Boise Art

Abe the Ogre - Sportin' the Biggest Boots Around

Chamber of Commerce Description

Presented to the City of Boise in June of 2010, this larger-than-life depiction of Honest Abe sitting on a bench has quickly become a popular destination in Julia Davis Park. Located just east of the Idaho Black History Museum, this bronze piece gives everyone the chance to sit next to our sixteenth president and share a story or two. We hear he had a whole passel of them, and most of them were real rib ticklers.

Boise's sculpture is an enlarged reproduction of a sculpture created in 1911 by Gutzon Borglum, who happens to be the same person who masterminded the creation of Mount Rushmore. Believe it or not, Borglum was actually born in Idaho. When you consider that Abe Lincoln was president when Idaho became a territory, this gives Borglum's sculpture a double tie to our beloved Gem State.

The original Borglum sculpture is located on the grounds of the Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, and was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on Memorial Day 1911. The Boise reproduction of the sculpture was executed by Irene Deely, who is known by many folks in the area as the Woman of Steel. She's a pretty prolific artist in these parts, and she's gotten a lot of press for her works such as the Airport Teepee and Liberty Let's Roll!.

The planning and effort taken to reproduce Borglum's original piece is pretty impressive and is highly recommended reading.

My Description

You can't appreciate the size of this sculpture until you stick your kid on it and compare Abe's boot with yours. It's a huge piece, which perfectly symbolizes Lincoln's unusual height and his boundless legacy. You've got to give it up to Borglum; he was a talented dude, and his sculpture portrays Lincoln in a pensive posture undercut by worry and fatigue.

That's all fine and good. The real interesting stuff here is not about Lincoln. According to our friends at PBS, Gutzon Borglum was "born in 1867 to one of the wives of a Danish Mormon bigamist." The whole multiple-wives thing is not incredibly outlandish, considering the practice was easy to find in Southeastern Idaho at the time. What is a bit outlandish is the fact that the two wives involved were sisters. Talk about keeping it in the family. To make things even more interesting, Borglum's father later decided he didn't want to be a Mormon anymore and ditched his second wife, who happened to be Gutzon Borglum's mother. Yikes!

It's obvious Borglum admired Lincoln a lot, because this isn't the only Lincoln piece he created. He also sculpted a marble bust of Lincoln that is at the US Capitol. Even more telling, Borglum also named his only son after Lincoln. Still, despite all this admiration, Borglum didn't exactly shun the confederacy that Lincoln gave his life to defeat. In 1923 Borglum began work on a Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was to depict Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. During this time, Borglum also rubbed elbows with the KKK, who were major donors to the project. Borglum even became a member of the Klan himself. Although he eventually had a falling out with the organizers of the project and left Georgia with only the Lee head finished on the side of the mountain, one can easily see ol' Abe rolling in his grave at the mere thought of all that Confederate tomfoolery.

Boise-the-Great Name: Abe the Ogre
Real Name: Seated Lincoln
Type: Bronze Sculpture
Original Artist: Gutzon Borglum
Artist: Irene Deely
Completed: 2010
Where: Julia Davis Park

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