First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan Accepts Donation of Desk, Chair
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2001
SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today accepted the donation of an original desk from the Old State Capitol that was possibly used by Abraham Lincoln when he served there as a state legislator, as well as an original chair from a Springfield drug store Lincoln frequented. Both were donated by William Hughes Diller Jr. Plans call for the desk to be displayed at the Old State Capitol.
"It is a pleasure to welcome back this original desk to the Old State Capitol," said Mrs. Ryan. "You can almost feel the history it contains, and it isn't hard to visualize Abraham Lincoln or one of his fellow legislators using this desk while debating the issues that would change the world. The chair from Diller's Drug Store is also a valuable artifact from Lincoln's life."
The desk was purchased for Obed Lewis by Henry Van Hoff in 1847 1848 when excess furnishings from the Old State Capitol were being sold.
Van Hoff reportedly tried to buy a desk used by Stephen T. Logan, a State Representative and one of Lincoln's law partners, thinking Logan would be the future great man. However, when he was unable to buy Logan's desk, Van Hoff bought the desk used by Lincoln. Lewis sold the desk to Roland Weaver Diller in 1890, and it has been in the Diller family since. For the past 35 years it has been displayed at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.
Lincoln paid Obed Lewis to trim his buggy in 1844 and purchased a carriage from him in 1852. Curators with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency believe the desk could have been used by Lincoln and that in 1852 when Lincoln bought the carriage, Lewis asked him to sign the desk. The desk contains evidence of lacquer in the corner where Lincoln reportedly placed his signature, and curators believe that Lewis or the later owners tried unsuccessfully to preserve Lincoln's signature by covering it with lacquer.
According to the state Constitution of 1848, the membership of the House of Representatives was reduced from 120 to 75 members, meaning there would have been some excess furniture to dispose of at that time.
The chair came from Diller's Drug Store, a Springfield establishment frequented by Lincoln. The store was owned by the ancestors of William Hughes Diller Jr., the man who donated the desk and chair to the Old State Capitol.
Abraham Lincoln served as a State Representative from 1834 to 1841, and was one of the key proponents for moving the State Capital from Vandalia to Springfield. What is now known as the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield was the seat of Illinois government from 1839 to 1876. Each legislator sat at a desk, much as state legislators do today. The restored Hall of Representatives at the Old State Capitol is currently furnished with accurately reproduced desks.
Other famous Illinoisans besides Lincoln who served in the building include Stephen A. Douglas, who was Secretary of State and an Illinois Supreme Court Justice, and Ulysses S. Grant, who was assistant to the Adjutant General.
The Old State Capitol State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is open daily for free public tours.