Chicago politics for Honest Abe?

May 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Lincoln was 51-years-old on May 18, 1860 when he was nominated for the presidency in a building called the Wigwam.

"I think it's true that, but for what happened here in Chicago on May 18th, 1860, Abraham Lincoln would never have been elected president. And I don't know that any other of his opponents at that convention could go on to be the president he was… to save the nation," said Ald. Edward Burke, Chicago Historian.

The Wigwam building stood at what is now the corner of Lake Street and Wacker Drive. Made entirely of wood, it lasted until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. But what happened there 150 years ago is what historians were talking about at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Historians --and even a Lincoln lookalike-- gathered to discuss what went on in the Wigwam that day. According to many, before the crucial third ballot the audience was filled with Lincoln supporters who gained entrance with counterfeit tickets. Their screaming drowned out backers of the favorite candidate William Seward of New York. Lincoln and those counterfeit tickets won easily on that third ballot.

"It didn't hurt to have several thousand extra people in the balcony shouting Lincoln's name and supporting him," said Bob Lenz, amateur Lincoln historian.

Some say former Senator Adlai Stevenson's great, great grandfather Jesse Fell just might have been one of the counterfeit ticket culprits.

"Well, maybe he did," said Adlai Stevenson, III, Jesse Fell's great, great grandson. "Well, I'm proud of the results, the outcome."

Some things never change -- even for good old Honest Abe.

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