Feb. 12, 1950

Lincoln Lives On In Calendar Art 

Railroad Issues Series—20 Of Them Now 

By James Hart 

While the Lincolnian Literature grows apace, and tributes to the memory of the great American are poured forth annually, another notable project has been quietly developing in his home city of Springfield.  It is the series of art calendars issued yearly by the Chicago and Illinois Midland railroad, of which Fred L. Schrader is president.

 This calendar series, which has now reached 20 in number, is devoted exclusively to the Lincoln theme.  It was begun under the direction of Mr. Schrader’s predecessor, W. C. Hurst, who previously had been an executive of the Chicago and Alton, and was well known in Bloomington.

 The Chicago and Illinois Midland railroad serves the heart of the Lincoln country, as it runs through Petersburg and Menard county, near the site of the historic village of New Salem.  To the Lincoln minded officials of the road it seemed fitting to utilize their calendars to promote the Lincoln theme, as depicted amid the scenes where he was rising to greatness. 

Fletcher Ransom’s Work

Calendar art is usually monopolized by feminine loveliness and miscellaneous subjects, but in this case it has been made to serve a worth-while historical purpose.  In these calendars, distributed each year among the customers and friends of the railroad, the young Lincoln is the central figure, and quaint New Salem village forms the background.  Appended to each is a brief explanatory text supplied by competent Lincoln authorities, Paul M. Angle and Jay Monaghan. 

Mr. Schrader, a devoted Lincoln student, who has long been actively identified with the project, personally supervises the choice and planning of each calendar issue.  Of primary importance is the selection of the artists.  Only those of established reputation in their field have been entrusted with the commission.  Careful attention is given to every detail, so that each picture will be a faithful reproduction of the periods and locale.  The Gerlach-Barklow company of Joliet does the printing. 

Fletcher Ransom’s Work.

Fletcher Ransom, a noted magazine illustrator, turned out the first fourteen calendars, beginning with that of 1930, a beautiful painting of the Lincoln home in Springfield.  It was when New Salem became the dominant scene that the artists outdid themselves.  Here nature had provided a perfect setting with the Sangamon river and the mill, the woods and lanes, the cabins and shops.  Under the master touch of the artist’s brush, Lincoln is shown going about his varied activities. 

Ransom’s bold and vigorous strokes are seen in “Pioneer Transportation,” showing Lincoln maneuvering the flatboat past the mill-dam.  In “Lincoln, the Lawyer” he is trying his  first lawsuit over a pig before Squire Bowling Green.  “Pioneer Education” and “Lincoln the Soldier,” he is leading the New Salem volunteer company to the Black Hawk war.  In others he appears as surveyor, postmaster, and arbiter.  And “Farewell” has the newly-elected legislator in leave taking with Ann Rutledge, before his setting out for Vandalia. 

Newberry and Jones

When Mr. Ransom died in 1944,Lane K. Newberry took over the work.  Mr. Newberry had achieved distinction for his excellent paintings of historic Illinois buildings at Nauvoo and elsewhere.  His “Lincoln the Thinker” presents the subject in the characteristic attitude of study.  “Pioneer Industry” shows Lincoln going to work with the carding mill as background.  Another picture emphasizes the romantic angle with Abe and Ann seated in the Rutledge tavern. 

The calendars of the last three years are the work of Leonard Jones, a native of Springfield.  His additions to the series have been particularly appreciated among the sangamon county home folks.  His illustration for the latest 1950 calendar is ‘Lincoln the Pilor,” with the fabled steamer Talisman coming up the Sangamon.  His previous productions were “Lincoln the Campaigner,” and ‘Goin’ Fishin,” with Jack Kelso following his familiar role in the latter. 

Exhibited in Chicago

Each of the artists entered fully into the spirit of the assignment, and it would require an expert to appraise any technical differences of style.  One recognizes buildings as they appear in the reconstructed village, with the inhabitants in their pioneer garb of the 1830’s, and the tall youthful Abe Lincoln dominating figure in each painting.  The series provides an impressive and colorful panorama of New Salem history.  

Last year for 30 days the collection was on exhibit in the rooms of the Chicago Historical society, where it was viewed by thousands and drew many compliments for the Midland railway.  Such is the widespread interest, with each new calendar eagerly awaited, that Mr. Schrader plans to continue the series indefinitely.  For the New Salem episodes in Lincoln’s early life are by no means exhausted.