The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.
Springfield is the third and current capital of the U.S. state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,352 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010). Just over 208,000 residents live in the Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Sangamon County and adjacent Menard County. Present day Springfield was first settled in the late 1810s, around the time Illinois became a state. The most famous past resident is Abraham Lincoln, who lived in Springfield itself from 1837 until he went to the White House in 1861. Major tourist attractions include a multitude of historic sites connected with Lincoln. In 1908 a large race riot erupted in the city which culminated in the lynching of two African American residents and led to the founding of the NAACP.
The city lies on a mostly flat plain which encompasses much of the surrounding countryside. There is more hilly terrain near the Sangamon River. Lake Springfield, a large man-made lake, owned by a local public utility company called CWLP, supplies the city with recreation and drinking water. Weather is fairly typical for middle latitude locations, with hot summers and cold winters. Spring and summer weather is like that of most midwestern cities; severe thunderstorms are common. On March 12, 2006 two tornadoes touched down in the city, and caused extensive damage. They were the first to hit the city since June 14, 1957.
The city is governed by a mayor-council form of government. The city proper is also the "Capital Township" governmental entity. In addition, the government of the state of Illinois is also based in Springfield. State government entities located in the city include the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor of Illinois. There are three public and two private high schools in Springfield. Public schools in Springfield are operated by District No. 186. The economy of Springfield is marked by government jobs, which account for a large percentage of the work force in the city.
Springfield's original name was Calhoun, after Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The land that Springfield now occupies was originally settled by trappers and traders who came to the Sangamon River in 1818. The settlement's first cabin was built in 1820, by John Kelly, its site is at the northwest corner of Second Street and Jefferson Street. In 1821, Calhoun became the county seat of Sangamon County; due to the fertile soil, and trading opportunities, settlers from Kentucky, Virginia, and as far as North Carolina came to the city. By 1832, Senator Calhoun had fallen out of the favor with the public and the town was renamed Springfield. Kaskaskia was the first capital of the Illinois Territory from its organization in 1809, continuing through statehood in 1818, and through the first year as a state in 1819. Vandalia was the second state capital of Illinois from 1819 to 1839. Springfield became the third and current capital of Illinois in 1839. The designation was largely due to the efforts of Abraham Lincoln and his associates; nicknamed the "Long Nine" for their combined height of .
Lincoln arrived in the Springfield when he was a young man in 1831, though he would not actually live in the city until 1837. He spent the ensuing six years in New Salem where he began his legal studies, joined the state militia and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly. In 1837 Lincoln moved to Springfield and spent the next 24 years as a lawyer and politician; his Farewell speech when he left for Washington is a classic in American oratory.
Winkle (1998) examines the historiography concerning the development of the Second Party System (Whigs versus Democrats) and applies these ideas to the study of Springfield, a strong Whig enclave in a Democratic region, mainly by studying poll books for presidential years. The rise of the Whig Party took place in 1836 in opposition to the presidential candidacy of Martin Van Buren and was consolidated in 1840. Springfield Whigs tend to validate several expectations of party characteristics as they were largely native-born, either in New England or Kentucky, professional or agricultural in occupation, and devoted to partisan organization. Abraham Lincoln's career mirrors the Whigs' political rise, but by the 1840s Springfield began to fall into Democrat hands, as immigrants changed the city's political makeup. By the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln was barely able to win his home city.
Winkle (1992) examines the impact of migration on political participation in Springfield during the 1850s. Widespread migration in the 19th-century United States produced frequent population turnover within Midwestern communities, which influenced patterns of voter turnout and office-holding. Examination of the manuscript census, poll books, and office-holding records reveals the impact of migration on the behavior of 8,000 participants in 10 elections in Springfield. Most voters were short-term residents who participated in only one or two elections during the 1850s, and fewer than 1% of all voters participated in all 10 elections. Instead of producing political instability, however, rapid turnover enhanced the influence of more persistent residents. Migration was selective by age, occupation, wealth, and birthplace. Therefore, more persistent voters were wealthier, more highly skilled, more often native-born, and socially more stable than nonpersisters. Officeholders were particularly persistent and socially and economically advantaged. Persisters represented a small "core community" of economically successful, socially homogeneous, and politically active voters and officeholders who controlled local political affairs while most residents moved in and out of the city. Members of a tightly knit and exclusive "core community," exemplified by Abraham Lincoln, blunted the potentially disruptive impact of migration on local communities.