Expect surprises at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (KPLR) - Across the street from Abe's Old Hat Antiques is where you'll find Abe's old hat. It is an antique on display in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

"There are people who go to all Major League Baseball Parks and there are people who go to all Presidential Library Museums," says James Cornelius, Director Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. "I have met both types right here."

He's our 16th United States president who carved out his place in history starting in Kentucky.

"Abraham Lincoln's family moved from Kentucky to Indiana in 1816 when Abraham was about seven years old," says Cornelius. "They lived in a cabin very much like the one behind me here."

In this recreated small log cabin, inside the Lincoln library and Presidential Museum, pay attention to the details like a white snake root, the plant that poisoned Lincoln's mother. Inside you'll find honest Abe taking to learning by the fire light.

"If you look carefully you can see almost all of the eight people who lived in here," says Cornelius. "With his hand hanging down here if you look closely for it, that's probably Abraham's step brother John."

Expect a lot of surprises at this Presidential Museum and Library that began as a concept in 1990 and came to completion in 2004.

"Abraham Lincoln always thought of himself as a Southerner," says Cornelius. "He was born in Kentucky, His parents were from Kentucky, his grandparents, he was pretty sure, were from Virginia."

There's plenty of stops on your central Illinois tour of Lincoln history, like New Salem, where he honed his ideas of what he wanted to do with his life.

"Lincoln taught himself the law by reading borrowed books just as he'd taught himself math and trigonometry, more or less, for land surveying," says Cornelius.

Bigger than a bread box, in this Springfield, Illinois site, you'll find Mary's music box. Her civil War era sounds are one of many items on display near Mr. Lincoln's hat.

Two marks on the brim are the worn reminders of this wearied man. Lincoln would often tip his hat as a sign of respect, and the band inside, stretched from all the letters and notes the long-framed man kept up top.

"Lincoln is the most written about person in the English language after Jesus and probably Shakespeare," says Cornelius. "He is our only president who held a scientific patent. Patent number 6469 as issued by the U.S. Patent office in the year 1849, a device for buoying vessels over shoals."

As students from Notre Dame Academy take in the faux white house, they're joined by the first family out front. Today's lesson is on the Emancipation Proclamation.

"He was 6'4"," says Cornelius. "James Madison among my other heroes was our shortest president at 5'4.""

So in a pickup presidential game, Madison would probably be guarding Mary Todd.

"If he played basketball he'd be a pretty good forward you think?" asks Patrick Clark.

"Well back then he'd have been a pretty good sized man," says Larry Clark. "I think he was 6'4". That was a tall man back then. But, I don't know if he could dribble with his left hand."

Some experts believe he was ambidextrous. Despite growing popularity through the years, in his day Abe wasn't so well liked.

"He was elected from a field of four in 1860. That's why only 39% of the vote was the most,' says Cornelius.

If sticks and stones can break your bones, then an ink pen can wield a pretty hefty blow in this political cartoon cavalcade.

"Everything is a little askew here, just like the cartoonists world," says Cornelius.

But the real world problems Lincoln faced were monumental for any man or woman. His second term came to a premature ending with his assassination April 15, 1865. He was only 56.

Just a few miles away from the Library and Museum you'll find Oak Ridge Cemetery and Lincoln's tomb. Some say its good luck to rub Abraham's nose on this bronze bust before entering and paying respects.

"We remember Abraham Lincoln for saving the Union and ending slavery," says Cornelius.

He helped hold the country together and made his mark. Kind of like the silk band and two spots on the brim of this stovepipe hat made of felted beaver fur.

"And that's the American story isn't it?" says Cornelius. "He knew he could rise in life by a little bit of luck maybe, but mostly by hard work."