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Lincoln Library Dedicated in Illinois - 2002-11-20

One-hundred-thirty-seven years after his death, Abraham Lincoln is getting his own presidential library. The former president's hometown of Springfield, Illinois has dedicated the library, honoring the 16th president of the United States.

Springfield, Illinois has no shortage of sites honoring Abraham Lincoln. He is buried there, and his former home and law office are popular among visitors. Joining those sites is the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It has been officially dedicated even though the library will not open until February, and the museum will receive its first visitors in 2004. It is being dedicated now because Governor George Ryan, a driving force behind the museum's fundraising and construction, leaves office in January. "Few residents of Springfield back then would have thought anyone would be here tonight dedicating a library to a man who rode into town on a borrowed horse," he said. "He left an indelible mark on this city, on Illinois and its people. He once said, 'I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives, and I like to see a man live in it so that it will be proud of him.'"

The library complex is just the latest example of how proud Springfield is of Mr. Lincoln, a self-taught lawyer credited with preserving the United States during the American Civil War, and freeing slaves in the southern part of the country. Springfield Mayor Karen Hasera says Mr. Lincoln is a symbol of liberty. "On a fateful night in April, 137 years ago, the forces of evil struck out from the shadows to try to silence a voice of liberty and freedom," said Karen Hasera. "That we are here today to dedicate this great library to the memory of Abraham Lincoln is evidence that they failed."

Mr. Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in April of 1865.

The state of Illinois has countless Lincoln-related artifacts. Many of them are now kept in the basement of the Old State Capitol Building. They include a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address, as well as copies of Mr. Lincoln's second inaugural address and the Emancipation Proclamation. The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, says that last document was Mr. Lincoln's crowning achievement. "In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, making the abolishment of slavery the goal of the war," said Dennis Hastert. "His courage brought about the death of slavery and brought the nation closer to the promise that all men are created equal."

The proclamation effectively freed slaves in the rebellious southern U.S. states.

Other records to be included in the library and museum include more than 1,000 manuscripts written or signed by the former president, part of Mrs. Lincoln's wedding dress, and part of a costume worn by an actress at Ford's Theater in Washington on the night Mr. Lincoln was shot. The fabric has three small stains on it, said to be Mr. Lincoln's blood.