ABRAHAM LINCOLN STATUE
UNION SQUARE PARK
One of three sculptural renditions of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) in New York City's parks, this bronze larger-than-life sized statue by Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886) today stands vigil on a busy crossroads at the north side of Union Square Park.
Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hardin County (now Larue County), Kentucky, and was mostly self-educated. He settled in New Salem, Illinois in 1831 and worked as a storekeeper, surveyor, and postmaster while studying law. In 1834 Lincoln was elected to the state legislature and in 1836 became a lawyer. Although he served as a Whig from 1847 to 1849, he lost two bids for the Senate in 1856 and 1858. Nonetheless Lincoln made an impression on his state and his nation over the course of his seven debates with Democratic opponent Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln successfully ran for president as a Republican in 1860. While campaigning he made his first visit to New York City in February 1860, and delivered a famous speech in the Cooper Union's Great Hall. By inauguration day in March 1861, seven southern states had seceded from the Union, and four more would follow in April. As the nation plunged into Civil War, Lincoln proved a skillful and thoughtful leader and orator. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves and delivered the Gettysburg Address that eloquently memorialized fallen soldiers.
Lincoln won re-election in 1864 against George McClellan. Five days after Confederate general Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D. C. He died the next morning. Travelling to all the principal cities in the United States, Lincoln's funeral cortege arrived in New York City on April 24, and his body lay in state at City Hall. Lincoln is buried at Oak Ridge, Illinois, near Springfield.
Not long after Lincoln's death, the statue of Lincoln was sponsored by the Union League Club, a Republican organization, which retained the services of the noted sculptor Henry Kirke Brown. Though Brown, like many of his generation, made an obligatory visit to Italy to study, he was part of a group of sculptors attempting to establish a truly American sculptural idiom. In his statue of Lincoln-cast in 1868, but dedicated September 16, 1870-he combines a classically-styled pose with a perceptive naturalism, uniting realistic detail with an idealistic stance. Brown also created a similar portrait of Lincoln in Prospect Park (1869), and his nephew and pupil Henry Kirke Bush-Brown (1857-1935) crafted the bronze bust for Gettysburg's Lincoln Memorial (1911).
The sculpture originally stood in the street bed at the southwest corner of Union Square, at the location today occupied by the statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In 1875 the sculpture was protected by the installation of an elaborate stone and bronze rail fence, into which were inscribed the words from his second inaugural address, "...with malice toward none; charity toward all." In 1930 when Union Square Park was completely redesigned to accommodate new subway construction, the statue, minus its fence was relocated to its current position in axial alignment with the Independence Flagpole (1930) and Henry Kirke Brown's striking equestrian sculpture of
George Washington (1856) located at the park's southern plaza. Abraham Lincoln was conserved in 1992.