Arrival of Lincoln Statue Commemorates 1909 Alumni Day

Photo Courtesy UW Archives

For many UW-Madison alumni, the highlight of the June 1909 reunion season was the unveiling of the famous bronze Abraham Lincoln statue atop Bascom Hill during a formal dedication ceremony.

The statue is a replica of one erected in Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky. Alum Richard Lloyd Jones x’1894 fervently worked with President Charles Van Hise and UW benefactor Thomas E. Brittingham to raise $8,000 to purchase the statue. It was moved from its original location between North and South Halls to its current location after 10 years, and has since become a campus landmark. At the unveiling ceremony, UW President Charles Van Hise read a letter written by Brittingham:

“To the regents of the University of Wisconsin:—The government and the state of Kentucky created a commission under whose direction a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln was erected at Hodgenville, Kentucky, his birthplace. Due to the considerateness of this commission, due to the courtesy of the sculptor, Adolph Alexander Weinman, and due to the assistance of your board, I have been permitted to have erected upon the campus of our university the one replica of the Hodgenville Lincoln statue.

“Let us hope that this monument, erected to one of the world’s greatest benefactors, placed where it will be seen by countless thousands of young men and women, at a most impressionable age, may be a constant inspiration to them.

“And it is my especial hope that this heroic figure of the nation’s sublimest character may impress upon the minds of those who view it, the essence of his philosophy, expressed in these words:
‘I am not bound to in win but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed but I am bound to live up to what light I have.'”

W.D. Hoard, former Wisconsin governor (1889-1891) and Board of Regents President (1908-1911) spoke at the ceremony, accepting the gift on behalf of his peers:

“Because of our deep and lasting gratitude as a commonwealth for the character and services of Abraham Lincoln; because of the faith and pride we have in the purpose and achievements of our noble university; because of our profound appreciation of the splendid public spirit of the giver of this inspiring Memorial Statue, the regents accept this gift at the hands of the donor, with the promise that nothing shall be lacking on their part to maintain and preserve it as a sign to all future generations of the high ideals of American citizenship that are taught here to the young of the land.”