PEORIA — A recently restored banner once displayed on the streets of Peoria in support of Abraham Lincoln's campaign for president returns to public view this week with the opening of a Black History Month exhibit at the Caterpillar Visitors Center.
The satin banner, considered the crown jewel of the Peoria Historical Society's artifact collection, was on display during a similar exhibit last year but has since been meticulously restored with a donation from Caterpillar Inc.
With a depiction of Lincoln in oil paint on one side and an inscription on the rear indicating it was a gift from the Ladies of Peoria, the banner represents a typical political sign of the era. The Wide Awakes, a group of abolitionists, carried the banner in street parades during the 1860 presidential campaign and possibly during the 1864 campaign, as well.
"This is one of the most special pieces we own," Peoria Historical Society Director Colleen Johnson said in December after the banner returned home from a six-month conservation process in Chicago. "By collaborating with other entities like Caterpillar, we can achieve our goal to share Peoria history out in the community."
The banner will join other items on display at the Visitors Center throughout the month of February honoring the 30th anniversary of the Peoria African American Hall of Fame Museum. The exhibit lists all 222 inductees, who have been considered to have had a significant impact on business, civil rights, education or other social issues.
Traditional African art from the museum's collection also will be on display, along with tributes to Randy Robinson, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen from Peoria, and Romeo B. Garrett, a champion of African-American culture and the first black professor at Bradley University.
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.