“If you disassociate this piece of rail from its history,” says Rubenstein, “it’s just a block of wood. But the note by Hanks ties it to the frontier, and to the legend of Lincoln the rail splitter. Actually, he wasn’t much of a rail splitter, but certain artifacts take you back into another time. This one takes you to the days when political theater was just beginning.”
Owen Edwards in a freelance writer and author of the book Elegant Solutions.
Editor's Note, February 8, 2011: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Lincoln family farm was in New Salem, Ill. It is in Decatur, Ill.