Obscura Society IL: Behind the History and Under the Ground at Lincoln's New Salem - Atlas Obscura
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Petersburg, IL

Obscura Society IL: Behind the History and Under the Ground at Lincoln's New Salem

A day after the historic recreation of Lincoln's funeral train in Springfield, join us for a closer look at a place that bears Lincoln's name, but contains the echoes of many 19th century lives.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we've had to cancel this event. We'll try to offer it again later in the year.

A day after the historic recreation of Lincoln's funeral train in Springfield, join us for a closer look at a place that bears Lincoln's name, but contains the echoes of many 19th century lives. 

The frontier-era town of New Salem was platted on a high bluff overlooking the Sangamon River in 1829. The town was in existence for only a short time, and was abandoned by 1840. New Salem would have remained only a distant memory (and an archaeological site) had it not been for one of its residents - Abraham Lincoln -  who spent six years in the village while in his mid-20s.

After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, people began visiting the site of New Salem, to recall the martyred president’s humble beginnings. During the early 1900s, the abandoned hilltop was the scene of history-related “pilgrimages” and some of the earliest historical archaeology in the country. In the 1930s, the State of Illinois “resurrected” New Salem, building a massive array of replicas of its log cabins, outbuildings, streets, and gardens. Today, the State Historic Site reflects not only the site of a frontier 1830s town, but also the 1930s ideals that recreated it.

Robert Mazrim has worked in Illinois archaeology for over 25 years, and is the author of numerous books on colonial and frontier archaeology, including “The Sangamo Frontier” (published by University of Chicago). He also co-produced a documentary about the 2006 dig at New Salem, detailing not only the finds, but the post-modern nature of working on an archaeological site populated by replicas, costumed interpreters, and thousands of visiting tourists.

In this exclusive Atlas Obscura program, Mazrim will lead visitors through a “behind-the-history” tour of this shrine to Abraham Lincoln, and it early depiction of the American frontier. The tour will examine the layout of the village as it was, and what it became during the 20th century. Visitors will hear stories of pilgrimage, resurrection, and revisionism, while exploring the complexity of century-old replicas that rest alongside authentic relics of a more distant past. You can explore some of his work in this documentary.

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This event has been cancelled.

Look for Atlas Obscura signs in the main parking lot. 
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This event has been cancelled.