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Rhode Island City Unveils Sculpture Celebrating Campaign Stop by Abraham Lincoln

August 1, 2019

City officials in Woonsocket, Rhode Island have unveiled a 7-foot-tall sculpture commemorating a campaign stop by Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln was a private citizen at the time, but a national figure because of his prominent unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1858. A local Republican businessman invited him. He spoke for about two hours at what was then known as Harris Institute Hall, which is now part of Woonsocket City Hall.

Lincoln won the Republican nomination for president 71 days later, on May 18, during the party’s convention in Chicago.

During the March 1860 speech in Woonsocket, Lincoln distanced himself from John Brown, the anti-slavery insurrectionist who had been hanged in what was then Virginia 15 months before, and expressed support for a shoemakers’ strike in Massachusetts, according to The Woonsocket Patriot.

Lincoln got mixed reviews for the talk.

“The Hon. Abraham Lincoln made one of his most powerful addresses, which was received with immense applause,” the Providence Journal reported (as reported by The Press and Tribune of Chicago on Wednesday, March 14, 1860).

The Woonsocket Patriot was less enthusiastic:  “The address was, in the main, logical, but neither elegant nor eloquent. Mr. Lincoln is not a forensic orator, but a capital stump speaker.”

(The passage from The Woonsocket Patriot (which no longer exists) was reproduced by The Boston Sunday Globe on February 7, 1965, page A-5.)

As for life 159 years after the speech:

The appropriation for the sculpture is $8,500, according to the city’s request for proposals from 2017.

The 400-pound sculpture was unveiled Wednesday, July 19, according to The Woonsocket Call.

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