There was a housing shortage in Springfield when 28 year old Abraham
Lincoln—-riding a borrowed horse—-moved here from New Salem in April 1837. Builders couldn't keep up with the newly designated state capital. One of Lincoln's first stops was at the general store located here. An old New Salem friend, Abner Y. Ellis, was part-owner. But Ellis was not in when Lincoln called. Instead, he was greeted by another partner, Joshua Speed. Lincoln needed furnishings for a bed, but admitted he couldn't afford them. "I looked up at him,"
Speed recalled, and thought...I never saw so gloomy and melancholy a face."
Speed offered to share his second floor room and large double-bed with Lincoln. Without saying a word, Lincoln threw his saddle-bags over his arm, trudged up stairs, and dropped them on the floor. Coming down again "with a face beaming with pleasure and smiles," Lincoln declared: "Well Speed, I'm moved."
Photo CaptionMen outnumbered women
Joshua F. Speed was 22 years old and part-owner of the store that stood here in 1837. Speed was the son of an affluent Kentucky plantation owner and had more formal education than Lincoln. The two roommates shared anxieties about women and consoled each other in matters of courtship and marriage. Their deep friendship lasted throughout Lincoln's life.
almost two-to-one when Lincoln arrived in Springfield. Like Lincoln, many men were unmarried and in their twenties. Thrown together in rooming houses sharing beds and close quarters, many took their meals in boarding houses that were often in different buildings. A young-male subculture arose, where men fraternized in the evenings. Drinking and card-playing was prevalent. But so too were attempts at cultivating middle-class respectability. Men discussed poetry, philosophy and shared literary compositions. Joshua Speed later remembered that "on every winter's night at my store by a big wood fire...eight or ten choice spirits assembled"
to enjoy each other's company and wit. One December night they "got to talking politics"
and tempers flared. Stephen Douglas suddenly declared: "Gentlemen, this is no place to talk politics!"
Good will returned as they resumed their usual banter, including doses of Lincoln's infectious humor.