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A 1919 street map of the old Eighth Ward, home to many Harrisburg Blacks until it was razed for an extension of Capitol Park.State historical marker for Underground Railroad activity in Harrisburg's Tanner Alley neighborhood, located at Walnut Street near Fourth.


African American History
in South Central
the 19th Century

Allegorical Imagery in Lincoln Centennial Postcards, page 2


Figure 2 - Lincoln's entry into Richmond, surrounded by soldiers, followed by African Americans.Picture postcards, coincidentally, made their debut at almost the same time as the Lincoln cent.  The basic form had been around since just after the Civil War, beginning life as promotional cards for businesses. The postal card, with pre-printed postage on the face, also already existed as a means of communication.  In 1906, however, Congress officially merged the two forms, passing laws permitting messages on one half of the back side of postcards, with the other half reserved for the address.  This left the entire front for the picture, and a popular new communication form was born.

Collecting postcards became just as popular as sending them, and the colorful mementos were produced for every occasion, holiday, local and national event.  It was only natural that major postcard manufacturers would print a line commemorating Lincoln’s birth for the 1909 centennial. 

Because Lincoln’s significance to the country was mostly related to his presidency during the Civil War, the majority of the cards paid homage to events from that period.  A typical example (figure 2, right) depicts his visit to Richmond Virginia after the fall of the Confederate capital.  Although the caption quotes the famous line from his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” the actual image gives a much more martial view.  The president is shown flanked by a squad of stern soldiers, marching down a ruined street, with battle-damaged homes and smoke-filled skies in the background.  Above the view is an eagle, national symbol of the federal republic, framed in a laurel wreath with red, white and blue festoons.

Fig 3 - Titled Sword and Pen, this postcard depicts the dual nature of Lincoln's struggle to win the Civil WarAnother example, with the title “Sword and Pen” (figure 3, left), features a mythological figure holding those two items as symbols of Lincoln’s methods of fighting the war. At the bottom are the now standard laurel leaves and patriotic motifs.  We see a depiction of Lincoln’s Springfield home in the center almost as an afterthought, until we realize that it represents peace and a return to normal life for the nation. Like the card depicting his entry into Richmond, the dichotomy of war and conciliation are presented side-by-side. 

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This page was updated September 8, 2005.