What Did Abraham Lincoln Split Rail Fence

The question of what Abraham Lincoln accomplished with his split rail fence holds a significant historical importance, as it unveils the intricate world of fence-rail politics that were prevalent during the intense presidential campaign of 1860. In the month of May, Illinois Republicans gathered with the paramount objective of selecting their nominee for the upcoming election. However, it was not just conventional campaigning that took place within those hallowed halls; instead, Lincoln's fervent supporters orchestrated a compelling demonstration that would forever etch his legacy in the annals of American history. To culminate their unwavering support for their candidate, John Hanks, Lincoln's cousin, was entrusted with a remarkable task – the exhibition of two fence rails meticulously split by none other than Lincoln and Hanks themselves. This symbolic act not only served as a testament to Lincoln's humble roots as a frontier rail splitter but also laid the foundation for a powerful narrative that resonated deeply with the people, ultimately propelling Lincoln towards becoming one of the most iconic presidents ever to grace the Oval Office.

Why Was Abraham Lincoln Called the Railsplitter?

Abraham Lincoln was called the Railsplitter due to his humble beginnings as a frontier laborer. The nickname originated from a political tactic known as fence-rail politics. During his campaign for the presidency in 1860, Lincolns supporters organized a demonstration in a meeting hall. As a symbol of Lincolns rugged background, John Hanks, Lincolns cousin, carried in two fence rails that were split by Lincoln and Hanks themselves.

This demonstration aimed to highlight Lincolns connection to the common people and his ability to understand their struggles. By showcasing his skill in splitting rails, Lincoln portrayed himself as a hardworking man of the people. The rails themselves became a powerful visual representation of Lincolns origins and the values he stood for.

The banner that accompanied the fence rails read, “Abraham Lincoln the Rail Candidate for President in 1860.”. This slogan further emphasized Lincolns connection to the everyday citizen and positioned him as a candidate who could relate to the concerns and aspirations of ordinary Americans.

The Railsplitter nickname quickly gained traction and became synonymous with Lincoln. It solidified his image as a man who’d risen from humble origins to achieve great success. By embracing this moniker, Lincoln was able to connect with voters on a personal level and present himself as a champion for the working class.

Did Abraham Lincoln Work as a Rail Splitter?

Entering politics. The image of Lincoln as a “rail splitter” became a powerful symbol of his humble origins and hardworking nature.

It’s well-documented that Abraham Lincoln did indeed work as a rail splitter at certain points in his life. In his early years, Lincoln learned the trade from his father, Thomas, who was known for his skill in constructing split rail fences. This type of fence was commonly used in the Midwest during that time, and Lincolns expertise in rail splitting was a valuable asset.

He frequently invoked his rail splitting background during his political campaigns, using it as a symbol of his connection to the common working class. This resonated with many voters, who saw Lincoln as an authentic and relatable figure.

It showcased his resilience, determination, and connection to the everyday struggles of ordinary people.

The Significance of Rail Splitting in Lincoln’s Political Career

  • Rail splitting played a significant role in Lincoln’s political career
  • It symbolized Lincoln’s strong work ethic and connection to the common people
  • Lincoln’s reputation as a skilled rail splitter helped him gain support and recognition in his early political campaigns
  • His ability to split rails demonstrated his physical strength and endurance, which were admired qualities in the frontier society
  • Rail splitting also became a powerful metaphor for Lincoln’s ability to solve complex political problems by finding common ground and compromise
  • Lincoln’s humble origins as a rail splitter appealed to voters who saw him as a self-made man and champion of the working class
  • The image of Lincoln as a rail splitter was often portrayed in political imagery and campaign materials
  • Overall, rail splitting played a crucial role in shaping Lincoln’s public image and contributed to his political success


Abraham Lincoln's connection to split rail fences symbolizes not only his humble origins, but also represents a political strategy known as "fence-rail politics." This strategy involved showcasing Lincoln's image as a hardworking common man, resonating with the working class and rural voters. By bringing in the split rails during the Republican nomination meeting, Lincoln's supporters strategically reinforced his persona as a man of the people, someone who understood their needs and struggles. This tactic ultimately contributed to Lincoln's appeal and his victorious presidential campaign, shaping the course of American history. Beyond the realm of politics, the split rail fence embodies the legacy of an exceptional leader who not only understood the power of symbolism but also embraced the values and aspirations of the American people.

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