"His wound is mortal; it is impossible for him to recover" - The Final Hours of President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, the Man

Casts of Lincoln’s face and hands
Casts of Lincoln's face and hands.
Originals cast in 1860 by Leonard Wells Volk; these reproductions were made in 1942 by Avard Fairbanks

Volk made these casts for his own use in creating other likenesses of Lincoln such as busts and cameos.

In a collection of essays titled "Lincoln for the Ages" (Doubleday, 1960), sculptor Avard Fairbanks wrote:

Virtually every sculptor and artist uses the Volk mask for Lincoln. I have committed its lines to memory. It is the most reliable document of the Lincoln face, and far more valuable than photographs, for it is actual form. All the world is indebted to Leonard Volk for his contribution.

Volk first met Lincoln in 1858, during the Lincoln-Douglas series of debates, and invited him to sit for a sculpture.

Lincoln began the process by visiting Volk's Chicago, Illinois studio on March 31, 1860, to sit for a life mask impression. From this, Volk sculpted a bust, which he delivered to the Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois on May 18. During the visit, he made arrangements to come back to take plaster impressions of Lincoln’s hands on May 20, the Sunday after the official announcement of his presidential nomination the evening before. Volk needed Lincoln to grasp something in his right hand in order to make the casts. Lincoln went to his woodshed, sawed off a broom handle, and returned to his dining room where the impressions would be made.

Compared to his left hand, Lincoln’s right hand was swollen and puffy from excessive handshaking the prior evening. The difference is evident in the casts.