Cultural depictions of Abraham Lincoln

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The Apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln, greeted by George Washington in heaven, who is holding a laurel wreath (an 1860s work, post-assassination)

Since his death in 1865, Abraham Lincoln has been an iconic American figure depicted—usually favorably or heroically—in many forms. Lincoln has often been portrayed by Hollywood, almost always in a flattering light.[1][2]

Statues of Abraham Lincoln[edit]

Statue of Lincoln at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

Statues of Abraham Lincoln can be found in other countries. In Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is a 13-foot (4 m) high bronze statue, a gift from the United States, dedicated in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The U.S. received a statue of Benito Juárez in exchange, which is in Washington, D.C. Juárez and Lincoln exchanged friendly letters during the American Civil War, Mexico remembers Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican–American War. (For his part, Juárez refused to aid the Confederacy and jailed those Confederates who sought his help.) There is also a statue in Tijuana, Mexico, showing Lincoln standing and destroying the chains of slavery. There are at least three statues of Lincoln in the United Kingdom—one in Parliament Square in London by Augustus St. Gaudens, one in Manchester by George Grey Barnard and another in Edinburgh by George Bissell. There is also a bust of the President at St Andrews Church in Hingham, Norfolk, where Lincoln's ancestors lived. In Havana, Cuba, there is a bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Museum of the Revolution, a small statue of him in front of the Abraham Lincoln School, and a bust of him near the Capitolio. In Quito, Ecuador, a statue of Lincoln can be found in the Plaza Abraham Lincoln. Avenida Abraham Lincoln, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is one of the capital city's most important and trafficked streets.


Walt Whitman was especially fascinated by Lincoln during the Civil War and wrote several famous poems about him. Lincoln was fond of Whitman's poetry even before the war.[3] by David S. Reynolds


Over 1000 pieces of music spanning every generation since his presidency have been written about Lincoln.[4]

Classical music[edit]

Film, drama and fiction[edit]

Lincoln has been portrayed in many films and TV shows since 1908.[6][7]


Lincoln himself wrote poetry and at least one piece of fiction loosely based upon one of the murder cases he defended as a young lawyer. In April 1846, The Quincy Whig published Lincoln's short story under the title "A Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder". The story was republished in March 1952 by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and retitled "The Trailor Murder Mystery." Lincoln refers to his own unnamed character as "the defense" and "the writer of this".[8]

Late 1800s[edit]

  • In Jules Verne's 1870 novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a fictitious steam frigate, the Abraham Lincoln, is sent to hunt down the "monster" that has been attacking ships at sea, and is attacked itself. Captain Nemo also has a portrait of Lincoln hanging in his study on board the Nautilus. In the prequel The Mysterious Island, the five shipwrecked Union prisoners name the island which they discover, "Lincoln Island".
  • The German writer Karl May wrote two stories concerning Canada Bill Jones: Ein Self-man (1878) and Three carde monte (1879). The narrator meets several times with the young Abraham Lincoln and together they oppose "Kanada-Bill". Both stories have in common the first meeting of the heroes: The narrator finds Lincoln in a forest training to orate.[9]


The first motion picture based on Lincoln was 1908 film The Reprieve: An Episode in the Life of Abraham Lincoln. Directed by Van Dyke Brooke, the film shows Lincoln pardoning a sentry who fell asleep on duty, a theme that would be depicted repeatedly in other silent era shorts. This era is also when the first Abraham Lincoln impersonators originated, and the modern idea of what he sounded like is derived from these.[7]












An Abraham Lincoln reenactor in 2015


  1. ^ Steven Spielberg, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Tony Kushner, "Mr. Lincoln Goes to Hollywood", Smithsonian (2012) 43#7 pp. 46–53.
  2. ^ Melvyn Stokes, "Abraham Lincoln and the Movies", American Nineteenth Century History 12 (June 2011), 203–31.
  3. ^ David S. Reynolds, Lincoln and Whitman History Now (2013) online
  4. ^ McCall, Matt (February 15, 2016). "In music, Abraham Lincoln's image evolves for each new generation". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  5. ^ Barry Schwartz, "Rereading the Gettysburg address: Social change and collective memory." Qualitative sociology 19#3 (1996): 395-422.
  6. ^ Mark S. Reinhart, Abraham Lincoln on Screen: Fictional and Documentary Portrayals on Film and Television (McFarland, 2009).
  7. ^ a b Sarah Miles Bolam; Thomas J. Bolam (2007). The Presidents on Film: A Comprehensive Filmography of Portrayals from George Washington to George W. Bush. McFarland. p. 108. ISBN 9780786424818.
  8. ^ Lundin, Leigh (14 February 2016). "Abe Lincoln's Mystery". SleuthSayers.
  9. ^ Ekkehard Koch: Der »Kanada-Bill«. Variationen eines Motivs bei Karl May. In: Jahrbuch der Karl-May-Gesellschaft 1976, pp. 29–46. (in German)
  10. ^
  11. ^ Berhman, John (March 9, 1985). "Escondido teacher Rex Hamilton is dead at 60". The San Diego Union. p. II-1.
  12. ^ Scott Sharkey, "EGM's Top Ten Videogame Politicians: Election time puts us in a voting mood", Electronic Gaming Monthly 234 (November 2008): 97.
  13. ^ Michael Cieply (May 9, 2011). "Aside From the Vampires, Lincoln Film Seeks Accuracy". New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]