Wide Awakes: Campaigning for Lincoln

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September 14, 2024 - March 16, 2025

Wide Awakes

Campaigning for Lincoln

During a time of deep political division and fears of a civil war, five young men from Hartford, Connecticut formed a campaign organization that became a nationwide movement and helped elect a president.

This is the story of the Wide Awakes, featuring rare artifacts and documents from the Connecticut Museum collection.


This exhibition will transport you to the cusp of the election of the 1860, when the political landscape was tense and the issue of slavery remained at the forefront. Discover the formation and rapid spread of the original Wide Awakes, a grassroots Republican campaign organization founded in Hartford, Connecticut, that rallied and paraded in support of Abraham Lincoln during the presidential election of 1860. They donned capes as uniforms, held torches and signs bearing an iconic eye symbol, and matched their bold image with bold actions. The attention-grabbing pageantry of the Wide Awakes—many of whom were too young to vote—provoked questions that remain relevant today. What does it mean to be politically involved? What do political action and freedom of speech look like? Through artifacts, documents, photographs and more, learn about their history and impact, and explore the legacy they left in their wake.

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Exhibition Opening Reception
Thursday, September 19 @ 6 – 7:30 pm
Free and open to the public.
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Gallery Talk
Sunday, September 22 @ 2 pm

Connecticut Museum collection 1972.36.22

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