Tremont House

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Tremont House
Drawing: Louis Kurz, Lithography: Chicago Lithographing Company
Louis Kurz: 1833-1921
Chicago Illustrated
8¾ x 11¾ in.
Chicago History Museum, Gift of Dr. Otto L. Schmidt

This lithograph of the Tremont House, located on Lake and Dearborn Streets in Chicago, was part of a famous series of Chicago scenes made by Louis Kurz for the firm Jevne and Almini. Kurz was an Austrian-born artist who founded Chicago Lithographing Company in 1863. Kurz’s subject here was a popular hotel and gathering place during the 1850s and 1860s. Whenever Abraham Lincoln visited Chicago, he usually stayed at the Tremont, as did his political rival, Senator Stephen A. Douglas. In fact, on July 9 and 10, 1858, Lincoln and Douglas were there at the same time during their heated contest to win a seat in the U.S. Senate for Illinois. Lincoln ran as the Republican Party’s nominee against Douglas, the powerful Democratic Party incumbent. On the evening of July 9, Douglas spoke from the hotel’s second story balcony, defending his Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, claiming that only settlers had the right to determine whether a territory allowed slavery. Most Chicagoans opposed the Act but many still turned out to hear the famous senator speak. The next evening, Lincoln addressed an even larger crowd. He firmly opposed slavery in the territories, boldly declaring, “I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any abolitionist.” Afterwards, Lincoln followed Douglas to other towns, always speaking after him until the men agreed to hold a series of direct encounters, later known as the Great Debates.


1. This print was published just after the Civil War ended. What story do you think it is telling about Chicago? Do you see anything in the picture that refers to the Union or the war itself?

2. Why do you think Chicagoans opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act?

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