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Politics and warfare on view at Lincoln Museum and Library
By Mike Michaelson | Daily Herald Columnist

"Art of War: Posters in World Conflict" will be displayed through Memorial Day and features World War I and World War II posters.


The spacious Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum sprawls over a city block.


The "Packaging Presidents" exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum at Springfield, Ill., showcases the artifacts of political campaigns dating back to the early 1800s.


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Published: 5/3/2008 8:40 PM

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Slogans and mud-slinging, acrimony and grand promises. These are expected elements of presidential election campaigns, and the current tussle is proving no exception.

So it has been through the years -- at least to some degree. Consider the patriotic "I like Ike" buttons of war hero Dwight Eisenhower's 1952 campaign and Wendell Willkie's unsuccessful attempt to defeat FDR in 1940 in a campaign incorporating the banner "I'll bet my (image of a donkey) on Willkie."

A new exhibition that opened on Super Tuesday (Feb. 5) at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum at Springfield, Ill., and runs through general election day (Nov. 4) presents two centuries of buttons, banners and broadcasts used to promote candidates for the White House. It displays more than 350 original presidential campaign artifacts from the early 1800s to the present.

Visitors will find everything from buttons that promoted Andrew Jackson for president in 1828 to the WBBM-TV Chicago camera used to broadcast the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates (where Richard Nixon perspired heavily, showing him unfavorably and demonstrating the impact of television imagery on the fortunes of presidential aspirants).

If you are able to make a trip to the Illinois capital by Memorial Day (May 26), there's still time to catch another exhibition of posters, these designed to rally America as the nation went to war. "Art of War: Posters in World Conflict" displays 195 posters, mostly original World War I and World War II posters from the United States, but also including posters from Great Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and other countries.

"The Presidential Library has made a conscious effort to collect and preserve these posters as a silent but powerful witness to the nation's rallying cries of war," notes Rick Beard, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. "This exhibition, taken entirely from our own collections, is a vibrant, touching, humorous and colorful link to our past."

Among the most famous of these posters is the military gossip warning that "Loose lips sink ships" and Uncle Sam's "I want you!" recruiting poster. Visitors are invited to use listening stations in the library to hear recordings of voices from both wars.

As the nation entered The Great War in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson faced the need to reverse a stance of neutrality. One solution was establishing a public information machine that would use the work of famous illustrators to get its message out to the public. In World War II, poster art was used effectively as it dealt with such subjects as the sale of war bonds, recruitment for the armed forces, the training of women (famously, "Rosie the Riveter") to fill the production void created by men gone off to war and promotion of household thrift as well as the value of scrap drives to help provide the raw materials of war.

"Packaging Presidents" also includes an 1832 "King Andrew I" handbill issued by incumbent Andrew Jackson's opponent, Henry Clay, and famed cartoonist Thomas Nast's unflattering Vanity Fair caricatures of 1872 candidate Horace Greeley. You'll find an 1884 magazine commentary about Grover Cleveland's having fathered a child out of wedlock (Cleveland confirmed the story and was elected), an image of a peanut with the word "Jimmy" from Carter's 1976 campaign and "Bull Moose" party paraphernalia made during Theodore Roosevelt's unsuccessful attempt to recapture the presidency in 1912.

With this focus on presidential elections, you'll likely enjoy a chance to vote. Choose from among 12 candidates to select your favorite president of all time.

Be sure to allow time to explore the $150 million Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. In fact, you might want to schedule at least an additional half-day -- or perhaps a return visit -- to wander through the 100,000-square-foot museum (twice the size of any other presidential museum and sprawling over an entire city block).

Its 21st-century technology leads you through the heroic life of the nation's 16th president. Visit a towering reproduction of the White House as Lincoln would have known it. Encounter ghostly holographic images and startling sound effects -- such as rumbling Civil War cannon fire that quite literally shakes your seat as smoke erupts into a 250-seat theater. Confront figures from Lincoln's time -- such as sinister John Wilkes Booth -- realistically created from silicon-latex, with hair added one strand at a time.

New downtown dining options include Charles and Limey's, with a menu that ranges from Kobe beef and grilled ostrich steak marinated with garlic, ginger and lemon, to wild boar chops grilled bone-in and served with sweet bell pepper and chipotle cream sauce. The interior is wood paneled (with plans for alfresco dining on the porch). Its Creole-inspired menu features Asian influences and classic French dishes.

Start with spicy mussels, crab or crawfish cakes and maque choux, a classic Cajun soup of sweet corn and crabmeat. Then move on to pan-seared scallops wrapped with Serrano ham, garlicky scampi or shrimp de Jonghe. Fettuccini is a house specialty, prepared in classic Alfredo style or with chicken, shrimp or a Creole shellfish medley of shrimp, crab and crawfish.

Find excellent lodgings at the newly renovated Hilton Springfield, the closest hotel to most Lincoln historic sites. This 30-story downtown hotel offers 360 well-appointed guest rooms, with panoramic views.

If you go

Information: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, (800) 610-2094,; Springfield Illinois Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 545-7300,; Illinois Tourism, (800) 226-6632,

Mileage: Springfield is about 200 miles southwest of Chicago.

MikeMichaelson is a travel writer based in Chicago and the author of the guidebook "Chicago's Best-Kept Secrets."