This painted silk banner arrived in Kansas during the 1860 presidential campaign, which would result in the election of Abraham Lincoln.
From its birth in 1854 until its admission to statehood in 1861, Kansas Territory was at the center of a violent controversy over whether slavery should be allowed in new western states just entering the Union. The question of whether Kansas would be slave or free became a nationwide political issue.
The newly formed Republican Party stood against the extension of slavery into areas where it had earlier been against the law. In 1858 the party nominated Lincoln to run for U.S. Senator from Illinois against Stephen Douglas. Just completing his first Senate term, Douglas advocated deciding for or against slavery by popular vote.
The candidates agreed to engage in a series of public debates at various locations around Illinois. Seven debates were scheduled for the summer and fall of 1858, with the fifth taking place in Galesburg on October 7. Students at Lombard University in Galesburg decided to honor the candidates by making banners for them. The Republican student delegation met Lincoln as he arrived in town and presented him with this banner, which then headed a procession escorting Lincoln to the site of the debate.
Following the debates, Lincoln gave the banner to Mark W. Delahay, a prominent newspaper editor and political leader from the city of Leavenworth. Related to Lincoln by marriage, Delahay was an advocate of the free-state cause and had helped Lincoln in earlier political campaigns. Delahay used the banner in Kansas during the 1860 presidential campaign. The year after Delahay died, his widow presented the banner to the Kansas Historical Society where it resides in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
The banner reads "To Abraham Lincoln / the / Champion of Liberty / by the / Students of Lombard. / October 7, 1858." On its back is embroidered a design of eagle and stars.
Entry: Lincoln Banner
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: November 1998
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.