These two extraordinary life masks—made but five years apart—record with painful precision the grueling physical toll the Civil War exacted on Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s secretary John Hay observed of these two life portraits:

The first is of a man young for his years,” the other “sad and peaceful in its infinite repose,” showing one “on whom, sorrow and care had done their worst without victory.”

Harold Holzer


Lincoln Life Masks

Lincoln in Life

These life masks show us exactly what Abraham Lincoln looked like before and after the Civil War.

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1865: President Lincoln

Clark Mills made this mask in February 1865. Notice how aged Lincoln looks four years into his presidency. His secretary, John Hay, said it showed “unspeakable sadness and all-sufficing strength.”