Lincoln in Art: The Leonard and Douglas Volk Collection

Leonard Volk was an American sculptor famous for making one of only two life masks of Abraham Lincoln. Volk was born in Wellstown (now Wells), New York, in 1828, and his family later moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for his father’s trade as a marble cutter. Volk joined his father in this work, and he later went to St. Louis in 1848 to study drawing and sculpture.

In 1852 Volk married Emily Clarissa King Barlow, whose cousin, Senator Stephen A. Douglas, supported Volk’s art and provided financial assistance for Volk to study in Rome. Volk settled in Chicago upon his return and opened a studio there in 1857.… Read More

Stephen Harriman Long: Exploring the West

Stephen Harriman Long was an explorer, engineer, and inventor. Born in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, in 1784, Long attended Dartmouth College and went on to become a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy. He served as an officer and civil engineer in the Corps of Topographical Engineers for the U.S. Army and participated in a number of expeditions between 1816 and 1824 before working with railroads, bridge construction, and river navigation improvements.

Long was selected to lead an exhibition to survey potential sites for Army forts west of the Mississippi River in 1817. Based on his recommendations from the journey, the U.S.… Read More

Thomas Mather: Business and Politics in Early Illinois

Thomas Mather was an early Illinois settler, businessman, and politician who served as a member of both branches of the Illinois legislature.  His father, William Mather, fought in the Revolutionary War, and Thomas was also a direct descendant of New England minister Cotton Mather. Thomas Mather was born in Simsbury, Connecticut in 1795. He became a successful merchant in New York City, and in the spring of 1818, Mather migrated to Kaskaskia, Illinois.

As he settled into life in Illinois, Mather quickly become involved in both business and politics. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1820 and served four terms, including a term as Speaker of the House from 1824-1826.… Read More