Two plaster casts of the face of Abraham Lincoln, one white and one brown. The white mask also has plaster casts of his hands on either side.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Lincoln’s Life Masks

These two extraordinary life masks—made but five years apart—record with painful precision the grueling physical toll the Civil War exacted on Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s secretary John Hay observed of these two life portraits:

“The first is of a man young for his years,” the other “sad and peaceful in its infinite repose,” showing one “on whom, sorrow and care had done their worst without victory.”

– Harold Holzer

The Masks

Photo by Carol Highsmith.

1860: Candidate Lincoln

This mask of the 51-year-old Lincoln, made by Leonard Volk in 1860, hardened so fast that it was painful to pull off.

Photo by Carol Highsmith.

1865: President Lincoln

Clark Mills made this mask in February 1865. Notice how aged Lincoln looks four years into his presidency. His secretary, John Hay, said it showed “unspeakable sadness and all-sufficing strength.”

Protect Our History

The night of April 14, 1865, forever changed our national history. Together, Ford's Theatre Society and the National Park Service partner to protect the artifacts from that night. Through these objects, we can better understand how that single event transformed our nation. Give to Ford's Theatre to help continue sharing the stories that shaped a nation.