Abraham Lincoln had been gone nearly a half century when mortgage banker Benjamin Culp sent Abe’s picture on a greeting card to the Hartshorn Brothers Co. in Danville at year’s end in 1911.
William G. Hartshorn and his brother, John, were the recipients of the card. The card didn’t have a street address on it. Evidently the Hartshorn address was well known to the people at the post office.
The office was located at 210 North Logan Avenue where the brothers also operated a general store. Leon’s Diner now occupies that address.
William Hartshorn and Grant Holmes are credited with designing and building the first successful strip mining shovel the same year the card arrived. The invention of that shovel put Danville on the map, and by 1925 Vermilion County ranked first in the nation in strip mining for coal.
The county’s black gold was fueling homes, industry and providing freight for the railroads. It also created employment for thousands of county residents.
Coal was king as the 20th century began its march through time. But unlike Lincoln’s legacy and words, it would fall from favor as the nation began a search for ways to improve air quality.
M.T. Sheahan, the publisher of the Lincoln card, was located in Boston. He realized there was a magnetism about Lincoln that could be used in a commercial enterprise.
He selected a number of the martyred president’s messages and copyrighted them on post cards. The cards sold well as the nation celebrated Lincoln’s birthday and were also sent as Christmas greeting cards and for other purposes. Those cards are still sought after by collectors.
Lincoln’s words were not always profound utterances such as the Gettysburg Address and the second inaugural speech, but they usually exhibited an extraordinary depth of common sense.
An example is the short reply he wrote to a New York firm inquiring into the financial status of a Springfield man, “First of all, he has a wife and baby; together they ought to be worth $500,000 to any man. Secondly, he has an office in which there is a table worth $1.50, and three chairs worth, say $1. Last of all, there is in one corner a large rat-hole, which will bear looking into.”
Abraham Lincoln, the president who saw no enemies, only potential friends.
Donald Richter’s column appears every other week in the Commercial-News. He is a member of the Vermilion County Museum Board.