Hands That Held a Nation Together

Volk was responsible for making one of the only two life masks of Lincoln. Clark Mills made the other in February 1865. When Volk went to Springfield to present the Lincolns with a completed cabinet bust in May 1860, Lincoln permitted the sculptor to make casts of both his hands. Lincoln had just been nominated as the presidential candidate for the Republican Party and had shaken so many hands during the campaign that his right hand remained swollen. Volk asked Lincoln to simulate holding a document. There being none readily available, Lincoln went to his tool shed and whittled a piece of broom handle. Volk made the cast with Lincoln grasping the piece of wood. The cast conveys what John Hay described as Lincoln’s “all-sufficing strength.”