Lincoln’s Hometown (and mine, too)

I was born in Springfield, Illinois, in a hospital that’s just up the street from where Abraham Lincoln lived for most of his adult life. Lincoln wasn’t born there, didn’t grow up there, and didn’t die there, but he did spend a good part of his life there. Or, as he said in his farewell address to the town, he passed “from a young man to an old man” there. And he lies there still.

There have only been a handful of presidents in American history, and I wonder if any of the others are as closely identified with their hometowns as Lincoln is. I rather doubt it, since the men who have grown up to be presidents are usually born in one place, more around at least a little bit in their lives, and win the presidency when they live someplace else. For instance, Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois (the only president who could say that), and then lived in several small towns around Illinois. But nobody knows that about Reagan. He’s associated with California, instead.

President Obama lived in Illinois when he was elected, but I don’t think there’s any danger that Illinois will ever be called anything but the “Land of Lincoln.” Lincoln owns the place, metaphorically speaking, and probably always will.

Every town and city in America has at least a few businesses that are named after Lincoln. And, in all likelihood, they aren’t named for business owners like Jack Lincoln or Fred Lincoln or even Seamus Lincoln. As a surname, it’s just not that common. So a business enterprise that calls itself “Lincoln Plumbing”–such as the one I found in Reading, PA during a random Google search–is hoping that your feelings about “Honest Abe” gives it a leg up over all the other plumbing companies out there.

In Springfield, this is taken to a whole new level. There’s Lincoln Yellow Cab, Lincoln Tower Apartments, Lincoln Greens Golf Course, and many, many others. And these are in addition to Lincoln’s Home, Lincoln’s Tomb, the Lincoln Presidential Center, and on and on. When your most famous resident may just be the quintessential American, why not?

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