Saturday, May 9, 2009

“He’s somebody we can all learn something from”

I just can’t not do it. If you’ve got a passion, you know what I mean. You pursue it because you’re drawn to it, you must do it, you just can’t not do it.

For me that passion is Abraham Lincoln – sharing his story, using it to inspire others, learning from it myself. Fortunately, this blog connects me to people who share that passion. When I can find the time, I like to tell their stories. Sometimes, they tell their own stories so well, I need serve only as the conduit through which the story flows to the rest of you. This is one of those times.

David Wiegers, a Lincoln buff from Gurnee (Ill.), was one of the earliest followers of my blog and one of the first to post a comment. Wiegers has his own passion. He’s crossed the United States photographing Lincoln statues – more than 200 of them. When he was featured recently on WILL television, Wiegers captured the essence of why so many of us are drawn to the Lincoln legacy. He said of the sixteenth President, “He’s somebody we can all learn something from.”

I recently asked Wiegers to tell me a little about his passion, including his plans for a book featuring the Lincoln statues. He did such a fine job telling the story that I see no need to rewrite it. So, Dave, congratulations! You’re the first guest author on Lincoln Buff 2.

A Life Worth Remembering: The Monumental Legacy of Abraham Lincoln
by David Wiegers

“Every statue should tell a story. It should portray a moment in our nation’s history or a man’s life that’s worth remembering.” Sculptor Gutzo Borglum

President Abraham Lincoln certainly lived a life worth remembering. He lives and is remembered by his eloquent words and remarkable life. One of the most important ways we remember Lincoln and the life that he lead is through the monuments and statues we have erected commemorating his life and times.

There are more statues, monuments and memorials dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln that any other American. In the United States there are approximately 225 “major” or “significant” pieces of public and private art erected to honor Lincoln in the United States . Outside America numerous statues honoring the memory of Lincoln stand in many foreign countries. Lincoln is memorialized in Mexico , Russia , Cuba , England , Scotland , Norway and Austria .

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln has arrived and, monuments celebrating the life of the 16th president continue to be dedicated in the United States despite the fact that Lincoln has been dead for 144 years. In the past 24 months alone, new statues commemorating the life of Abraham Lincoln have been erected in:
  • Springfield (Ill.)
  • Sterling (Ill.)
  • Pontiac (Ill.)
  • Jonesboro (Ill.)
  • Hodgenville (Ken.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Lockport (Ill.)
  • Washington (D.C.)

In 2009 and 2010, new Lincoln works will be dedicated in:

  • Jacksonville (Ill.)
  • Bloomington (Ill.)
  • Shelbyville (Ill.)
  • Metamora (Ill.)
  • Hillsboro (Ill.)
  • Decatur (Ill.)
  • Hillsdale (Mich.)
  • Louisville (Ken.)
  • Springfield (Ken.)
  • Leavenworth (Kans.)
  • Gentryville (Ind.)
  • Gettysburg (Penn.)

Others are surely in the planning stages and not yet announced to the public.

With the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth being celebrated in 2009 and 2010, I believe that it is time for an updated, definitive work on the statues of Abraham Lincoln. It has been over 50 years since the last books on this subject were published.

In 1932, the first comprehensive cataloging of the bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln in the United States was done on behalf of the Lincoln National Life Foundation. The book was Heroic Statues in Bronze of Abraham Lincoln, written by Franklin B. Mead and was published by The Lakeside Press. Mead’s work covered only “heroic” or life-sized or larger studies of Lincoln . A good portion of the book was given to a complete telling of the story of a new Lincoln work commissioned by the Lincoln National Life foundation and created by the noted sculptor Paul Manship entitled The Hoosier Youth.

Donald Durman’s book, He Belongs to the Ages – The Statues of Abraham Lincoln, was published in 1951 and F. Lauriston Bullard’s book, Lincoln in Marble and Bronze, came out in 1952. Neither of these books is in now in print.

My book will update the literature on the subject of Lincoln sculpture and make available a complete catalog of all of the “major” public statues of Abraham Lincoln and select private pieces.

The purpose and ultimate goal of my project is to release a book that will update the information collected by Durman and Bullard and include updated information and photographs of the statues of Abraham Lincoln featured in those authors’ books. I will also tell the story of the works created and dedicated since 1952.

In the first sentence of the preface to his 1951 book, Durman said, “For many years there has been a need for a definitive work on the statues of Abraham Lincoln.” I believe that it is once again time for a new definitive work on the statues of Lincoln.

My project to document the statues of Abraham Lincoln will commemorate and celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln by compiling in one place the 225 or more statues in the United States dedicated to Lincoln’s life, virtues, thoughts and ideals.

Between September of 2004 and April of 2009, I have visited over 30 states and have photographed 200-plus Lincoln statues in parks, public building, museums and private collections.

One thing that I hope comes about as a result of my book is a greater appreciation of these works of art. So many of these marvelous images of Lincoln are in deplorable shape and need cleaning and restoration. Perhaps raising the awareness around the country to the plight of some of these statues may help spur local communities and corporations to step forward with the funds to restore them.

The book, which has been photographed and written by Dave Wiegers, is not complete. I have just started to write the background on the statues I have selected for in-depth treatment. There are still about 15-20 new statues to be dedicated over the next 12 months and it is my intention to include as many of the new Lincoln works being erected around the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial in this work.

I am currently working a book proposal and readying it to send out to prospective publishers. Once a publishing house has agreed to take on this book, it will take approximately a year to get the book to print.

Lincoln Buff 2 says “Thanks”
Dave, I’m sure readers will appreciate as much as I the sharing the story of your passion with us.

Featured photos
The photographs above are of Wiegers and of a Lincoln statue recently dedicated in Springfield (Ken.).

Wiegers says the Kentucky statue is significant for two reasons:
  • The sculptor is a woman from California, Paula Slater (pictured with the new statue.) There aren’t many major Lincoln pieces by women.
  • It commemorates Lincoln’s parent’s marriage and his search for their marriage certificate in Washington County, Ken.

The Morencai Lincoln home is near there, as is the homestead where Nancy Hanks and the Lincolns lived. Weigers says, “It a beautiful area and worth a side trip if you get down towards Hodgenville.”

See where the statues are
In case you're wondering where the existing statues are, there's a really cool interactive map on the PBS website which celebrates the fine documentary, Looking for Lincoln, produced by the Kunhardts. The map links to photographs Wiegers took of the statues.

Know of another new or planned Lincoln statue?
Please share the news with Dave at dbwiegers[at sign]comcast[dot]net. He’s also learned of statues planned in :

  • Joliet (Ill.)
  • Lincoln City (Ind.)
  • Rapid City (S.D.)

*My thanks to Mike Kienzler, aka The Abraham Lincoln Observer, of The State Journal-Register. With his editor's eagle eye, Mike noticed I had the forgotten the "i before e" rule in spelling Dave's name. Dave, I am so sorry. I've fixed it. Ann

© Copyright 2009 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.


Geoff Elliott said...

Fascinating, Ann. Thanks for sharing your passion about Lincoln and this interesting story about Mr. Weigers.

He was kind enough to send me a desk calendar of some of his photos of the statues. I'm enjoying it greatly.

An almost impossible project would be to document the historical markers associated with Lincoln. They must number in the thousands, I'd think.

Again, thanks!

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


Dave is a great Lincoln buff. We're lucky to have someone who appreciates so much what we do because of our passion.

As for markers, one of my twitter followers has a website where people can document historic markers. People log scores of markers each date at: Check it out.

Yes, you're right. That task would be monumental (no pun intended).

Thanks for your kind words - and for your very fine blog,

Best wishes,