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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lincoln's Hands by Leonard W. Volk

Casts of Abraham Lincoln's hands are commonly found in museum collections, even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a set. I'm sure Lincoln would be surprised by the amount of memorabilia preserved in his honor--copies of the Gettysburg Address, lithograph portraits, busts, and so on.

The plaster casts of Lincoln's right and left hands from the Lake County Discovery Museum's collection (as shown), are copies made from the original bronze casts. The plaster casts were relatively inexpensive and widely sold throughout the country. No doubt a previous museum director thought them a necessary addition to the Museum's collection because of Lincoln's connection to Lake County. He visited here during his campaign for the presidency in 1860.

The original casts were made in Springfield, Illinois, in May 1860, by American sculptor Leonard W. Volk (1828–1895). It was just after Lincoln received the nomination for president and he had been shaking a lot of hands in congratulations. His right hand had swollen from giving and receiving so many firm handshakes, and to minimize this fact, Volk asked Lincoln to hold an object. Lincoln produced a broom handle and widdled the ends.

Despite the plaster casts having little monetary value, they are popular exhibition pieces, and are a reminder of the great respect Americans hold for Lincoln.

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