During the 1860 and 1864 presidential campaigns, Abraham Lincoln was the subject of over twenty campaign biographies. In this innovative study, Thomas A. Horrocks examines the role that these publications played in shaping an image of Lincoln that would resonate with voters and explores the vision of Lincoln that the biographies crafted, the changes in this vision over the course of four years, and the impact of these works on the outcome of the elections.
Horrocks investigates Lincoln’s campaign biographies within the context of the critical relationship between print and politics in nineteenth-century America and compares the works about Lincoln with other presidential campaign biographies of the era. Horrocks shows that more than most politicians of his day, Lincoln deeply appreciated and understood the influence and the power of the printed word.
The 1860 campaign biographies introduced to America “Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter,” a trustworthy, rugged candidate who appealed to rural Americans. When Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864, the second round of campaign biographies complemented this earlier portrait of Lincoln with a new, paternal figure, “Father Abraham,” more appropriate for Americans enduring a bloody civil war. Closing with a consideration of the influence of these publications on Lincoln’s election and reelection, Lincoln’s Campaign Biographies provides a new perspective for those seeking a better understanding of the sixteenth president and two of the most critical elections in American history.