The Likeness of Lincoln and a Bit of Advice

Sunday, November 25, 1860

This was Lincoln’s final day in Chicago. He, Hamlin and a friend spent the morning at St. James Episcopal Church, a well-off institution amidst one of the wealthier sections of town on the corner of Cass [now Wabash] and Huron.

Lincoln parted with the group to have a lunch with his wife, Mary, at the Tremont House hotel. They were interrupted, however, by a reminder from a local businessman that Mr. Lincoln had promised to stop by a Sunday school in a run down part of the city. Lincoln agreed to go on the condition that he wouldn’t have to make an address.

Upon arrival at the North Market Mission Sabbath School, Rev. Dwight Lyman Moody was preaching to a young crowd of about 600. Lincoln sat quietly through the sermon, but as word got around about their mysterious visitor, the boys became eager to hear from him.

As Lincoln rose to leave the church, Mr. Moody (as he was called), announced that Mr. Lincoln had agreed to attend the service on the condition that he not have to speak. However, he continued, “if Mr. Lincoln finds it in his heart to say a few words for our encouragement, of course, we will listen attentively.”1

Unable to get out of this one, Lincoln took the pulpit and gave an impromptu talk. He told a few stories from his childhood and admonished the boys to listen to their teachers and “to put into practice what you learn from them,” adding, “some of you may become President of the United States.”2

Lincoln left the church to the excited cheers of the young crowd. Moody’s biographer, years later, claimed that one of the effects of the visit from the President-Elect was “Mothers who were living in open profligacy were persuaded to send away their daughters from the danger of contamination, and thus many young girls were rescued from lives of shame.”

Later that day, Lincoln sat for photographer Samuel G. Alschuler. Lincoln was no longer clean-shaven. He fashioned for himself a goatee, just now growing in. This was his likeness, to be sure, but a very stern one (even with the cocked eyebrow). It was all well and good, but wouldn’t be seen by the public until years later.

  1. From The Shorter Life of D.L. Moody by Paul D. Moody, The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1900. []
  2. Mostly from Lincoln; President-Elect by Harold Holzer, Simon & Shuster, 2008. []
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