No portraits of Abraham Lincoln’s mother exists, but the copy of a painting based on relatives’ descriptions is on display at a traveling exhibit this weekend at the Kentucky Artisan Center off Exit 77 of Interstate 75.

If the descriptions and rendering are accurate, Lincoln’s appearance favored his mother’s much more than his father.

Lincoln’s father long outlived his mother, who died in 1818 with Abe was 9. He sat for a photographer before his death in 1851, and a copy of that photo also is part of the exhibit.

Thomas was much heavier than his tall, skinny son.

The Kentucky Historical Society’s historymobile exhibit will be devoted to Lincoln throughout the bicentennial celebration of his birth, said coordinator David Whealdon. The observance, which began Feb. 12, will run through Feb. 12, 2010. Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809.

Stations of the exhibit mark Lincoln’s progress “from a log house to the White House.”

They range from his birth and early boyhood in Kentucky to his youth in Indiana, then adulthood in Illinois and finally his years as president.

The exhibit includes copies of many photographs and drawings from Lincoln’s era, including a large, haunting photo that seems to stare at visitor’s as they enter.

The content does not shy away from many Kentuckians’ mixed feelings about Lincoln, then and now.

Despite its pro-Union sentiment when the Civil War began, Kentucky never gave Lincoln more than one percent of its votes in either 1860 or 1864.

Many Kentuckians came to resent Lincoln and began to be more sympathetic to the Confederacy after the president imposed martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the state. Those measures allowed citizens to be imprisoned without trial, Whealdon said.

An occasional visitor to the exhibit will express anti-Lincoln sentiment, he said.

“So this is the exhibit about that war criminal,” one visitor told Whealdon at another location.

Differing sentiments of Civil War era Kentuckians recited by contemporary actors can be heard by pressing buttons on a state map in the exhibit.

In a Louisville speech shortly after Lincoln’s assassination, Gov. Thomas Bramlette can be heard telling Kentuckians they must admit that “Lincoln was right and we were wrong” about slavery.

Lincoln’s own inner conflicts about abolition are evident in an exhibit panel titled, “The dilemma of slavery.”

Few artifacts are included in the exhibit, because most Lincoln memorabilia is owned by the many Lincoln collections held around the country, Whealdon said.

“Collectors aren’t lending their items for others to exhibit right now,” he said.

One of the best collections is held by Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., near Cumberland Gap, he said.

Perhaps the largest Lincoln collection can be found at his presidential library in Springfield, Ill.

The exhibit provided two young residents of Berea with an introduction to Lincoln on Friday.

Elizabeth Miller, 11, and her brother Tim, 10, visited with their mother and grandmother.

“They missed Kentucky history in school because we moved here from Washington state in 2005,” said their mother, Dawn Miller, “and they haven’t had American history in school yet.”

The historymobile was in Irvine recently for that city’s bicentennial celebration. It also has been in Jackson County for the electric cooperative’s annual meeting.

It will be in Louisville at the state fair for two weeks in August.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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