More Calendar Art

In the early, thirties the Chicago, Illinois Midland Railroad Company, which served the area known as Lincoln country, conceived the idea for a series of Lincoln pictures which they could use on their calendars.

They commissioned Fletcher Ransom (brother of Fanny Ransom Scott and nephew of Charles A. Ransom for whom, the Plainwell District Library was named) to paint a series of pictures depicting different phases in the life of Lincoln.  

Ransom was born in Alamo, educated in Kalamazoo Public Schools, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Academy of Fine Arts in New York City.  

He first worked as an illustrator for Colliers and Youths Companion and later in oil. He painted about one picture a year of the Lincoln series, or a total of fourteen, until his death in 1943.

His Lincoln series are in the offices of the CIM Railway Company in Springfield, Ill. In an article in the Bloomington, Ill. Pantograph in 1950 the author commented on the beautiful oil paintings relating to the life of Lincoln.  He said “Ransom’s bold and vigorous strokes are seen in the paintings.  It was when New Salem became a dominant scene that the artist outdid himself.”

Due to failing health he spent his last years living with the Scotts on Allegan Street.  He used the barn in back of the house as his studio. For the painting of “Lincoln the Lawyer” he used Jim Renwick (now living in Parchment) and Robert Ploof (deceased) as his models. His workmanship showed a fastidiousness even to his custom-made coveralls in which he worked.

Following his death Fanny and Frank Scott (a grant from his estate made possible the establishment of the Senior Citizens Home in Plainwell) gave some of his paintings to friends and institutions in Plainwell. These were paintings done mostly while he lived in Plainwell.

These paintings will be on exhibit at the Plainwell District Library for the week of July 12 to 19.  In addition to the 10 paintings the Library has examples of the calendars used by the Railway Company and several prints of the Lincoln Series.
G Burchfield

Lincoln Lives on in Calendar Art.

No photo of original available.
If you have any information on the original please email me at k_tuason@hotmail.com or call me at 765-342-4850

Lincoln For Posterity
The calendar for 1931 carried a reproduction of a painting of the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois believed to be painted by Fletcher C. Ransom.

Go back to top of page

 

Fletcher Ransom                                               Oil Painting

Lincoln, the Arbiter

Sports as we know them—baseball, football, bowling, golf—were far in the future when Abraham Lincoln lived in the little frontier town of New Salem, Illinois. Nevertheless, the pioneer had his amusements. House raisings, husking bees, and wedding dances broke the monotony of life for early settlers and their families, while the men often found pleasure in such sports as wrestling, horse racing, and shooting for a beef.

In the latter class—”for men only”—was gander pulling, which the artist has depicted here. The neck of a gander was greased, and then the bird was hung head down from a projecting limb. The horseman who could ride by at full speed and pull off the gander’s head won both the contest and the gander.

At New Salem, where he lived from 1831 to 1837, Lincoln was famed as a wrestler, but in other sports he was more often found as judge or umpire than as participant. His neighbors knew him to be honest, fair, and cool-headed, and he was their unanimous choice for this most hazardous of occupations. Thus early were manifest qualities which the American people were later to recognize and trust.

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1944                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

 
Fletcher Ransom                                     Oil Painting

Lincoln, the Lawyer

In 1834, after he had been a resident of New Salem, Illinois, for three years, Abraham Lincoln began to study law. In the eyes of many of his friends and neighbors, the mere fact that he was a law student qualified him to draw mortgages and deeds, and even to try minor cases, although such unlicensed practicing was then, as now, illegal.

In this painting the artist has pictured one of Lincoln’s early trials which came to grief. In dispute was the ownership of a hog. Lincoln’s clients were the Trent Brothers; the defendant was his good friend Jack Kelso. Holding the scales of justice was Bowling Green, the corpulent justice of the peace of New Salem. At the trial Lincoln introduced three witnesses who swore that the hog belonged to the Trents, but Kelso had no one to support his claim. The justice of the peace, nevertheless, awarded the hog to Kelso. When Lincoln protested that the verdict was against the preponderance of evidence, Green delivered a little homily which the aspiring youth probably never forgot. “Abe,” he said, “the first duty of a court is to decide cases justly and in accordance with the truth. I know that shoat myself, and I know it belongs to Kelso and that the plaintiffs and their witnesses lied!  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1943                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                                   Oil Painting

 Pioneer Transportation

In the spring of 1831 Abraham Lincoln, twenty-two years old and free from family obligations, began life on his own responsibility. His first venture was a flatboat trip to New Orleans as the hired hand of a back-woods promoter, Denton Offut by name. Lincoln, with Offut and two others, built the boat on the Sangamon River near Springfield, loaded it with produce, and launched it on the spring-swollen stream.

Twenty miles distant, at the little village of New Salem, a mill dam obstructed the river. There, half-over, the flatboat stranded. Water splashed into the stern, and pessimists among the villagers on the river bank predicted that it would soon sink.

But one member of the crew—notably long, angular and awkward— had no intention of allowing the boat to founder. Under his orders the stern was unloaded until the craft righted itself. Then, with the village cooper’s auger a hole was bored in the bow and the water allowed to run out. Next, the hole was plugged and the balance of the cargo unloaded. Relieved of the weight of water and load, the boat slid easily over the dam. The cargo was reloaded, and the voyage continued.

Three months later Abraham Lincoln walked into New Salem, where he was to make his home for six years, and found himself locally famous as the man who had saved Denton Offut’s flatboat from what had looked like certain destruction.  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1941                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                                                 Oil Painting

Lincoln, the Soldier

When the Black Hawk War broke out in the spring of 1832, young Abraham Lincoln was clerking in a store at New Salem, Illinois. The business was failing and he knew it, so he joined a company of mounted volunteers. To his surprise, he was elected captain. Twenty-eight years later, after he had been nominated for the Presidency of the United States, he wrote that he had “not since had any success in life which gave him so much satisfaction” as this honor.

After five weeks Lincoln’s company was disbanded, whereupon he re-enlisted as a private. In this capacity he served until the war ended. He saw no action, and in later years he often made light of his military service. Nevertheless, the war gave him valuable experience and broadened his horizons measurably. There is reason to think, moreover, that beneath the surface he was proud of his record. When bounty lands were awarded to Black Hawk War Veterans he located both his warrants, and he once told his law partner that he would hold the tracts as long as he lived, no matter how unproductive they might turn out to be.

In the accompanying painting the artist depicts the people of New Salem mingling cheers and farewells as Lincoln and some of his men leave for the campaign.    

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1940                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                                  Oil Painting


Lincoln and Ann Rutledge

For six years—from 1831 to 1837—Abraham Lincoln lived in the little log town of New Salem, Illinois. Penniless at the time of his arrival, he earned a living as clerk, storekeeper, postmaster and surveyor. Uneducated, he studied grammar, mathematics and law. In the Black Hawk War he was elected captain of his company, and then, after one unsuccessful attempt, he was elected to the legislature by the people of Sangamon County.

Important as these achievements were, one episode of Lincoln’s life at New Salem throws them all into shadow. That is the tragic story of his courtship of Ann Rutledge. 

For a year Lincoln boarded at the home of James Rutledge, one of the founders of the town. Ann, his daughter, was there, but Ann was engaged to a young merchant of the place and Lincoln concealed the admiration he felt for her. Later, however, the merchant left town, and although he had promised to return, letters from him gradually ceased. Then Lincoln made his feelings known, and found to his joy that Ann reciprocated them. The artist, in this picture, has painted what must have been a typical scene of the courtship.

All went well until the summer of 1835, when an epidemic of fever swept the country. Ann Rutledge was one of its victims. So intense was Lincoln’s grief that his friends feared for his sanity. Time, however, brought back health, though the sweet, fresh memory of Ann Rutledge always remained with him.  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1933                             
                                                                             Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                                 Oil Painting

Pioneer Education

Near the little city of Petersburg, Illinois, stands the restored village of New Salem—rebuilt by the State of Illinois because it was the home of Abraham Lincoln from 1831 until 1837.

In the entire village, now nearly completed, only one original structure is to be found. That is the cooper shop of Henry Onstot, luckily preserved as a part of a dwelling in Petersburg, and replaced on its former site a few years ago. There an informed visitor may see in his mind’s eye the scene which the artist has depicted here—a bronzed young giant in homespun absorbed in the pages of a book which he reads by the light of the cooper’s blazing chips and shavings. For at New Salem Lincoln was preeminently the student, studying grammar so that he might write and speak clearly, surveying in order to earn a day-to-day living, and the law to qualify himself for a profession. The Onstot cooper shop is a weatherbeaten structure with the marks of its age upon it, but it symbolizes, as no imposing memorial could symbolize, a man’s ability to overcome the handicaps of poverty and ignorance.  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1939                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                          Oil Painting

Postmaster Lincoln

For three of the six years of his residence at New Salem, Abraham Lincoln was the village postmaster. It was not a burdensome occupation, for mail was delivered to the little settlement overlooking the Sangamon only twice a week. Still, the small remuneration helped, and the position gave him an opportunity to read many newspapers which he would not have seen otherwise.  

As postmaster, Lincoln went out of his way to accommodate his patrons. When he went on a surveying expedition he made it a point to put all the letters addressed to the people of the neighborhood into his hat and distribute them along the way, regardless of the fact that the free delivery of mail was not then a post office function. On occasion, too, he would make special trips, often walking miles to deliver a letter which he knew to be impatiently awaited. Kindnesses like these were an expression of his own friendly nature, but they made him New Salem’s most popular citizen and contributed to the respect and affection in which he was held throughout the countryside.  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1942                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                               Oil Painting
Colored Lithograph of oil painting. Lincoln high on snowy hill surveying river below - log cabins and trees.                                                                 Size: 16" x 22" 

Lincoln, the Surveyor

A little  more than a century ago—in February, 1836, a young man known for his honesty, his great height, and his cleverness at story-telling, spent several days surveying a tiny village in Central Illinois. Finishing his work, he drew a careful plat, labeled it the resurvey of Petersburg, February 17, 1836, and signed his name: “A. Lincoln.”

 For three years jobs of that sort had been Lincoln’s chief means of support. In 1833, after his venture in store-keeping had ended in disaster and debt, John Calhoun, the surveyor of Sangamon County, had come to his rescue by appointing him his deputy and assigning him the northern part of the county (now Menard County) as his field. Calhoun’s successor retained him in office, with the result that until his removal from New Salem to Springfield, Lincoln with rod and chain was a familiar figure to hundreds of Illinois settlers.

 Lincoln’s resurvey of Petersburg gave rise to an incident which local tradition still cherishes, and which the artist has pictured here. Living in the little town was Jemimah Elmore, the widow of an old friend who had served in Lincoln’s company in the Black Hawk War. Part of her house, Lincoln found, would be in a street if the streets were run due north and south. Sooner or later it would have to be removed, and that would cost more money than she could afford. But if his compass were set one degree off north and south, the house could be saved. And so today, because of the Widow Elmore and Lincoln’s consideration for her, the streets of Petersburg deviate one degree from the cardinal points of the compass.

 In the artist’s portrayal of Lincoln, the Surveyor, presented here the surveying instruments, known as a circumferator and Jacob’s staff, were drawn from Lincoln’s original instruments now in possession of the State of Illinois.  

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1937                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

Fletcher Ransom                                               Oil Painting

Size: 16" x 22" 
Longtime resident donates Cransom art to Vanderpoel

 Lincoln at New Salem, 1834

Two miles southeast of Petersburg, Illinois, the Sangamon River makes a sweeping bend at the foot of a high bluff. On this bluff, a century ago, stood the pioneer village of New Salem. Today, after decades of desertion, the village stands again, its log cabins rebuilt and its original surroundings restored by the State of Illinois.

For here, from 1831 to 1837, lived Abraham Lincoln, who, though he came to the town as an obscure youth, had the courage to run for election to the state legislature within a year of his arrival. Defeated, he made a second attempt two years later. This time he succeeded.

In that summer of 1834—the year of Lincoln’s second campaign—the residents of New Salem may well have become familiar with the scene which the artist, with vivid historical imagination, has presented here—a picture of Lincoln, about to ride away to lay his case before the voters of the county; saying farewell to Ann Rutledge.

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1934                                                                                                         Go back to top of page

No photo of original available. 
If you have any information on the original please email me at k_tuason@hotmail.com or call me at 765-342-4850
Fletcher Ransom                                             Oil Painting
Size 16" x 22"

Lincoln, the Student

By his own statement, when Abraham Lincoln settled at New Salem 1831 could “read, write and cipher to the rule of three, but that was all.” Probably most of his neighbors were no better educated, but Lincoln differed from them in that he soon set out to make up his deficiencies. Within a year he was studying grammar. Twelve months later he was hard at work on trigonometry and surveying. In 1834, encouraged by John T. Stuart, he commenced the study of law, often walking to Springfield to borrow Stuart’s copies of Blackstone, Kent, Chitty and other legal classics. By 1837, when he left New Salem, he was grounded in the fundamentals of the English language, he knew the elements of mathematics, and he was equipped to enter one of the learned professions.

Necessarily, at New Salem Lincoln spent much of his time in study. In the accompanying picture the artist has depicted what must have been a frequent scene—Lincoln so deeply absorbed in his books as to be oblivious of the laughter of the loungers in front of Samuel Hill’s store or the gossip of the women across the street at Hill’s home. In the distance one sees the building where Lincoln himself tried storekeeping and failed; in the right foreground is the home of Peter Lukins, the village shoemaker. All of these structures have been restored and furnished as they were in the days of Lincoln’s residence at New Salem.

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1935                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

No photo of original available.
If you have any information on the original please email me at k_tuason@hotmail.com or call me at 765-342-4850
Fletcher Ransom                                               Oil Painting

Lincoln, the Wrestler   

I
n the summer of 1831 the little frontier town of New Salem gained a new resident. His name was Abraham Lincoln, and he came to work in a general store which Denton Offut, with whom he had just made a flat-boat trip to New Orleans, was establishing in the village.

The people of New Salem had a habit of putting newcomers to the test, especially when their employers bragged of their strength, as Offut bragged of Lincoln. So a wrestling match with Jack Armstrong of nearby Clary’s Grove, champion of the neighborhood, was arranged. The town turned out to see the fun, and bets of all sorts were placed on the contestants. Like so much of the past, the outcome of the match is hidden in the haze of uncertainty; but whether Lincoln threw Armstrong, as some say, or whether the contest ended in a draw, as others maintain, this at least is certain: the men were ever afterward bound together by the strongest ties of friendship. Jack Armstrong supported Lincoln in every venture of his New Salem days, while the measure of Lincoln’s affection may be found in the fact that many years afterward, when one of Jack’s sons was charged with murder, Lincoln volunteered to defend him and successfully cleared his name.                                                                                              

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1938                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

No photo of original available.
If you have any information on the original please email me at k_tuason@hotmail.com or call me at 765-342-4850
Fletcher Ransom                                                  Oil Painting

Abraham
Lincoln at New Salem, Illinois

Late in July, 1831, Abraham Lincoln, twenty-two years old, uneducated, penniless, settled at New Salem, a small pioneer village twenty miles northwest of Springfield. There he lived until the spring of 1837, supporting himself by a variety of occupations—storekeeper, soldier of the Black Hawk War, postmaster and surveyor. There, in a community which never had a hundred inhabitants, he successfully sought election to the legislature and prepared himself for admission to the bar.

After flourishing for a few years the village of New Salem disintegrated. On its site, now a state park, several of the log cabins in which its citizens lived have been reconstructed, but only one of the original buildings is still standing. That is the cooper shop of Henry Onstot, located at the western limit of the village.

Henry Onstot made casks and barrels. In the process shavings accumulate, and shavings make a fire by which a man hungry for the printed page can read. Such a man was Abraham Lincoln during his residence at New Salem. He studied grammar so that he might write and speak correctly; to earn a living from day to day he learned surveying; to prepare himself for the future he studied law. And, since he worked with an intensity which made the hours of daylight all too short, there were many nights when he lay prone before the fire in the cooper shop, deriving knowledge from the book before him and unconsciously learning the even more important lesson of self-reliance.

Outwardly the Onstot cooper shop is only a relic of a dead village, but in a deeper sense it is the symbol of a man’s successful effort to overcome the handicaps of poverty and ignorance.

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.  

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1932                                                                                                          Go back to top of page

No photo of original available.
If you have any information on the original please email me at k_tuason@hotmail.com or call me at 765-342-4850

Lincoln, the Rail Splitter

Also a color copy of calendar at Calendar art of the 1940's.

In the spring of 1860 the Republicans of Illinois were meeting at Decatur. Suddenly, on the floor of the convention, an old man appeared with two fence rails which supported a banner inscribed: “Abraham Lincoln— the Rail Candidate for President in 1860.” Then and there, amid wild cheers, Lincoln became the “Rail-Splitter.” Throughout the campaign, and long afterward, the sobriquet clung to him.

Nor was it inappropriate. As a youth in Indiana and Illinois Lincoln had split rails, Thousands of them, and his great strength made him unusually proficient at the task. Even at New Salem, where he lived from 1831 to 1837, he occasionally “hired out” as a farm laborer and engaged in this commonest of frontier occupations. Thus the artist has pictured him, swinging his maul on the banks of the winding Sangamon in the cool dawn of a summer day. Doubtless he was grateful for the end of the day, and certainly he had no suspicion that the task at which he worked would one day furnish a meaningful symbol to millions of his fellow citizens.

PAUL M. ANGLE, Librarian,
Illinois State Historical Library.

 

Painting by Ransom
Year published—1936                                                                                   Go back to top of page