"RAIL SPLITTER" was a nickname for Abraham Lincoln; it originated in the Illinois State Republican Convention at Decatur on 9 May 1860, when Richard J. Oglesby, later governor of Illinois, and John Hanks, who had lived with the Lincolns, marched into the convention hall with two fence rails placarded, "Abraham Lincoln, The Rail Candidate for President in 1860." Lincoln had worked as a soldier, a postmaster, a surveyor, a tavern keeper, and a rail splitter before pursuing law and politics, and the nickname capitalized on his humble beginnings. The sobriquet caught on at the national convention at Chicago, spread quickly over the North, and became a valuable campaign asset.
Jaffa, Harry V. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.
Paul M.Angle/f. b.