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Lincoln's New Salem

Lincoln's New Salem

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Benjamin P. Thomas


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
5 x 7.5


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About the Book

Thomas tells the story of the village where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1831 to 1837. His three-part examination of the village often referred to as Lincoln’s "Alma Mater" features the founding and early history of New Salem, Lincoln’s impact on the village and its effect on him, and the story of the Lincoln legend and the reconstruction of the town.

Thomas argues convincingly that New Salem was the town where Lincoln acquired faith in himself, faith in people. At 22 the future president drifted into town seeking to become a blacksmith. Thomas introduces us to the people who created New Salem and who knew, influenced, and befriended Lincoln.

Thomas highlights Lincoln’s arrival, his relationships with his neighbors, his important wrestling match with Jack Armstrong, his self-education, his quiet career as an Indian fighter, his experience as a postmaster largely indifferent to postal regulations, his financial woes as a businessman, his loyal friends who often came to his aid, and his election to the legislature.

This colorful history closes with a discussion of the Lincoln legend. The truth of the stories is unimportant. What matters is that the growing Lincoln legend prompted the gradual realization that New Salem was not a dismal mire from which President Lincoln had had to extricate himself but was, in fact, an energizing force. This realization led to research and finally to the restoration of New Salem, which began in 1932.


Benjamin P. Thomas (1902–1956), a lifetime Lincoln scholar, is best known for his definitive Abraham Lincoln, A Biography.


“Generations of readers, including myself, have been influenced in their understanding of Abraham Lincoln’s period of maturing by Benjamin Thomas’s warm and insightful narrative of the future president’s years in New Salem. The life experiences, friendships, and mentoring by the surprisingly varied pioneer residents transformed him. Lincoln came in as a farmhand and sometime boatman and left as a promising lawyer and politician, six formative years later. This story is beautifully told here.”—Guy C. Fraker, author of Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit 
“Benjamin P. Thomas, author of the best single-volume biography of Lincoln, made his debut as a Lincolnian with this evocative, highly readable study. Like the biography, it has held up remarkably well in the decades since its publication. Southern Illinois University Press deserves kudos for reissuing it with a new introduction by such an exceptionally knowledgeable scholar as Kenneth Winkle.”—Michael Burlingame, author of An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd