Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln Statue

Racine’s rare Lincoln and Mary Todd monument took two years to complete and is shown getting readied for shipment to Racine.

From Gerald Karwowski: When this five-ton granite monument was unveiled on July 4, 1943, it was the first of its kind in the United States to honor both a president and his wife. The statue was a gift of Miss Lena Rose Wall, a resident on Racine’s north side. The sculptor was Frederick C. Hibbard of Chicago. The monument is located in East Park where Mary Todd Lincoln was known to take morning strolls and spend quiet time during her visits to Racine.

Photo by Bev Schumacher

From Preservation Racine: The Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln Monument was unveiled on July 4, 1943. At the time of its dedication, the monument received national notoriety for obtaining three distinctions simultaneously: it was the very first monument dedicated to an American President and his wife, the first monument created to honor Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln together, and the very first statue of Mary Lincoln.

The idea of honoring the Lincolns in the form of a public monument came from Racine resident Lena Rosewall, whose life is shrouded in mystery. She was born on February 18, 1872, the daughter of Bohemian immigrants that farmed in the very northern boundary of Racine County, which included land that today is the site of the WE Energies power plant in Oak Creek. Her father helped build the 1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse located on Highway 31 and Five Mile Road, and Lena probably attended school there. She never married, had children, or owned a house. She appears to have led a quiet – almost reclusive – life wherever she boarded with other families. She financially supported herself throughout life by sporadic stints at school teaching and periodically selling off parcels of the family’s farmland which she obtained or inherited.

When Lena Rosewall died on May 9, 1935, her will stipulated that $20,000 of her estate be used to create a public monument to Abraham and Mary Lincoln in an effort to inspire devotion and patriotism. A few heirs contested the will, and the matter went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where it was upheld in 1939. The executors of the Rosewall estate carried out the bequest and commissioned Chicago sculptor Frederick Cleveland Hibbard to create the granite statue we see today.

The seven-ton monument was originally scheduled to be unveiled on November 4, 1942 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Lincolns’ marriage, but delays in manufacturing caused the dedication to be postponed until July 4, 1943. The placement of the sculpture in East Park has significance, for it was here that Mary Lincoln relaxed during her daily strolls around the downtown area when she visited Racine for several weeks in 1867.

The statue of the couple is seven feet high, chiseled from Georgia’s Elberton gray granite, and rests on a five-foot base of pink Minnesota granite weighing five tons. Hibbard has depicted the Lincolns as they would have appeared in an 1861 Victorian photograph, with the husband sitting and the wife standing. Mary Lincoln was so conscious of the great height difference between her and her husband that she never allowed a photograph to be taken of them together. The Lincolns are dressed for “an occasion” at the White House, before the cares of the administration and the Civil War began to tell on the features of the President and his wife.