The Touch of an Uncommon Man

The tactility of Abraham Lincoln reveals a lot about his perceptions, how others perceived him, and antebellum American democracy

To say that Abraham Lincoln is one of America's most iconographic presidents is to say something important about the way we sense him. As an icon, we see him, visualize him, process him through the eye — and with good reason. His body was visually arresting, he was the first president photographed at his inauguration, and his image was widely disseminated. It lingers, seemingly ubiquitous, on pennies and $5 bills, in marble, on statues, and in photographs. As we approach the