About Us

For those unfamiliar with our association, a few words are in order. The Rail Splitter is a journal written by collectors for collectors. Our name refers to an early period in Lincoln’s life when he toiled on the frontier, cleared the land, and built a homestead. As a candidate for president in 1860, Lincoln campaigned as the “Rail Splitter of the West,” a slogan and image that propelled him to the White House. After twenty years of publishing, we still delight in reporting on new discoveries, auction prices, the care and preservation of material culture, and other necessary topics in a graphic and substantive fashion. Now, as we take our efforts to the Internet, we hope to embrace a much larger audience.

In the field of Americana, publishing now seems to be the popular sport. To paraphrase author H.L. Mencken, the impulse behind such efforts is always more orgiastic than reflective. This in mind, we need to make certain we have a good reason for this forum. Our mandate comes with the answers to three questions: Are we serving an identifiable community? Are we providing something of worth to that community – something otherwise not provided? And, most important, can we afford to undertake such a venture?

Our “community” has no borders but enjoys the commonality of a shared passion: the love of Lincoln, the love of American history. We number many different citizens in this community: numismatists, philatelists, ephemerists, not to mention the occasional scholar and historian. But what of substance can we offer? It would be arrogant to claim discovery of an overlooked tribe; those interested in the material culture of Lincoln and his contemporaries. Over the past 130 years, there have been innumerable journals, quarterlies, and association-newsletters addressing every aspect of Lincoln, most to the point of obscene minutia. Yet, only on occasion, are the “crass” interests of collectors and dealers, those committed to the hunt for artifacts, addressed. Academics have always divorced discussions of worth from discussions of dollars and cents. While appropriate, it unfortunately relegates the artifacts we love to only serving as illustrations that accompany the more “scholarly” work. Simply put, we offer in this forum exactly what WE want to read. New finds. Details on items in the market. What something sold for in an auction. Who are the players? How do I know if it is a fake? How do I find resources to help? Sure… on occasion we will deviate with a more erudite study. But overall our mission is to bring together those interested in the collectibles of this country’s most interesting times, and share knowledge, insight, and, yes… community.

We hope you enjoy The Rail Splitter and we look forward to sharing stories and news with you for many years to come.

The Rail Splitter
Jonathan Mann – Publisher
Donald L. Ackerman – Editor-in-Chief
Timothy H. Bakken, Martin C. Carlino, Peter Klarnet