February 12, 2009 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Our sixteenth president is one of the most popular human beings in the world; in the United States, he ranks with George Washington as the most popular leaders in our countryís history. Lincolnís entire life has been examined and continues to be re-examined. Some aspects of his life have been made into popular myth, and he has been scrutinized for both what he did and what he did not say. Still, Lincoln remains very popular, at least in part due to his assassination and for his role in emancipating slaves. As a result of that wide popularity, many cities and states have commissioned monuments and memorials of him.
James A. Percoco has taught history at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia since 1980 and is history educator-in-residence at American University in Washington, D.C. Over the years, he has tried to make the history surrounding Abraham Lincoln more interesting to his students by taking them on field trips to visit memorials and monuments to Lincoln. Percoco here tells about seven of his modern-day ďpilgrimagesĒ that he has made throughout the country.
Percocoís interesting and educational book is not only a travelogue of his visits to these monuments - whether bronze or marble and varying in age - but he also provides the story about how each particular monument came into being and of the artist or artists who created it. You get the stories behind these monuments and also narratives on famous sculptors and other artists who have impacted American art.
Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincolnís only surviving son, had a great deal of influence on the various monuments. He wanted to preserve his fatherís memory and image and to make sure that he was shown in a good light. Robert Lincoln was able to nix a reproduction of a statue of his father that he did not like from being sent to the United Kingdom to be placed in London, managing to have another statue which he liked better sent in its stead. Percocoís stories of such occurrences and similar ones are intriguing.
Several black-and-white photos of the monuments as they are today and as they were upon their dedication - and some of the statues as they have appeared over time Ė provide welcome visual reference. Percoco also provides images of the sculptures and their artists together. Appendices of other noted memorials a list of where to find Lincoln sculptures in the various states precede the endnotes, bibliography and index. The foreword is by Harold Holzer. Two images grace the dustcover - one is of the head of the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and the second is a picture of a statue of Lincoln in Chicago with the author posing next to it.
The seven memorials Percoco discusses are
- Thomas Ballís Emancipation Group/Freedmenís Monument (1876) in Washington, D.C.
- Paul Manshipís Lincoln the Hoosier Youth (1932) in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- George Grey Barnardís Lincoln (1917) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Augustus Saint-Gaudensí Standing Lincoln (1887) in Chicago.
- Gutzon Borglumís Seated Lincoln (1911) in Newark, New Jersey.
- James Earle Fraserís Lincoln (1930) in Jersey City, New Jersey.
- Daniel Chester Frenchís Seated Lincoln (1922) in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
This book is highly recommended to Lincoln buffs and those interested in sculpture and American history. It is also endorsed by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
James A. Percoco is a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commissionís Advisory Board. He is the co-author of Eyewitness to the Past (2007), and author of Divided we Stand (2001) and A Passion for the Past (1998). His website is