This is a column about the Boston mayoral race, but bear with me for a minute because I’m starting in 1860, with Abraham Lincoln. In the early days of his presidential bid, in a quest for delegates at the Illinois nominating convention, Lincoln’s political advisers produced a set of wooden fence rails. Purportedly, Lincoln had split them with an ax as a boy.
This was the moment when the central narrative of Lincoln’s past — log cabin-born, tough, and strong — began to take hold, according to Michael Vorenberg, a historian at Brown University. This was the tale that set Lincoln apart from the elite urban lawyers who were his chief competition.