Peoria, Ill. (HOI) - 

We take another step into 200 Years from the Heart, the journey toward Illinois' Bicentennial. 

Abraham Lincoln looking to get his feet into the White House... this local banner helping him there. After serious restoration, it's here in the Heart of Illinois.

Today it sits on a table, but 157 years ago it was supporting Honest Abe.

Executive Director of the Peoria Historical Society, Colleen Johnson, reflects on that time period.

"Women who didn't even have the right to vote at the time were carrying this banner in support of Lincoln", said Johnson.

Made of satin, three feet wide, and four feet long, the oil painted banner was given to the Peoria Historical Society in 1897. It was carried in street parades. It was given to the Wide Awakes by the Ladies of Peoria nearly 60 years before women could vote.

"It is, for sure, our most priceless artifact that we have. It's the most important. And I don't know that you could put any value on that piece of history", said Johnson.

Abraham Lincoln wanted to be President in 1860, and this banner struck an optimistic tone. But in 2017, the outlook for this piece wasn't good. It could no longer be hung upright.

"It's not really tearing but it's crumbling just a tiny bit", said Johnson.

For the past six months, the banner has been undergoing a restoration in partnership with Caterpillar. It will be unveiled again at CAT Visitor's Center for Black History Month.

The banner must now lay flat when storing it.

"If we got to a place where we had it in a secure location, in a case, that about every month or two it would be ok to flip it very gingerly", said Johnson.

That is the goal now for an election year relic that stands for much more today.

"Things that unite us as a country. And things that unite us Central Illinois and Peoria and stop thinking about the things that divide us right now", said Johnson.

 

Join Heart of Illinois ABC every Wednesday night for 200 Years from the Heart: Celebrating Illinois.