Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lincoln life mask donated to UIS by McGraw family

The Rick and Dona McGraw family of Springfield has donated one of only 15 bronze cast of an original Abraham Lincoln life mask to the University of Illinois Springfield.

The original plaster mold was taken of Lincoln’s face by sculptor Clark Mills on February 11, 1865, just two months before his assassination. The mask shows the great toll the Civil War had taken on Lincoln's health with his tired eyes and face full of wrinkles.

“It’s just an incredible piece of work. The first time I saw it I was really taken aback. It’s like seeing what Lincoln really looked like,” said UIS Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen.

The McGraw family acquired the mask when they bought the McDonald’s restaurant in downtown Springfield. It was the only item the family saved from the restaurant when they decided to remodel the building.

“We kept him because my dad said he was the only thing worth keeping, so we kept him and he kind of moved around from one location to another,” said Dona McGraw.

The McGraw’s approached UIS Associate Chancellor for Development Vicki Megginson about donating the cast to the university. They saw UIS as a perfect fit, where the public could enjoy the mask.

“I think here, he will be special. We’re thrilled he now has a final home,” said McGraw.

McGraw jokes that the mask has been stored in the family’s home for years in locations such as the basement, a bedroom, and even looking out a window.

“He’s been around in our family for years,” said McGraw.

The family was encouraged that UIS was the right home for the Lincoln mask because of nationally recognized faculty experts, such as Dr. Michael Burlingame, Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies.

The university is making plans to display the mask at Brookens Library.

More information on the life mask can be found online at:

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