A portrait of Abraham Lincoln was donated by the Illinois State Historical Society to help celebrate the bicentennial of the state next year.

BLOOMINGTON — Five Central Illinois courthouses have a new portrait of Abraham Lincoln to showcase as part of the state's upcoming bicentennial.

William Furry, executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society, delivered 30- by 40-inch framed canvas portraits to courthouses in McLean, Logan, Woodford, Livingston and Ford counties on Tuesday.

“The Illinois State Historical Society will be putting these portraits of Lincoln in every courthouse in the state for the 200th birthday of Illinois,” he said. “So we have 102 counties and so far, we have about 25 counties completed.”

The photograph is one of the most iconic of the pre-presidential Lincoln, Furry said. It was taken June 3, 1860, by renowned Chicago photographer Alexander Hesler at a setting in what is now the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

“It is the one which he said he believed depicted the best likeness of him,” he added.

The canvases are a gift from the Jerome Mirza Foundation, a Bloomington not-for-profit organization founded by the late Jerome Mirza, a Bloomington- and Chicago-based lawyer and past president of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. He died in 2007.

McLean County judges Robert Freitag and Rebecca Foley and 11th Judicial Circuit Court Administrator William Scanlon accepted the portrait on behalf of the county.

“We will display it, but we have not yet made the final determination as to where, yet,” Scanlon said. “We have a Lincoln display in the lobby, but it is too big to put there.”

Scanlon said several McLean County officials likely will decide where to place the portrait, including the McLean County property committee, Sheriff Jon Sandage, Facilities Manager Jack Moody, McLean County Administrator Bill Wasson, and officials with the McLean County Museum of History.

The framed canvases are each inscribed with a donor plate acknowledging the gift of the Mirza Foundation and the Illinois State Historical Society.

Furry was joined for the presentations by Judge Thomas Harris of the 4th Judicial Appellate Court and author Guy Fraker, a retired local attorney and Lincoln historian. 

The portraits are especially important for Central Illinois, Furry said, because Lincoln rode the 8th Judicial Circuit as a lawyer and sometimes as a sitting judge, arguing for rich and poor clients and helping serve the cause of justice in the early years of Illinois.

Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow


Staff Writer

Staff Writer for The Pantagraph.

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