Abraham Lincoln Life Mask by Clark Mills, 1865

Abraham Lincoln Life Mask by Clark Mills, 1865

Usage conditions apply
On February 11, 1865, about two months before his death, Abraham Lincoln permitted sculptor Clark Mills to make this life mask of his face. This was the second and last life mask made of Lincoln. The strain of the presidency was written on Abraham Lincoln’s face. His secretary, John Hay, remarked on the dramatic difference in Lincoln’s two life masks. He noted that the first mask, produced by Leonard Volk in 1860, “is a man of fifty-one, and young for his years.... It is a face full of life, of energy, of vivid aspiration.....The other is so sad and peaceful in its infinite repose.... a look as of one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst without victory is on all the features.”
Gift of Theodore Mills, the artist’s son, 1889
Currently not on view
Object Name
mask, life
date made
associated person
Lincoln, Abraham
Mills, Clark
Mills, Clark
Physical Description
plaster (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
overall: 7 in x 8 1/2 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 21.59 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Theodore A. Mills
See more items in
Political and Military History: Political History, General History Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


The MO Civil War Museum in St. Louis has one of the 15 Ostendorf bronze copies of Lincoln’s second life mask on display, along with the alleged sword held by Lincoln in his aborted duel with James Shields. Provenance of the sword is still being researched.
There are bronze copies made from that original plaster cast of the February 11, 1965 Clark Mills life mask of Lincoln. An original plaster copy of the life mask was in the possession of Lincoln's secretary John Hay, and then came into possession of Lloyd Ostendorf, who had fifteen bronze copies made. One of those is on display in the library at the University of Illinois, Springfield. There may be another displayed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum or the Lincoln Home National Historic Site here in Springfield.
I saw the second Life Mask, made two months before Lincoln's death, at a Medical Museum, founded after the Civil War, and located at Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington DC. This was in 2000, and I believe the museum has moved to another location since then. It was filled with medical oddities from the Civil War, and was quite fascinating. But Lincoln's mask, exhibited with the bullet that killed him, was overpowering. I must have stood there, staring at it for well over an hour. The anguish he suffered from the War was on that face. I remembered the experience as having seen Lincoln's Death Mask, but I stand corrected by information exhibited here. It must have been the second Life Mask. Where is it now, I wonder?
When I was working as the technologist for students with disabilities for a local community college here in Hampton, Virginia, I downloaded the 3D scanned file of the Clark Mills life mask. I printed it 1-to-1, full size on a MakerBot Z18 3D printer so my students with visual impairments could "see" what Abraham Lincoln looked like. It's a amazing piece. The piece took 99 hours to print. It now hangs in my office.
I was given a " copy of the copy " of Abraham Lincoln' s death mask from David W. .King, who told me that he received it from a friend of his that he knew who owned a museum from across the street of the Ford theatre where Lincoln was shot. David was a sculptor in Washington D..C. His was married to Beulah Hecht, who owned an interior de coating company in Washington, D.C.
There was never a Lincoln death mask, they were both life masks. Please address that properly.

Note: Comment submission is temporarily unavailable while we make improvements to the site. We apologize for the interruption. If you have a question relating to the museum's collections, please first check our Collections FAQ. If you require a personal response, please use our Contact page.