Lincoln on the Wrong Side?

By Erin Carlson Mast

Since the New York Times article about the new sculpture of Lincoln and his horse that will be installed at President Lincoln’s Cottage this autumn was published, a couple individuals have expressed their concern over how Lincoln is shown in relation to the horse, for example, “Please make sure that the statue placement is such that President Lincoln appears to be ready to mount his horse on the left side. Horses are always mounted on the left side.” 

Lincoln and his horse

Lincoln and horse sculpture ready for the foundry. By StudioEIS for President Lincoln's Cottage

Since more than one person has asked, we would like to let all of our friends in on the serious discussion staff and the artists had about positioning the sculpture at the beginning of the project.

The long and short of it is that Lincoln is not being shown mounting the horse, therefore he did not have to be shown on the left side.

The positioning of Lincoln and his horse was restricted by the landscape (avoiding utilities and tree roots is absolutely necessary) and the staff’s desire for the sculpture to be fully accessible to visitors.  Thus there were a limited number of options and the staff decided to have the sculpture face southwest on the ellipse in front of the Cottage and clarify the interpretation.

While it is correct to show Lincoln mount the horse from the left side, to do so would have meant Lincoln was completely blocked by the horse.  To have Lincoln both on the left of the horse and in front of it would have meant the horse’s rear was aimed directly at every visitor entering or exiting the Cottage, which is distasteful to say the least. 

There was one other location on the landscape that could have worked, but not only would it have a similar problem–the horse’s back side would be facing everyone who enters the property–but it would have also placed the sculpture beneath a very productive female ginkgo tree.  Anyone who has smelled the fleshy seed of a female ginkgo would understand why that location was quickly dropped.

Thus, it was decided early on that Lincoln would not be shown mounting or dismounting. The statue may be interpreted two ways: Lincoln is just approaching the horse in greeting as he prepares for his morning commute; or Lincoln is patting the horse farewell as he walks toward the Cottage entrance at the end of a long day.

Ms. Mast is the Curator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.


Filed under Collections, History

3 responses to “Lincoln on the Wrong Side?

  1. Excellent article illustrating the problems that can be encountered when siting public sculpture. Very often these things are not thought through and once the sculpture has been sited there’s no going back. It also shows that, as Lincoln well apreciated, you can’t please all the people all the time!

  2. Sue

    I agree with signartist especially on the last count…

    I am sorry to approach you like this Erin, but I cant seem to find any email with which to contact you or Lincolns cottage.
    I would appreciate it if you could get back to me via my email or site.

  3. presidentlincolnscottage

    Hi Sue,

    All of our contact information is available via our main website:


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