An exhibit celebrating the lives and legacies of the four U.S. presidents with Illinois roots just opened at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield as part of the state’s 2018 bicentennial celebration.

“From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama” runs for the rest of the year.

“From Illinois to the White House” examines the connections of the four presidents to Illinois, their achievements as politicians and communicators, and the first ladies who helped them succeed. Visitors can see rare artifacts gathered from institutions across the country, including:

  • the table where Lee surrendered to future president Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War
  • the note cards President Ronald Reagan used in his “Tear Down This Wall” speech
  • the Grammy that President Barack Obama won for the audio-book version of “Dreams from My Father”
  • the Bible on which Grant’s head rested after his death
  • a love letter from Reagan to his wife Nancy
  • Obama’s notes from his “Bloody Sunday” speech in Selma, Ala.

And, of course, the Lincoln Presidential Library will display fascinating Lincoln items such as the last axe he ever used, his briefcase and his ink well and pen.

“This nation would be much different today without the contributions of these four presidents, and they in turn would have been much different without Illinois’ influence on their characters and careers,” Lowe said. “The state’s 200th birthday is the perfect time for people to get to know these fascinating leaders.”

Visitors get to see unfamiliar sides of the presidents. They’ll learn about Grant being so down on his luck that he had to pawn his watch and about Lincoln using his wrestling skills to win respect in a new community. They’ll see Obama about to start his first job as a lawyer and Reagan as a boy moving from town to town.

Visitors also get the chance to answer presidential trivia questions and pose for pictures behind a presidential lectern as they deliver the Gettysburg Address from a teleprompter.

The exhibit includes the state’s very first constitution, on loan from the Illinois State Archives.

“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is helping with many Bicentennial initiatives, but this exhibit is the library’s biggest and most important contribution,” said Stuart Layne, Executive Director – Governor’s Office of the Bicentennial. “‘From Illinois to the White House’ will be the preeminent exhibit of the state’s Bicentennial Celebration.”

The exhibit is presented in the ALPLM’s Illinois Gallery, a space dedicated to rotating exhibits on state history. There will be no extra fee to see “From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama.” It is provided as part of regular admission to the Lincoln museum.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to telling the story of America’s 16th  president through old-fashioned scholarship and modern technology.

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art. The museum uses traditional exhibits, eye-catching special effects and innovative story-telling techniques to educate visitors.

For more information, visit