Originally published in The Daily Iowan 5/01/2009
The Johnson County Courthouse celebrated Law Day Thursday afternoon, and this year’s event focused on the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
“It’s the first time there has been a solid theme,” said Sue Feeney, the event coordinator. Iowa chief justices decide the theme, she said, and Law Day is held at all 99 Iowa courthouses.
Gregory Prickman, UI Libraries assistant head of Special Collections and UI Archives, gave a speech about a trial involving the first bridge connecting Chicago to Iowa, over the Mississippi River.
Lincoln defended the railroad companies who faced a lawsuit from the steamboat companies over one of their boats crashing into the bridge.
“The steamboat companies felt threatened by the railroads taking their business away,” Prickman said.
Lincoln’s closing argument took two days and is said to be of the factors that led to a hung jury and the bridge remaining open.
Prickman said the steamboat companies tried to get the bridge removed again, but it remained because of its use in the Civil War.
Some artifacts on display Thursday included a blueprint of the bridge, a picture of Lincoln’s memorial service at the Old Capitol, and a pair of glasses that Lincoln reportedly wore.
Feeney said the Johnson County Courthouse benefited from the availability of UI Archives, which helped make the event “one of the bigger ones” since it started at the courthouse four years ago.
Also on display were a series of prints of Lincoln by local artist Tomás Lasansky, who made each piece using four copper sheets of Lincoln’s profile.
“Every plate is used in all 100 but in different orders, different colors, and that way you get different backgrounds,” he said.
Lasansky said he was inspired to do a series on Lincoln because he was interested in him as a person as well as his presidency.
“I analyzed all the presidents, and for me, aesthetically, he has the most interesting face,” he said. Another piece of Iowa history shown at the event was one of the tickets to the last public execution held at the courthouse.
Children who went to the event Thursday had a chance to get their name printed by a court reporter and the opportunity to meet McGruff, the crime dog.