A Bicentennial Celebration

November 2008 – March 2009

In May 1856, the steamboat Effie Alton chugging north from St. Louis on the Mississippi River ran into a pier of the newly constructed Rock Island Railroad bridge and burst into flames. The ensuing lawsuit that pitted the steamboat trade against railroad companies marked the beginning of the struggle between the two transportation industries. It was also an important case for a young lawyer from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

The exhibition features original documents and rare books from the Libraries’ Special Collections, as well as some pieces from a private collector. Lincoln’s ties to Iowa are explored through the stories these documents tell, such as the legal case involving the first bridge over the Mississippi River between Rock Island and Davenport. Lincoln defended the railroad companies against the steamboat trade in 1858. The material on display came from the hands of the men who developed the railroad in Iowa, who worked with and supported Abraham Lincoln during his subsequent political career.

Another major section of the exhibition displays significant items from the Bollinger Lincoln Collection. Judge James W. Bollinger was a prominent Lincoln collector in Davenport, and his books and papers have been a highlight of Special Collections since they arrived in the 1950s. The exhibition showcases some of his more important pieces, both in terms of Lincoln scholarship and also Bollinger’s own favorites.

Exhibit Planning
Greg Prickman

Installation Assistance
Bill Voss and Kristin Baum

Graphic Design
Greg Prickman and Serina Brekke