Lincoln needs a nose job!

Gutzon Borglum may not be a name familiar to lovers of Lincoln. He was an American artist and sculptor who originally accepted the project to carve a memorial to Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain, Georgia in the early 1920’s.  He eventually backed out of the venture leaving another sculptor to complete the task. He was also associated with the KKK, an organization he later repudiated. At the same time, he was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln-and even named a son Lincoln. Borglum’s claim to fame is having been the sculptor of the Presidential faces (including Lincoln, of course) on Mt. Rushmore, which he worked on from 1927 to 1941.  A lesser known work of art by Borglum, with particular interest to Michiganders, is the Lincoln bust near Hart Plaza on E. Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. The original bust of this Lincoln is located in Washington DC’s Capitol building one floor below the main rotunda. The sculptor completed the work in 1908.  Lincoln’s son Robert Todd gave the piece very high praise. This is probably why the same Lincoln head graces the front of the Lincoln tomb in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The The copy of Borglum’s Lincoln bust in Detroit was dedicated on Lincoln’s birthday February 12, 1956.  It’s been relocated twice. It also has been vandalized and restored, well, sort of. I visited the Borglum Lincoln bust March 27, 2009. I was shocked and disappointed by what I found. Lincoln’s nose has been cemented back on his face. The problem is that the bust is white in color and the cement is gray. In a word, in looks awful. I suppose what happened is that the cement was originally the same color as the bust but aging and weather have probably caused discoloration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The bust has had a sad history. It was donated to the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1924 but stayed in storage until the 1950’s. That’s around thirty years, if anyone is counting. It was in storage again from 1967 (after being vandalized) until 1986 (an additional 19 years of storage time).  It found its new home at Hart Plaza in 1986, and has been there since. I don’t know how long it’s been sitting at the present location with the patched-up nose.  Ironically, the bust was given to the DIA by Ralph Herman Booth. Yes, that’s Booth.  This Booth was a prominent businessman in Detroit who resided (among other places) at 2906 E. Jefferson Avenue. Although it would have proved a really interesting connection, I could find no bloodline linkage between this Booth and John Wilkes Booth.  Even so, the contrast is fascinating: one Booth memorialized Lincoln in a contribution that still brings honor to the late President (at least that was his intent); while the other Booth destroyed the mortal Lincoln in an act will forever live in infamy.

Borglum's Lincoln in need of a nose job Borglum’s Lincoln in need of a nose job



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2 Responses to “Lincoln needs a nose job!”

  1. Jim says:

    Detroit doesn’t seem to know the jewell that it has. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Karen says:

    How sad, especially in the year of Lincoln’s 200th birthday. Hopefully it will get repaired.

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