A Presidential Statue Returns Home

A piece of art history returns to NH

"Abraham Lincoln: The Man" in Chicago's Lincoln Park

In the summer of 1885, Augustus Saint-Gaudens began work on a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the western New Hampshire town of Cornish. He came there to find models among the “Lincoln-shaped men” that a friend said abounded in New Hampshire, but he grew to enjoy the area. Over the next two years, he built a home and studio in Cornish and, on that complex, built his monumental 12-foot structure entitled “Abraham Lincoln: The Man.”

The New York Evening Post called the statue “the most important achievement American sculpture has yet produced.” Art critic Lorado Taft said of the piece, “One stands before it and feels himself in the very presence of America’s greatest soul.” This New Hampshire-made sculpture had cemented itself in the canon of great American art — and it found its home in Chicago.

To this day, the original “Standing Lincoln” (as the piece is known) stands in the Windy City’s Lincoln Park. Casts of the piece have been given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the sculpture garden at London’s Parliament Square, but, until now, never to a space in the Granite State.

That changes this month.

On June 26, a cast of the statue will be unveiled at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the national park that comprises the very compound where the sculptor made this famous work.

“This year is the centennial of the National Park Service, and we celebrated the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site’s 50th anniversary last year, so we wanted to commemorate both events,” says park curator Henry Duffy. “The original statue was made entirely in Cornish, so New Hampshire has a real sense of ownership.” 

A host of special guests will be on hand to commemorate the dedication. The event will begin with Civil War-era brass and drum battle tunes from the period-costumed 12th NH Regiment Serenade Band, and a pair of presentations will cap off the day. 

This unveiling, which is free and open to the public, is one of several special events offered in New Hampshire’s only national park during this NPS centennial year.

The full-sized bronze cast will stand near the entrance to the park, where the Standing Lincoln will greet visitors to the site where it was made for years to come.