By Gary E. Wait SPRING 2012
Touring New England in the late winter of 1860 to test the waters for a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Abraham Lincoln visited Hartford on March 5 and 6. His visit to Hartford, and the places where he stopped, can be traced with the “Geer’s New Map of the City of Hartford” published in the 1860-1861 Geer’s Hartford City Directory.
Lincoln’s itinerary for those two days was as follows: He arrived at the Hartford railroad station, 182 Asylum Street, from Boston, via Springfield, at 7:20 p.m. He went directly to City Hall (Market Street between Temple and Kingsley streets), where he was introduced to his audience by William Buckingham and delivered a two-hour speech.
He spent the night as the guest of Mayor Thomas M. Allyn, then residing at 102 Asylum Street. During the morning of March 6, Lincoln met informally on a bench outside Brown and Gross’s Bookstore (at the corner of Main and Asylum streets) with Gideon Welles, Connecticut’s representative on the Republican National Committee. Commenting on their meeting, Welles would report: “This orator and lawyer has been caricatured. …He is [in]every way large, brain included, but his countenance shows intellect, generosity, great good nature, and keen discrimination . . . He is an effective speaker, because he is earnest, strong, honest, simple in style, and clear as crystal in his logic.” (Evening Press, March 6, 1860) Out of these meetings grew a mutual respect that led to Welles’s appointment as secretary of the Navy in Lincoln’s cabinet, an office he held throughout the Civil War.
Later that day, Lincoln met in the office of the Evening Press (66 State Street) with Welles, editor Joseph R. Hawley, and other leaders of the Hartford Republican Party. Lincoln then left for New Haven on the 3:05 p.m. train.
Gary Wait is Hartford History Center project archivist and archivist for the American School for the Deaf.