Very few copies were made of the Abraham Lincoln photograph that hangs in the Jay County Historical Museum in Portland, Indiana. Some say it’s the best photograph ever taken of Honest Abe, but it was never widely publicized. The photo was snapped when Lincoln was selected as the Republican candidate for U.S. Presidency in 1860. It rears the nickname “Honest Abe’s best photograph,” but the Republican National Committee decided that he wasn’t dressed up enough to convince voters. This rare photograph is just one artifact in the amazing Jay County Historical Museum collection.
Another popular exhibit is the Iron Lung, a large piece of equipment used to treat Polio. The Iron Lung is a full body ventilator that was designed to help Polio patients who suffer from muscle weakness or paralysis. Since the Polio virus was eradicated in the U.S. in 1994, many museum are displaying them as historic medical equipment. The Luckey Hospital Museum in Wolf Lake, Indiana has a functional Iron Lung on display as well.
The Jay County Historical Museum also displays the names and photographs of hundreds of graduates from the county’s eight former high schools. Bryant, Dunkirk, Gray, Madison, Pennville, Poling, Portland and Redkey are the high schools that were consolidated to one in 1976.
The Jay County Historical Museum hosts an annual Fall Heritage Festival each October. Admission to this Indiana event is free, and it has been known to attract thousands. The event also attracts craft and art vendors from all over the Hoosier State. The Fall Heritage Festival is a great time to see the museum’s over 10,000 artifacts. The collection includes a pioneer exhibition, Native American artifacts from the area, clothing from throughout history, antique toys, medical and dental equipment, old photographs, books and much more. There is a blacksmith shop, a horse-drawn mail wagon and even a one room schoolhouse at the museum. Antique farm equipment is on display at the museum, much like the exhibits at Norm Skinner’s Farm Museum and Village in Perrysville, Indiana.
Many Indianapolis kids can gain from learning about Indiana history in Jay County, so it’s a great destination for field trips, family outings and day trips from Indianapolis. While visiting Portland, Indiana, be sure to stop by the Museum of the Soldier. A visit to the Jay County Historical Museum is fun for all ages, and admission to this Indiana museum is free. Museum hours are Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Jay County Historical Museum
903 East Main Street
Portland, Indiana 47371