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Acclaimed Abraham Lincoln historian captivates packed crowd at Delaware County Historical Society

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Appropriately, on Saturday of Presidents’ Day weekend, Dr. Allen C. Guelzo of Princeton University awed a standing-room only audience at DCHS with his expertise throughout his lecture on Abraham Lincoln, “Ten True Lies: Myths About Lincoln, All With a Kernel of Truth, Making Up Lincoln as a Composite.”

Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, Senior Research Scholar in the Council of Humanities and Director of the Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship in the James Madison Program at Princeton University, also emphasized the priceless treasure stored at DCHS, the Lincoln presidential campaign banner.

The lecture, sponsored by Iron Workers Bank, Walsh & Nicholson Financial Group, PECO and the Nathan Speare Foundation, coincided with DCHS’s year-anniversary of Pennies4Lincoln, a fund-raising campaign with the goal to fund the restoration and preservation of the 1860 Abraham Lincoln presidential campaign banner.

“Our goal is to get the banner restored and preserved in an air-pressured plexiglass container so that both sides of the banner will be accessible for people to see,” DCHS Executive Director Laurie Grant said. “The banner has been deteriorating rapidly even though DCHS has kept it protected in the manner in which the leading conservation company told us to.” She said the campaign is close to the halfway mark of its $200,000 goal.

Attendants to the Ten True Lies lecture had a rare opportunity to view the 75-feet by 64-feet banner that features a unique depiction of the 16th president without a beard.

It was used for presidential campaign parades and has the words, “Media, Delaware County” displayed on it. It originally had the name of Lincoln’s first Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin, on it but was then painted over with the name of his second Vice President, Andrew Johnson, for the second campaign.

Dr. Guelzo, who is renowned for his Lincoln knowledge, shared his perspective on the banner in the continuum of Lincoln artifacts across the United States.

“I’m familiar with many Lincoln organizations and many Lincoln memorials across the country,” Dr. Guelzo said. “There are some 32 organizations which have holdings, libraries, collections of Lincoln material that stretch all the way from the most famous Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC to the Lincoln Shrine in Redlands, Calif. To the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Lincoln’s own Springfield, Ill.”

“But in all of those places,” he emphasized, “there is no one item quite as remarkable as this election banner.”

Dr. Guelzo said there are some election materials that exist, even some election banners for the 1860 and 1864 campaigns that have survived.

“But nothing, nothing of the size, the scale, the impression that is made by this very remarkable banner,” he said.

“So I want at the very beginning to first of all congratulate the society on the possession of this remarkable piece of history but also give every encouragement to all of you to think in terms of how you can support its continued preservation for future generations to enjoy,” Dr. Guelzo said.

The banner was made public for a very rare showing for Dr. Guelzo’s visit. It is rapidly deteriorating and has to be stored out of sight to the general public until the funds have been raised to have it restored.

More information about the banner or its preservation campaign can be obtained at the home of Delaware County Historical Society, at 408 Avenue of the States, in Chester. Please call 610-359-0832 or by visiting to donate or to view more pictures and video of the event. DCHS is open to the public from 10am to 4pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10am to 6:30pmThursday; and from 9am to 2pm on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays.

Appointments and group/school tours are available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot. Memberships are encouraged and donations are gratefully accepted.

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