Friday, February 10, 2012

Legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the Clarke

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Thanks from the Clarke Historical Library Staff

Legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the Clarke

by Bryan Whitledge

In honor of Abraham Lincoln's 203rd birthday this Sunday, we have pulled out one of our favorite artifacts, Honest Abe's right hand. The mold for this bronze cast was done by Leonard Volk in May of 1860, the day after Lincoln accepted the nomination to run as the Republican presidential candidate.

According to lore, Lincoln had shaken so many hands on the day that he was nominated, it caused his right hand to swell and prevented him from holding it steady. When Volk arrived to create the casts of Lincoln's hands, he found that the right hand was shaking too much to produce a good piece. It was suggested that Lincoln find something to grasp onto and the story goes that Lincoln found a broom and sawed off the handle to act as a support - this piece of wood is visible in the cast.

Using the mold produced by Volk, bronzesmith Jules Berchem produced the bronze cast that is in the Clarke Historical Library's holdings. Volk's hand casts and his life masks of Lincoln are considered some of the finest of any U. S. president and were used as the basis for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C. So in celebration of President Lincoln's 203rd birthday, we share this nugget of history that can be found at the Clarke Historical Library.