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updated: 4/14/2013 6:50 PM

Grayslake celebrates Abraham Lincoln's legacy

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  • Abraham Lincoln, played by George Buss, watches as Stephen A. Douglas, played by Timothy Connors, discusses his part in the debates they held during their run for the U.S. Senate Sunday at the Grayslake Heritage Center. It's part of an exhibit called "Abraham Lincoln: Self Made in America."

       Abraham Lincoln, played by George Buss, watches as Stephen A. Douglas, played by Timothy Connors, discusses his part in the debates they held during their run for the U.S. Senate Sunday at the Grayslake Heritage Center. It's part of an exhibit called "Abraham Lincoln: Self Made in America."
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • A crowded room watches as Abraham Lincoln, played by George Buss, and Stephen A. Douglas, played by Timothy Connors, discuss the debates they held during their run for the U.S. Senate during a presentation Sunday at the Grayslake Heritage Center. The center is displaying an exhibit called "Abraham Lincoln: Self Made in America."

       A crowded room watches as Abraham Lincoln, played by George Buss, and Stephen A. Douglas, played by Timothy Connors, discuss the debates they held during their run for the U.S. Senate during a presentation Sunday at the Grayslake Heritage Center. The center is displaying an exhibit called "Abraham Lincoln: Self Made in America."
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 

The election may be over, but interest in politics remains high -- even if it's the politics of 1858.

A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Grayslake Heritage Center & Museum Sunday to see Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas -- or rather, actors George Buss and Timothy Connors -- talk about their lives and their roles in history.

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The performances were part of "Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America," a traveling exhibit created by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield that runs through June 16.

"Each week, we're staging a different program to explore a different facet of Lincoln's life and the broader world around him. So Lincoln and Douglas, of course, have to make an appearance and speak on their own behaves," said Dave Oberg, the museum's executive director.

Buss and Connors, bedecked in top hats and bow ties, relished their roles. They touched on the rivalry they had for the hand of Mary Todd Lincoln, and engaged in spirited banter. Douglas noted that he had seen Lincoln "working" in an establishment that sold whiskey, prompting Lincoln to remark, "What he fails to mention, however, is while I was behind the bar, he was in front of it."

The format of the event was largely question-and-answer. In the process, Douglas emerged from Lincoln's shadow, revealing a complex personality who, among other things, was instrumental in the development of the railroad and also served in the Illinois House of Representatives, as Illinois Secretary of State, as associate Illinois Supreme Court justice, as United States Congressman and as United States Senator.

The audience also learned that Douglas supported Lincoln's view that the Union must be preserved, and that Douglas is buried by a statue on Chicago's South Side, which can be seen from U.S. Cellular Field.

Two young women were dressed in period costume as well. One of them, Fiona Fimmel, a 16-year-old student at Oak Park and River Forest High School, said she is involved in Civil War re-enactments and is a big fan of Douglas.

Audience member Bill Nelson of Grayslake said he has a special interest in Lincoln and Douglas, since he graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, where one of the debates took place.

"I have always been interested in Lincoln," Nelson said. "Where else would you find an individual who went from nothing to the ultimate?"

"I thought it was fantastic," audience member Ron Nootbaar said of the presentation. "They had a tremendous sense of humor. They knew what they wanted to say."

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