in the U.S. between 1830 and the 1860s.

These objects add to the many stories represented in From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois 1830 – 1861 which explores all aspects of the state that Lincoln called home between 1830 and 1861. This original exhibition will be at the Illinois State Museum, Springfield through January 10, 2010. From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois 1830 – 1861 presents the social, cultural, historical, and environmental contexts of Illinois during the Lincoln era and provides a peek into the world in which Abraham Lincoln lived. Featured in the exhibition are historical maps, artifacts, household furnishings, a rare John Deere plow, Peter Cartwright’s traveling desk, rifles and pistols, artifacts from New Philadelphia, the first town in America legally established by an African-American, and other archaeological sites. Together, these objects  demonstrate the dynamic changes that helped transform Illinois from a frontier region to a powerful state.

From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois 1830 - 1861 is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. The Illinois State Museum Society's 1877 Fund has also provided support for this exhibition.

The Illinois State Museum is located at 502 S. Spring Street. (corner of Spring and Edwards Streets) in Springfield, and is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday.  Admission is free.  Parking is available nearby, and the building is ADA accessible. For information, call 217-782-7386.

Friday, May 15, 2009

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Illinois State Museum
Founded 1877
The Illinois State Museum promotes discovery, learning, and an appreciation of Illinois' natural, cultural, and artistic heritage.
General Information: (217)782-7386
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Interim Museum Director: Michael Wiant
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