Casts of Abraham Lincoln's Face and Hands

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
Currently not on view
Object Name
plaster casts
date made
depicted (sitter)
Lincoln, Abraham
Volk, Leonard Wells
Volk, Leonard Wells
Physical Description
plaster (overall material)
mask: 7 in x 8 1/2 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 21.59 cm x 22.86 cm
right hand: 3 5/8 in x 5 1/4 in x 6 1/8 in; 9.1948 cm x 13.335 cm x 15.5956 cm
left hand: 2 3/4 in x 4 1/4 in x 6 5/8 in; 6.985 cm x 10.795 cm x 16.8148 cm
ID Number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Thirty-three Subscribers, 1888
Political Campaigns
See more items in
Political and Military History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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my grandparents lived in Lovell and were friends of Douglas Volk, i have plaster casts of the hands that were given to my grandparents by Douglas Volk. it is amazing how life like they are.
The Volks, Leonard and son Douglas, summered in Lovell Maine for many years with artist friends and family--on Kezar Lake, very near the village of Fryeburg. Upon Douglas latest years, he donated a life-mask his father had done as well as a chair Lincoln sat in, in the Volk's Chicago studio. We have documents signed/witnessed by Douglas that verify the artifacts. Douglas painted for many years in a Fryeburg studio---and we have early photos of him at work. The Fryeburg Historical Society is proud to display and have ownership of these historical items from the family.
Fascinating how this resembles portraits of pharaohs.

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