Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Charleston, Illinois

You may remember that we visted the Lincoln-Douglas debate site in Jonesboro, Illinois, and we have also visited the debate site at Quincy. Continuing our quest to visit all of the Lincoln-Douglas debate sites 1, we also stopped at the Lincoln-Douglas debate site in Charleston, Illinois, which included a small museum.

The Charleston debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas was held on September 18, 1858, just three days after the Jonesboro debate. There were around 12,000 people in attendance. The area that was at one time filled with 12,000 people is now a quiet corner of the area fairgrounds, and we were the only ones there when we stopped in.

Here are a few photos from our visit.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln looks to be making a point as Stephen A. Douglas listens, waiting his turn to respond. It was interesting to compare the statues here to the ones in Jonesboro, which we had visited a couple of days earlier.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

Here is a closer look at Abraham Lincoln. As you may know, these debates were held in 1858 when Lincoln and Douglas were campaigning to represent the State of Illinois in the United States Senate. And this was a couple of years before Abraham Lincoln grew his famous beard.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

Stephen A. Douglas never quite looks happy in these representations 2. However, he did go on to win this election. That should give him something to smile about.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

In this view of the statues of Lincoln and Douglas, you can see a building behind them. The Charleston debate site has a small Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum. It was open, so we went it to check it out.

Inside the museum at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

While the museum is not all that large, it does give a good bit of interesting information about the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There is even a video presentation off in a side room that we took the time to watch.

Inside the museum at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

I found this diorama of the Charleston debate to be fascinating. So much work went into making all of the tiny people with their tiny signs, and the trees, and the bunting, and everything else. It was very interesting to see what the debate setting would have been like, and not just in a photograph or a painting, but in three dimensions and in color. And as you can tell from this, the artist’s representation in the debate statues outside were not quite how they actually debated, as the speakers were up on a platform and not behind big rocks. I do still like the artist’s vision, however.

Inside the museum at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

Off to one side in the museum, there is even a place to try on replicas of Abraham Lincoln’s hat, coat, and boots. So of course Laura did. Was she the only one?

Inside the museum at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

No she was not. I took a turn as well. Photos were a little awkward, because the hat was way too big for us, as was the coat. And the boots were nailed to the floor, so that they would not walk away. Those boots weren’t made for walking 3.

Laura and Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate site in Charleston, Illinois

And while we were there, Abraham Lincoln and Laura went for a stroll. But they did not go very far. Lincoln doesn’t move much, after all.

Share a Smile

While it was not the custom to smile for photographs and artwork back then, and even farther back before then 4, smiling in photos is the custom today, at least for most people. You will still find some that just about refuse to smile for photos these days, but those are rare.

I would like to think that people smiled in general back in the 1800s. It is such a natural reaction to so many things, so how could you not smile?

These days, it is not uncommon to see grumpy, frowning people most everywhere you go. Have you ever stopped to consider if you look like one of those frowning people? Do you smile? Are you happy? If so, why not show it?

Smiles can be contagious. So if you start smiling, others will start smiling, too. If you are smiling at someone, that person will feel loved and will start to smile, too. Pretty soon, everyone will be smiling, which would not be a bad thing at all.

Share love by sharing a smile!

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. - Proverbs 17:22

Love One Another

About the Photos

As with the Jonesboro photos, I gave these photos a slightly desaturated look. Once again, we had a gray, cloudy day, so the muted colors worked well with the weather, as well as with the historical setting. However, as you can tell, I went with a full-color look for the photos inside the museum, because inside was much more colorful than outside.

Photo: Each photo is a single Raw exposure, processed in Raw Therapee and GIMP.
Camera: Sony Alpha A7 II
Lens: Rokinon 35mm f/1.8
Date: December 10, 2023
Location: Charleston, Illinois


  1. Not really a quest, but it would be interesting to visit them all if we get the chance. ↩︎

  2. Actually, Lincoln never really looks happy, either. For whatever reason, it was the custom of the day not to smile. I like that we smile now. ↩︎

  3. Sorry, Nancy Sinatra. You probably get tired of endless jokes using that song, don’t you? ↩︎

  4. Does Mona Lisa’s smirk count as a smile? ↩︎


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.