Lincoln's Last Law Oﬃce
Lincoln and Herndon rented law offices at several locations over the years. Their last was a rear room on the second floor in a building that stood here. Leslie's Weekly published this drawing of the office interior during the 1860 presidential campaign. It contradicts contemporary descriptions of a "dingy" and "untidy" office. Its windows overlooked back-alleys and tar-covered roofs (below right). In hot weather the room sometimes had a caustic resin smell. "a law office is a dry place for incidents of a pleasing kind," Herndon observed. Below left is the earliest known picture of William Herndon, circa 1870.
Abraham Lincoln's third and final law partner was William H. Herndon. He was nine years Lincoln's junior. They practiced together from 1844 to 1861. Arriving at work Lincoln would tease: "Billy---how is your bones philosophy this morning?" Working in the shadow of his celebrated senior partner, Herndon did much of the legal research for their cases and managed the office during Lincoln's frequent absences. After Lincoln died, Herndon hoped to write the definitive biography of his famous friend. He collected reminiscences from all sorts of people. Herndon's interview notes, correspondence, and Lincoln biography are important sources regarding the pre-presidential Lincoln. Mary Lincoln and other were greatly offended at some of Herndon's allegations---among them, that Lincoln was a religious skeptic and that his only true love was New Salem's Ann Rutledge. Mary called Herndon a "hopeless inebriate" and a "dirty dog." Herndon called Mary "the female wildcat of the age." Herndon battled alcoholism and died in relative poverty in 1891.
His law office was one of the last places Lincoln visited before he left Springfield to become president. In the late afternoon of February 10, 1861---his last full day in Springfield---Lincoln came here to discuss unfinished legal business and to reminisce with his partner of over sixteen years, William Herndon. According to Herndon, Lincoln asked that he leave their doorway shingle in place---"Let it hang there undisturbed," he instructed---until his work in Washington was done and he could return to resume his law practice with Herndon once again. One last time the two men stepped down the familiar dark narrow stairwell then walked together into the fading afternoon light, the senior partner never to cross the office threshold again.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
Location. 39° 48.089′ N, 89° 38.967′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker is on 5th Street just south of E. Washington Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield IL 62701, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Streetscape 1859 (within shouting distance of this marker); Joshua Speed's Store (within shouting distance of this marker); Stuart and Lincoln Law Office (within shouting distance of this marker); The Wedding of the Rose and the Lotus (within shouting distance of this marker); Brunwick's Billiard Hall (within shouting distance of this marker); Mary Lincoln's Ring (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln's Hat (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Streetscape 1859 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Springfield.
Categories. • Notable Places •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 28, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 370 times since then. Photo 1. submitted on October 28, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.