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Point of View in Statues of Abraham Lincoln: Three Looks at a Leader – A Primary Source Starter

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This post comes to us from Cheryl Lederle of the Library of Congress.

Lincoln Statue, Lincoln Memorial, between 1921 and 1922

If I say “monument to Abraham Lincoln,” what comes to mind? You might think first of the famous Lincoln Memorial, which has a prominent place on the National Mall in Washington and is featured on the back of the five dollar bill. But there are many other statues that pay tribute to the sixteenth president of the United States, each in their own way. Studying and comparing these various works of art can reveal a great deal about Lincoln’s accomplishments as well as how each artist himself viewed, or chose to depict, Lincoln.

Sculpture of Lincoln as captain in militia, 192-?

Students might begin with the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, analyzing the posture of the figure, the clothing, and other objects in the sculpture, including the inscription. Compare the size of the statue with the men working on it. What does each choice the sculptor made say about his view of Abraham Lincoln?

Studying additional sculptures offers insight into other aspects of Lincoln’s life and accomplishments that the artists have chosen to represent. For example, compare this photograph of the Sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, full-length, standing, facing front, as captain in the militia to Lincoln Statue, Lincoln Park, [Washington, D.C.].

Students may compare the uniform of the militia captain to the suits worn by the “emancipator” and the seated figure in the Lincoln Memorial.

  • What impression does the clothing of each convey?

    Statue of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Park, Washington, DC, 2010
  • What do the items or props included in each sculpture say about Lincoln?
  • Why might each sculptor have posed the figure as he did?
  • How does each sculptor detail Lincoln’s face?
  • Why might each sculptor have chosen to immortalize that particular aspect of Abraham Lincoln?

You can use the Library’s primary source analysis tool and teacher guides to help students analyze the images in further depth.

Additional resources:

Find many other photos of statues and sculptures of Lincoln from the Library of Congress.

Oration by Frederick Douglass, delivered on the occasion of the unveiling of the freedmen’s monument in memory of Abraham Lincoln, in Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C., April 14th, 1876.

Daniel Chester French, sculptor

Get the printable version, which includes copies of the Library’s primary source analysis tools and guides.

How can using statues and sculptures of Abraham Lincoln help your students understand the man and the myths that surround him?

Comments (2)

  1. what about springfield illinois , where lincoln and family they have their tomb. he had a premonition of his death 2 very spiritual , person , do you tomb is kinda spooky 2 . 4 premonition just a myth ??? or is it real ?? check out those photographs too, that really might get some of the young adults interested in it .

  2. I really like this primary source starter because it gives students the ability to observe the statue and interact with it rather than just reading a book about Abraham Lincoln. This connects to inquiry based learning and students just write down observations in order for them to help them answer some of the questions that were mentioned previously.

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