Abraham Lincoln’s rail splitter to make $500,000?

Abraham Lincoln was known to the American people as “the Rail Splitter”.

He grew up on farms in the frontier regions of Illinois and Indiana, and hard manual labour, including splitting rails (or logs) for fence building was a formative part of his youth.

Abraham Lincoln mallet

The hammer features Lincoln's initials and the date "1929"

The Republicans started to circulate the nickname in the run-up to Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign.

The intention was to show he was from a tough background and had paid his dues.

On December 5, Christie’s will offer a wooden bench mallet that Lincoln made on the family farm back in 1829 – when he was just 20.

The remarkable piece is inlaid with the initials “A.L.”

It’s made from a much larger hammer (known as a maul) that split in half after years of use.

Lincoln gifted this piece to a man named Barnabas Carter, a neighbour who was building his first home. Soon after, Lincoln and his family left to set up a new farm in Illinois.

The Carters weren’t tempted to sell the mallet, even as Lincoln ascended to the presidency. It remained a treasured family heirloom.

It has only been exhibited publicly in the last two years.

Christie’s describes it as “the earliest artifact attributed to Abraham Lincoln in private hands”.

That makes it a hugely attractive prospect.

The estimate is $300,000-500,000, a sum it could well exceed given its connection to Lincoln’s early years.

Another maul attributed to Lincoln (albeit without the initials or provenance of this specimen) sold for just $6,752 at Heritage in 2008 – a sum that indicates the growth in Lincoln memorabilia in recent years.

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