Lincoln: Winding off the Tangled Skein

2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. This cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly on March 30, 1861, shows Lincoln trying to unwind or "wind off" the tangled mess of the United States Union that he inherited from President James Buchanan, shown at right. Below Lincoln lies an ax and split logs. These images refer to Lincoln's nickname, "Rail Splitter." Lincoln had worked as a rail splitter (one who splits logs for fences) before becoming a lawyer and the nickname emphasized his humble beginnings, which were seen as a campaign asset.

Lincoln was inaugurated March 4, 1861, just three weeks before this cartoon was published. Almost two weeks after its publication, Confederate soldiers fired upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the Civil War began.

Jenkins Garrett Collection, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington