Unique locally crafted case to hold flag made for Abraham Lincoln arrives Lincoln Heritage Museum

Send a link to a friend  Share

[January 13, 2021]    The Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College has been closed for several months due to the Covid-19 shutdown. However, that has not stopped Interim Director Olivia Partlow from planning new exhibits for the future. One of the most spectacular displays will be of the Middletown Flag.

The Middletown Flag is a unique piece of history particularly relevant to central Illinois. The flag has found a home at the Lincoln Heritage Museum (LHM), the only museum in the country that has an item like it.

The Middletown Flag is a United States flag that was sewn together by seamstresses in Middletown, Illinois in 1860 in honor of local Springfield resident Abraham Lincoln and his run for the presidency of the United States. After completing the flag with its thirty-three stars it was draped over the carriage in which Mr. Lincoln was riding in a parade in Springfield on August 8, 1860. Legend has it that he actually had the flag draped over his shoulders.

The flag was stored away for many years, and then was donated to the Lincoln Heritage Museum in the 1990’s.

Funds were raised from Logan County school students to have the flag professionally restored from its tattered condition by Textile Conservations Services in Indianapolis.

That left one final item to be completed before the flag could be displayed in a place of honor in the Lincoln Heritage Museum, and that was acquiring an appropriate display case.

Olivia Partlow reached out to local artist, sculptor, and woodworking expert Jason Hoffman to see if he was interested in building a one-of-a-kind display case for the flag. He was quick to agree to the project. “This was the largest display case I had ever built. I knew this would be a challenging project, but I was excited to do it,” he said. The size of the flag itself and the fact that it was not a true rectangle made the project more challenging. The detail that the display frame had to be exactly fifteen degrees from vertical added to the level of difficulty.

Hoffman determined that the final size of the case would be 80 inches from top to bottom and 117 inches from side to side with 30 inches from front to back. “We had to be careful with the size to make sure we could fit it through the doors at the museum,” he said.

After rendering his ideas for the final form of the display case on paper, Jason ran it by Olivia. “I was thrilled that a local artist could do this project. Jason’s ideas were exactly what I had in mind,” she said.

So what did it take to go from a drawing on a piece of paper to the final case?

Well, Jason Hoffman has tons of experience with woodworking. His reputation for the stellar quality of his woodworking projects has taken him all over the country from restoring the interior of a large sail boat in California to custom work all over central Illinois.

He currently is called upon by the Peoria Riverfront Museum for his expertise in setting up displays in art galleries. His skills at woodworking make him much in demand. He knew just where to go for the parts that would be necessary for this one of a kind creation, a display case that meets the exacting standards of museum quality requirements for the historic flag.

Jason chose oak for the wood frame from Pekin Hardwood. It matched the wood in the current display cases in the museum. He personally chose each piece of wood to meet his exacting standards, and then shaped each piece in his studio to fit exactly into the plan.

He worked with a local store to match the color of the two layers of stain for his case to match the other display cases in the museum. The museum quality UV resistant acrylic lacquer to shield the stain from fading and turning yellow was purchased from the local Sherwin Williams store. Museum quality requires three coats of clear lacquer.

He ordered the museum quality glass to cover the flag with UV protection from Chuck’s Glass and Mirror in Lincoln. “The glass cover for the display case was one of the five or ten largest pieces of glass we have ever ordered. It was custom made by a company in Davenport, Iowa and is tempered glass with UV protection. It weighs about 200 pounds,” said Sharon Jaegle of Chuck’s. It is one-quarter inch thick and is approximately 78 inches by 115 inches. Now that is a large piece of glass!

[to top of second column]

The final piece of this woodworking puzzle is a museum quality foam core that is guaranteed acid free, and a cover of black Veltex cloth to which the flag will be attached.

The foam core is so large that two pieces Veltex cloth will have to be sewn together to cover it. Heather Barrick of Indigo Quilt Studio will do that part of the project. “This is a basic sewing task, but I am very glad to be part of this wonderful project,” she said.

To attest to the attention to detail of the display case, Jason inserted tiny rubber beads between the glass and wood frame to allow for expansion and contraction. He also installed thirteen screws in the base of the case to be used to level it.

All of these items were delivered to Jason Hoffman, and he began a month long project to put them all together in his studio on Sangamon Street in Lincoln. Intense work for over a month saw the complex project reach completion.

“I really enjoyed working on this project for the museum, and working with Olivia was a pleasure. She was always available, and there were no surprises. Everything was done to museum quality requirements,” he said.

So what do you do to move a large display case completed in Jason Hoffman Studios on Sangamon Street in Lincoln? Well, you call a friend with a trailer, four other friends to provide muscle for moving the very heavy case including Chris Cordray, Ken Hoffman, Howie Fuiten and Lewis Bergin and you move very slowly through the streets of Lincoln to the campus of Lincoln College, and the Lincoln Heritage Museum.

That is exactly what happened Saturday morning. The trip took only a few minutes with Jason and friends riding on the trailer to steady the case.

Olivia Partlow was waiting for the delivery. A space had been cleared in the museum and the display case was assembled in its place of honor, adding to the already wonderful museum that is currently rated one of the five best university museums in the country.

When asked how they felt stepping back from the assembled display case, Jason and Olivia were all smiles when they both said “Great!”

Everything went like clockwork Saturday morning.

The final part of the project is attaching the actual flag to the foam core with its Veltex cover, and placing it in the display case. That part of the plan will be done by a certified museum expert being called in from out-of-town. Then the exhibit will be complete with a one-of-a-kind historic piece of central Illinois history inside Jason Hoffman’s beautiful case.

The Lincoln Heritage Museum is planning a grand unveiling of the Middletown Flag exhibit on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12.

See Photo Pages:

Middletown Flag display case becomes a reality in an artist's studio - Album

Moving the case to the Lincoln Heritage Museum - Album

[Curtis Fox]



Back to top