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Pictured is an artist's rendering of what the completed statue will look like when it is placed in downtown Macomb.
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This is a portrait taken of Abraham Lincoln by Macomb photographer William Painter Pearson in 1858. The print, which shows him without a beard, as he was when he visited Macomb, was donated to the Western Illinois Museum in 2013, by Frances Smith. (Photo used courtesy of the Western Illinois Museum)
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Macomb Lincoln Statue to be Unveiled at City Hall in April

February 25, 2020


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MACOMB, IL – It's a little-known historical fact that during both of Abraham Lincoln's stops in downtown Macomb in the 1850s, he did not have his iconic beard either time.

A Western Illinois University artist and local leaders will rewrite history, so to speak, with a new 15-foot statue of Lincoln's bust on the lawn of Macomb's City Hall in April. The concrete statue, which will feature Lincoln's signature stovepipe hat, will have a topiary beard that will flower at least twice a year.

WIU Associate Professor Duke Oursler and his artist friend, Marc Moulton, of Statesboro, GA, are making the outdoor art through a 3D printing process using concrete. Moulton is working on the concrete portion in Georgia, while Oursler is working on the steel hat in Macomb. Together, they create and trade the digital files needed for the printing process.

"The idea for this came last summer and we started in January," said Oursler. "The 3D concrete printing is a hard process; extremely complex. The 3D printer has a robot arm with an extruding mechanism. The consistency of the concrete has to be just right – that's the toughest challenge."

Oursler said organizers wanted the statue to be something different that would highlight Lincoln's connection to Macomb, so they began researching his visits here.

"We learned he didn't have a beard until he became president," said Oursler. "That transitioned to the idea that maybe we could make a sculpture where his beard would grow. There is nothing like this existing in the world. It is hard to do, but I am excited to do it."

Jock Hedblade, WIU alumnus and director of the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, began talking with Oursler as he was looking for something Lincoln-related to add to the downtown area as part of Macomb's application to be a Looking for Lincoln community. His idea was to create some kind of sculpture that could become a tourist destination.

"This unusual and creative design element with the beard will reflect Lincoln's change from the clean-shaven Senate candidate, who was photographed in Macomb, to the bearded president who saved the Union," said Hedblade. "We talked about a life-size, bronze statue, but there are a lot of those out there. We wanted something bigger and more eye-catching. We are very excited for a number of reasons – we want to draw people to Macomb and get out there and let people know we have a great Lincoln story here."

Hedblade said Lincoln was preparing for the Lincoln/Douglas debates during both of his Macomb stays.

Flowers and greenery will be planted in the beard of the finished statue, which will have an internal irrigation system to keep it hydrated. The statue is expected to bloom at least twice a year, but may bloom three times the first year because it's being placed early in the spring.

Organizers are working with the owners of Boehm's Lawn and Garden Center in Rushville to choose the plants that will fill in the beard the best.

Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said he is proud of the unique concept for the art piece.

"Duke has such a great reputation for bringing outstanding public art to our community," said Inman. "We are so excited to see the finished statue and the visitors it brings to our city."

The $32,000 statue was paid for by a grant from Macomb's Noon Rotary Club to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The project is also being helped by Macomb's Centennial Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful.

The completed statue is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday, April 18 at Macomb City Hall.


Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations