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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s Idaho legacy to be featured in landmark new public exhibit

Newly elected President Abraham Lincoln sat for more than an hour with plaster drying on his face, to create a life mask that then was used to fashion statues of the imposing man. Five years later, in 1865, he sat for another life mask - and the difference in his features is remarkable, showing him horribly aged by the Civil War.

A look that intimate at the 16th president - who during those years also established Idaho Territory - isn't easy to come by, but thanks to a major donation to the state of Idaho by former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy and his wife, Nancy, it's part of a unique collection documenting Lincoln and his ties to Idaho that will go on display to the public in a specially designed gallery next year. The new gallery will open during the celebration of the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the creation of Idaho Territory; you can read my full story here at

Janet Gallimore, director of the Idaho State Historical Society, says she gets “goose bumps” thinking about what's in store. “David's collection is the finest collection of Lincoln material in the Intermountain West,” she said. “I'm just so excited that we will be acquiring this fabulous collection for the public. A great amount of Lincoln's significance for Idaho is going to be presented to the public for the first time in an exhibition venue.”

The new Lincoln Legacy Collection and Exhibition will be installed at the Idaho State Archives, a light-filled structure that stands just down the road in Boise from the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, which was in use in territorial times. The archives now function mostly as a research facility; the new Lincoln gallery will be its first permanent exhibit open to the public, and is expected to draw busloads of schoolkids and other visitors.

Lincoln now gazes downtown

Schoolchildren and dignitaries pulled on the brightly colored, star-covered drape, and Idaho’s newly restored and relocated Abraham Lincoln monument was unveiled in its new spot, near the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Bannock Street, just south of the state Capitol. The hour-long ceremony commemorating the event was a chilly one, but schoolchildren, legislators and onlookers braved it. Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who formally accepted the relocated monument for the state, recounted a story of Lincoln’s humbleness - once, when a lady accused the president of being “two-faced” on a political issue, “The president responded, ‘Madam, if I had two faces, why would I be wearing this one?’ “

The school kids who were gathered included those from North Valley Academy in Gooding, who collected the most pennies in a “Pennies for Lincoln” drive to fund the move of the monument, and choirs from North Star Charter School in Eagle, who sang. “They know they played an important role in bringing this monument here,” state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna said of the gathered schoolchildren. David Leroy, head of the Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, played master of ceremonies, and also invited the public to a birthday party for Lincoln to be held from 5-8 p.m. today in a heated tent near the statue, complete with a 200-candle birthday cake. Idaho Historical Society Director Janet Gallimore told the crowd, “Learning about the achievements of the people who came before us really helps all of us to achieve our dreams.” Little said, “Lincoln’s most lasting legacy to Idaho and the nation was opportunity.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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