Rise of the Rail Splitter


Honest Old Abe. Song and Chorus Words by D. Wentworth. Music by A Wide Awake. Buffalo: Blodgett and Bradford, 1860.

Music has played a role in American presidential elections from the beginning of the 19th century.  Sheet music became an integral component of campaigns, used to promote candidates and energize their supporters with songs, polkas, quick-steps, two-steps, marches, and waltzes.  Illustrated sheet music also provided the public with the opportunity to see what candidates looked like.  Merging Lincoln’s two popular nicknames of “Old Abe” and “Honest Abe,” this song promoted the candidate as a man of integrity.  The image used by the publisher, based on an 1857 photograph, shows Lincoln as a frontier-bred, down-to-earth common man with whom voters could identify. “Wide Awakes” were young men’s marching clubs that sprang up across in the North in support of the Republican Party in both the 1856 and 1860 presidential campaigns.

Lincoln Collection   Bequest of Evert Jansen Wendell, 1918.