On the Circuit
Spring weather brought accelerated progress in locating Lincoln legal records in a handful of Illinois counties that remain on the search agenda. Staff researchers completed the tedious work in nine counties, adding 58 cases and more than 1,500 documents to bulging file cabinets that line all available wall space at project offices in the Old State Capitol.
Some disappointments and several pleasant surprises occurred in this work. In La Salle, Adams, Hancock and Rock Island counties researchers hoped to find additional records of some well known Lincoln cases. Docket entries were of some value, but actual case file documents proved elusive. One conspicuous exception was in Madison County, 70 miles southwest of Springfield. Court records for the Lincoln period are scattered in several locations, but researchers uncovered important new information. Four previously unknown documents in Lincoln's handwriting revealed for the first time that he had handled trial work in that county, which was some distance from his customary circuit travels. These cases and documents captured intense press interest, especially in metropolitan St. Louis media.
Only a half-dozen Illinois counties await searches, so this most demanding component of the document quest will end by late summer. After nearly five years and 90,000 miles of travel crisscrossing the state, the ambitious scavenger hunt in 77 Illinois counties will have yielded the bulk of The Lincoln Legal Papers, or 60,000 of the grand total of approximately 95,000. Vital to this success story has been the cooperation and support of hundreds of county officials, regional archive curators, and historical society volunteers. We acknowledge with gratitude the following: Hon. Glen F. Hultz (Adams County); Hon. John Neally and historical society members (Hancock County); Hon. David W. Painter (Henderson County); Hons. Robert L. Carter, Louis J. Perona and David Carey (La Salle County); Hons. Edward C. Ferguson and Matt Melucci, Jim May (Madison County); Louisa Bowen, Leslie M. Bedner and Dr. John Abott (SIU Edwardsville IRAD); Hon. Mary Kay Hunt (McDonough County); staff at Western Illinois University IRAD; Hon. Marilyn Essinger (Rock Island County); Hon. Beverly E. Davis (Warren County); Hon. Helen Harshbarger (Will County).
In recognition of his valuable service, Christopher Schnell (M.A. History 1993) has received a full twelve month contract at the rank of Research Associate. His colleague Sean Brown (M.A. History 1993) also was invited to stay at least through 1994. Dan Dixon (M.A. History, 1993), who previously had served as a student assistant, was appointed Technical Associate. He is responsible of scanning documents for the CD-ROM edition (see related story).
Nearly every staff member addressed one or more audiences this spring on either The Lincoln Legal Papers or some aspect of Lincoln's career as a lawyer. Of special note were featured talks by Cullom Davis to the Chicago Bar Association, Illinois Appellate Lawyers Association, Connecticut Bar Association, and the Lincoln Symposium at West Shore Community College in Scottville, Michigan.
The Lincoln Legal Papers was amply represented at the annual Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents, sponsored by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the University of Wisconsin. John Lupton was one of twenty participants selected nationwide, and faculty lecturers included Marty Benner and Cullom Davis.
Last issue we reported the inauguration of the scanning process that will convert Lincoln legal document photocopies into electronic images preparatory to publishing The Complete Facsimile Edition on CD-ROM. The system works very smoothly, and we are pleased with the quality of the images both as they are viewed on the computer screen and also those that are printed on the laser printer.
After only two months, we celebrated a milestone as Dan Dixon scanned the 10,000th document. This figure is even more impressive when one considers that there is often more than one page in a document, and that there are over 20,000 pages in the documents completed. At the rate we are going, 20,000 pages in less than ten weeks, we will be able to finish the image capture within the projected two year period, and then spend the next year assembling and producing the disc sets prior to their release in 1997.
The next stage in this publication effort will be the design of the user interface to the database that will serve as the comprehensive index to the images. Staff will identify the ways in which researchers will want to search for document and case information and present indexed information and images in a way that is the most useful.
Spring is a traditionally quiet season for fundraising at The Lincoln Legal Papers. All the more welcome, therefore, was a generous gift of $3,500 from an anonymous corporate donor. In addition, we received gifts from the following individuals and organizations: Gene E. Arnold, Martha L. Benner, Hon. Linda J. Cook, Cullom Davis, John Brooks Davis, Elbert F. Floyd, Tara Fowler, Richard Grosboll, Anita Hodge, Fred B. Hoffmann, John K. Lattimer, Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, John Lupton, McLean County Historical Society, Robert B. Oxtoby, Gregory M. Perry, Dorothy B. Richardson, Rotary Club of Oak Park, William D. Trent, Charles J. Ungar, Frederic S. Ury, Frank J. Williams.