Casts of Abraham Lincoln's Face and Hands

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Chicago artist Leonard Volk produced this plaster life mask of Abraham Lincoln in April 1860. Volk made the casts of Lincoln’s hands on May 20, two days after the Republican Party nominated him for the presidency. Lincoln’s right hand was still swollen from shaking hands with supporters. To steady his hand in the mold, Lincoln went out to the woodshed and cut off a piece of broom handle. Volk later placed the piece of handle in the cast displayed here.
In 1886 Volk’s son sold the casts of Lincoln’s face and hands to a group that proposed having the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens make a limited set of replicas.
In 1888 the 33 supporters of this project presented Volk’s personal copies of the life mask and hands, along with bronze replicas produced by Saint-Gaudens, to the U.S. government for preservation. The donation was made on the condition that “the original plaster casts should never be tampered with.” Any future casts could only be made from the bronze replicas.
Gift of the Thirty-three Subscribers, 1888
associated date
Volk, Leonard Wells
associated person
Lincoln, Abraham
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Volk, Leonard Wells
Physical Description
painted (?? production method/technique)
plaster (overall material)
white (overall color)
left hand: 2 3/4 in x 4 1/4 in x 6 5/8 in; 6.985 cm x 10.795 cm x 16.8275 cm
right hand: 3 5/8 in x 5 1/4 in x 6 1/8 in; 9.2075 cm x 13.335 cm x 15.5575 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Augustus St. Gaudens, Thomas B. Clarke, Richard W. Gilder
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
The American Presidency: A Glorioius Burden
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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