Lot 940
  • 940

(Lincoln, Abraham, sixteenth President)

2,500 - 3,500 USD
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  • Rail-splitting Hand of Abraham Lincoln
  • Signed, dated and inscribed A. Lincoln
  • Bronze-painted plaster
  • Length: 6 inches
A plaster cast of Lincoln's right hand holding a section of a broom handle (6 x 5 1/2 in.; 175 x 140 mm), painted to resemble bronze, by Leonard W. Volk, signed on the bottom of the wrist "A. Lincoln | L.W. Volk | 1860"; mounted on a small, wooden plinth. Together with: Leonard Wells Volk. Autograph letter signed ("Leonard W. Volk") 3 pages on blue-ruled paper (8 x 5 in.; 202 x 125 mm), Chicago, 22 February 1880, to Miss Effie M. Huntington of New York, along with an autograph envelope, explaining the circumstances of modeling Abraham Lincoln's hand in June 1860; stamp clipped from envelope. Together with: a lithograph of the right "Rail Splitter's" hand, page split through the center. Grey portfolio, green morocco spine lettered gilt; spine faded.  

Catalogue Note

Rail Splitter to President. Sculptor Leonard Volk took the castings of Lincoln's hands at Lincoln's home in Springfield in late May or early June 1860. Lincoln had just won the Republican nomination for President (18 May), and Volk was already thinking of using these castings, in combination with his recently completed Lincoln bust, to fashion a full-length statue. Lincoln's right hand was so swollen from shaking hands with well-wishers, that Volk suggested he hold something. Lincoln's right hand grasps a section of broom handle that he himself obligingly fetched from a shed. When Lincoln began smoothing the raw edges of the sawn piece, Volk told him that it really was unnecessary, to which Lincoln replied, "I thought I would like to have it nice."

Volk relates in his letter to Effie Huntington: "I made the cast in his little dining room ... at Springfield. His right hand was somewhat swollen from excessive hand shaking by an immense crowd of visitors the previous evening ... The representation of the round stick he himself sawed from a broom handle in the adjoining woodshed, and the whittlings on one end he cut with his pocket 'jack knife' — which he may have thought was important to the success of the cast."