Lincoln Memorial history

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 on a small farm south of Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was raised in a poor home, being the son of two uneducated farmers. Abraham himself however, quickly developed an interest in studies.

While his formal education consisted of about 18 months of schooling from unofficial teachers, he still mastered the Bible, William Shakespeare’s works, English history and American history. He was very much self educated, reading every book he could get his hands on. He soon developed a plain writing and rhetorical style that puzzled audiences.

Political Career

This brought him into politics at the age of 23, when he became a member of the Whig party and later elected to a term is the US House of Representatives in 1846. With his unorthodox rhetorical style he made both enemies and friends and left the politics after one term and began working as a lawyer.

He later returned to politics, and this time got a much more central role, as he won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president the same year. Lincoln’s hatred for slavery made the already strained relation between the northern and southern states even more problematic. The civil war broke out the very next year.

Lincoln and the civil war

Throughout the civil war, Lincoln was the political leader of the Union and his leadership qualities helped shaping the Unites States to what it is today. Lincoln rallied public opinion through the powerful rhetoric of his messages and speeches. His “Gettysburg Address”, the speech he gave a few months after the Union victory at Gettysburg, is a prime example and one of the most quoted speeches in US history.

Abolishment of slavery

Lincoln is however most known for issuing his Emancipation Proclamation and his contribution in passing the Thirteenth Amendment which permanently abolished slavery in the US. In 1865, shortly after the war was won, Lincoln was assassinated while watching a theatre act.

This made him a martyr for the ideal of national unity and he’s today one of the most famous and highly ranked of all US presidents.

The Lincoln Memorial

The first planning of constructing a memorial to Lincoln started in two years after his assassination. However, the site for the memorial was not chosen until 1902. Congress formally authorized the memorial in 1911 and the first stone was put into place three years later on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. The monument was dedicated in 1922, with Lincolns then only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln, attending the ceremony.

Why visit Lincoln Memorial ?

While it is only one of several monuments built to honor an American president, many regard the Lincoln Memorial as the very finest one. Partly because of the beauty of the monument, but also because of the man it is built to honor.

Ancient inspiration

The Lincoln Memorial is made out of Indiana limestone and Yule marble, which gives the memorial its shining white color. The building is heavily inspired by the ancient Greek Temple of Zeus. This is not only evident because it is surrounded by massive columns, but also because it is centered around a large statue of a man sitting on a throne. In the Temple of Zeus it was Zeus sitting on the throne; in this case it’s Abraham Lincoln.

The state columns

The 36 columns are interpreted as representing the 25 U.S. states at the time of Lincoln’s death, as well as the 11 Confederate states. By taking a look above the columns, visitors to Lincoln Memorial will the see name of the states inscribed in the order that each state joined the Union along with the year of their joining in Roman numerals.

The names of the remaining 22 states that had joined the Union when the memorial was completed are carved on the exterior attic walls in the same manner, even though it can be hard to see from the ground. A plaque in front of the monument also honors the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

The Lincoln Statue

While the outside itself is very beautiful, the focus of the memorial is Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of Lincoln, seated on a throne, stoically looking east over the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument.

The statue was carved from 28 blocks f white Georgia marble and stands six meters high and six meters wide. Behind the statue on the wall, visitors can read an inscription saying:


One can also find some of Lincoln’s speeches inscribed on the walls inside the memorial. On the south side visitors can find his famous speech at Gettysburg and on the other side his second inaugural speech.

Another famous speech..

This site itself has also been the place for several famous speeches. The most famous one came in 1963, during one of the greatest political rallies in US history; the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which gathered more than 250.000 people in the area surrounding the memorial.

They came to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his memorable speech,”I Have a Dream” before the memorial honoring the president who had issued the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years earlier. Visitors taking a closer look at the steps just in front of the building will see an inscription in the ground, marking where King stood when he held his speech.

A popular site

The Lincoln memorial is today a very popular place for visitors, not only typical tourists, but also many schools take field trips to the memorial in educational purpose. In total, an estimate of more than 3.5 million people visits the site each year.

Lincoln Memorial location

The Lincoln Memorial is located in eastern United States, in West Potomac Park, central Washington D.C. The memorial lies situated at the very western end of the National Mall. For the exact location of Lincoln Memorial, check out the location map to the right!

Lincoln Memorial Video

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