The Smiling Lincoln passed by hundreds each week

A young Abraham Lincoln, beardless with a slight smile on his lips, watches diligently as people pass under his nose in the front foyer of Lovejoy Library on the SIU Edwardsville campus.

The “Abraham Lincoln” painting is known affectionately as the “Smiling Lincoln.” It is so overlooked that even those who work next to it often do not realize the treasure they pass each day.

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff  pass the painting with little more than a sideways glance. Even this reporter had to ask where the painting was located.

“The university is very fortunate to have the painting,” Eric Barnett, Director of the University Museum, said.  “Paintings of a beardless and smiling Lincoln are quite rare.”

Paintings of a beardless Lincoln are valuable because most pictures and paintings of Lincoln often portray him with a beard. In correspondence with Grace Bedell, Lincoln debated the necessity of a beard.  If you would let your whiskers grow…you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin” Bidell wrote.

Copy of the letter from Lincoln to Bidell.

“Do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now,” was Lincoln’s response.

However, when he went to Washington, D.C., Lincoln had grown his beard out and it became a major part of his appearance.

SIUE acquired the painting when it purchased Shurtleff College, in Alton, IL, where the SIU School of Dentistry is now housed. Barnett also stated, “[the painting] was acquired by mistake. It wasn’t on the sale exclusion list.”

As the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s nomination comes up,everything about and by Lincoln is garnering more attention. The oil on canvas painting, 50” by 40”, was created by Alban J. Conant in 1860, soon after Lincoln’s  nomination as the Republican party candidate for president. November will mark the same milestone for Lincoln’s election to the nation’s highest office.

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