Laughing Lincoln Unveiled

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The long-awaited Laughing Lincoln sculpture was unveiled in Central Park.

While most statues of Abraham Lincoln depict him as president, this life-size statue sets him at 30 years old – his age when he was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives.

That made for some challenges in depicting him.

“There was not a lot of photography in 1839; there was when he was president some 20 years later. So most photographs of him are later when he’s bearded,” said Brand Bobosky, president of Naperville Century Walk. “He was 30 years old, clean-shaven, nobody really knew he was in fact cause he was new in the legislature.”

And instead of appearing as a stern and serious statesman, he’s portrayed mid-laughter as if he just told a knee-slapper.

The artist, David Alan Clark, spent a lot of his time on the piece trying to find the right expression to portray that jovial laughter, without making Lincoln look bad.

“Everyone has pounds and pounds of family photos where somebody gets stopped mid-action and they just look goofy,” said David Alan Clark, sculptor of Laughing Lincoln. “So it’s a bit of a study to get it to the point where it’s a natural reaction, happy smile, happy laugh, and you don’t want to put it in the back of the photo album.”

The wise-cracking president even made an in-person appearance at the dedication.

“Stephen Douglas once said in a debate we were having that I was two-faced. I put it to the good people listening ‘if I had two faces would I be wearing this one?’” said a Lincoln impersonator.

The statue has some local significance too.

Lincoln and Joseph Naper served in the Illinois House at the same time, and they worked together to achieve personal goals – Lincoln to move the Illinois capital from Vandalia to Springfield, and Naper to separate DuPage County from Cook County.

Central Park is where the DuPage County’s first courthouse sat; land which Naperville notable Don Wehrli fought to keep public.

“Don Wehrli was a champion of Central Park,” said Mary Lou Wehrli, Don’s daughter. “He spent many years, many hours, trying to convince people that the property where the original DuPage County Court House stood, the 3.82 acres, was deeded to the public by the county in 1875.”

And now, you don’t have to make the trip to Springfield rub Lincoln’s lucky nose.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.