Saturday, December 06, 2014

Abe Lincoln, Leo Hoegh & Leonard Volk

A piece of Lincoln memorabilia once owned by Iowa Gov. Leo A. Hoegh found a home at the Lucas County Historical Society this fall, courtesy of the Meyer family. 

The 33-inch depiction of Lincoln holding the "Proclamation of Emancipation" was owned by Hoegh during his years as a Chariton attorney --- from 1933 until 1957, when he moved on to Washington, D.C., then Colorado, after losing his bid for a second term as governor in 1956.

Attorney Virgil E. Meyer was partner in the firm Hoegh & Meyer from 1945 until Hoegh's departure and the Lincoln statuette remained behind with him in 1957. Three sons of Virgil and Charlene Meyer also became attorneys --- Stephen, James and Raymond --- and upon Virgil's death in 1993, Steve took custody of Honest Abe. Lincoln returned to Chariton this fall after Steve's retirement and was passed on to the museum by Ray.

It's hard to say exactly how old the statuette is, but most likely it was created under license from the sculptor --- Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895) or his estate --- not long after his original 10-foot bronze was unveiled on Memorial Day 1892 in Rochester, New York, as focal point of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Washington Square Park.

The smaller version is a fine hollow plaster cast with painted bronze finish. The original was cast in bronze by Chicago's American Bronze Co. Although the plaster version --- one of many produced --- has a ding or two, it remains in remarkably good condition and looks good in the Hoegh display case at the museum.

Volk, widely acclaimed in his time, was considered a master at sculpting images of Lincoln --- and cast one of only two life masks of the future president during a campaign visit to Chicago during the spring of 1860. During May of that year, Volk traveled to Springfield and also cast Lincoln's hands.

The life mask process was simplified both for Volk and Lincoln because the future president still was shaving regularly at the time --- to make a life mask, wet plaster was applied to the subject's face and allowed to dry. The beard came along during November of that year, reportedly at the suggestion of 11-year-old Grace Bedell, who wrote the man who would become the Great Emancipator suggesting that whiskers would improve his appearance. 

Whatever the case, we're glad to have Lincoln with us at the museum. Stop in and take a look when we open for the season next spring --- or give a call and we'll show you around at any time. If you'd like to read more about Leo Hoegh, go here.

The original bronze upon which the plaster cast now at the museum was based is located atop a column as centerpiece of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Washington Square Park, Rochester, New York.

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