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More on the acquisition of the ‘Standing Lincoln’ by the Stockbridge Library

Stockbridge resident Jean Rousseau gives us the backstory of the acquisition of the "Standing Lincoln" statue by the Stockbridge Library.

Stockbridge — On February 7, 2020, The Edge ran an announcement that the Williams School Alumni Association had gifted the three-foot tall “Standing Lincoln” statue to the Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archives. This was interesting news, but it also raised questions for me. How came the statue to the Alumni Association, and what is the statue’s full history? A very informative visit with Pat Flinn, Secretary of the Alumni Association and volunteer in the History Room, plus a bit more research, provided the answers.

When the students of the venerable Stockbridge Academy moved into the new Williams School building in 1914, the graduates and friends of the old school wanted to give some memorial of their era to the new school. They took up a collection and raised $165 to purchase the statue from Daniel Chester French himself in 1914. It was a very generous price, as Mr. French had arranged to cast and sell these smaller versions for $1,000 each.

The statue stood in the Williams School on Main Street until 1968. That year, when the Williams High School student body moved to the new Monument Mountain High School, the Alumni Association took ownership of the statue and deposited it on long-term loan with the Historical Room. The loan agreement provided that, should the Alumni Association cease to operate, full ownership of the statue would pass to the Library. More recently, the officers of the Association, realizing that its demise, though not to be desired, was inevitable, voted to effect the transition from loan to gift now.

The statue has historical associations aplenty. In 1909, French was commissioned by a committee of the Nebraska legislature to sculpt a statue of Lincoln to stand in front of the State Capitol in Lincoln. It was his first study of the President, though he had contemplated one for years. That statue, standing almost 9 feet tall, was dedicated in 1912. It is sometimes called “The Gettysburg Lincoln,” perhaps because it stands in front of a stele inscribed with the words of the address, or perhaps because it was said by some who remembered Lincoln to resemble his habitual stance as he paused quietly before speaking in public, and presumably did so before the great address. French, however, simply intended it to depict Lincoln thoughtfully, sadly contemplating the great task of winning the war and restoring the Union.

A full-size version of the original stands on the grounds of Chesterwood. It is as moving and thoughtful as French meant it to be. A number of the 3-foot versions were sold; one came back to Chesterwood later in a purchase by French’s daughter, Margaret French Cresson.


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