Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

By Roy Edgar Appleman; Abraham Lincoln | Go to book overview

a life mask of Lincoln's features. No one who has examined casts of Lincoln's hands made from the Volk molds can fail to be impressed by their size, symmetry, and appearance of great strength. In the paragraphs below Volk tells of making the molds.

By previous appointment I was to cast Mr. Lincoln's hands on the Sunday following this memorable Saturday, at nine A. M. I found him ready, but he looked more grave and serious than he had appeared on the previous days. I wished him to hold something in his right hand, and he looked for a piece of pasteboard, but could find none. I told him around stick would do as well as anything. Thereupon he went to the wood-shed, and I heard the saw go, and he soon returned to the dining-room (where I did the work), whittling off the end of a piece of broom- handle. I remarked to him that he need not whittle off the edges.

"O, well," said he, "I thought I would like to have it nice."

When I had successfully cast the mold of the right hand, I began the left, pausing a few moments to hear Mr. Lincoln tell me about a scar on the thumb.

"You have heard that they call me a rail-splitter, and you saw them carrying rails in the procession Saturday evening; well, it is true that I did split rails, and one day, while I was sharpening a wedge on a log, the ax glanced and nearly took my thumb off, and there is the scar, you see."

The right hand appeared swollen as compared with the left, on account of excessive hand-shaking the evening before; this difference is distinctly shown in the cast.

That Sunday evening I returned to Chicago with the molds of his hands, three photographic negatives of him, the identical black alpaca campaign-suit of 1858, and a pair of Lynn newly-made pegged boots. The clothes were all burned up in the great Chicago fire. The casts of the face and hands I saved by taking them with me to Rome, and they have crossed the sea four times.

WHITNEY, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, QUOTING VOLK IN Century Magazine, DECEMBER, 1881.


21. A LITTLE GIRL SUGGESTS WHISKERS

On October 15, 1860, during the Presidential campaign an 11-year-old girl from a small hamlet in Western New York wrote to the Republican candidate expressing her concern over his appearance, which she was afraid might have a bad effect on the voters in the forthcoming election. The campaign photographs of Lincoln were a disappointment to her. She suggested that his appearance would be improved if he wore whiskers. Thus the image by which several generations have known the emancipator was sculptored in a child's mind. When he went east to Washington, in February, Lincoln's train stopped at Westfield, between Erie and Buffalo. When Lincoln appeared to speak a few words to the assembled people, the whiskers already were in evidence. He asked if his little correspondent, Grace Bedell, were present. She was. He asked her to come forward and then placed a fatherly kiss on her cheek.

-23-

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