The Lincoln head: What Gutzon Borglum did for fun!

B. Nash at copy of Borglum Lincoln bust

B. Nash at copy of Borglum Lincoln bust


Damaged Lincoln head in Detroit

Damaged Lincoln head in Detroit












Borglum's Lincoln head in Detroit

Borglum's Lincoln head in Detroit


Believe it or not, the famous Lincoln head by sculptor Gutzon Borglum was a “project of fun” for the artist. He had not been commissioned to create it. He had been reading about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln and grew to greatly admire Abe. “Fun” for Gutzon was working nonstop-16 hours a day for months carving a three-foot square block of white marble to the point of having swollen and bruised hands and fingers. “Fun” was also cutting and recutting-especially the forehead of Lincoln-until Gutzon felt he got it all right. He tried over a dozen times to get it just right using photographs of Lincoln and the life mask by Volk-until finally he exclaimed: “My Lincoln has come to life at last!”

Eventually, none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, saw the the work of art and was “deeply impressed by it.” He said that it was an “extraordinarily good portrait” of his father that he had ever seen. President Theodore Roosevelt also felt that it was magnificent. He requested that the head be displayed in the White House. The Borglum Lincoln head was actually purchased by a wealthy gentleman named Eugene Meyer for $8,000 dollars after seeing it on display in Baltimore.  He then presented it to the nation’s Capitol. It was formally accepted by the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library, May 8, 1908.  It has been in the Capitol rotunda ever since.

The Lincoln head by Borglum also can be seen at the Lincoln tomb in Springfield. Detroit has a copy of the head. As I have mentioned in previous posts, it had been damaged by vandals. The nose was completely broken off and was cemented back on. It needs repair work today. I have no way of knowing, but I suspect that most citizens of Detroit don’t even know that the Lincoln head is there. It is not in the best place for viewing at all. Worse yet, I’m not sure either that the citizens would even care. Such are the times. I think Mr. Borglum would be greatly saddened by the sorry state of Detroit’s copy of his masterpiece. Even though he had originally made the piece as a “fun project”- I don’t think he’d be laughing now.

 Mail this post

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tags: , ,

5 Responses to “The Lincoln head: What Gutzon Borglum did for fun!”

  1. This is so interesting

  2. Nate says:

    The man was a very gifted artist. The average person on the street has no idea who he is.

  3. donna says:

    Detroit isn’t a city that values its history

  4. Jim says:

    Love the background information on this.

  5. Geoffrey says:


Leave a Reply