The bronze replica reveals the asymmetry of Lincoln’s face. One side droops a little, perhaps the result of a childhood illness,
PHOTOS BY ALLISON POTTER
the White House, looking out the window, and a soldier comes in with a piece of paper. And the paper says Chickamauga
lost, 30,000 dead. And he drops the paper on the floor and looks out the window with this expression. To me, that’s what it
was, that’s what it represented.”
The mask also represented the culmination of what seemed like almost a lifelong quest. It would remain in his bedroom, in
the center of all the other important people in his life, for him to enjoy, every morning and evening, for the rest of his life.
But a few years ago, Short began to view it in a different light. This was a lost piece of American art, and a piece of
American history. Was it selfish to keep this true representation of arguably the country’s greatest president to himself?
Was there a responsibility to share it?
In 2016, Short was commissioned to restore a painting for the owners of Carolina Bronze in Seagrove, North
Carolina. Seagrove is justifiably famous for the many world-class potters who call the area home, but the foundry has
earned a reputation of its own. Its casts and sculptures appear all over the world.
While he was restoring the painting, Short discussed his terra cotta mask. He and the owners discussed casting it in
bronze and he soon held the first of a planned 1,865 copies. Short and Hamm, a longtime friend, then formed the gal-lery
to display and sell the bronzes.
“John reached out to me a couple of years ago and said this is a stunning likeness, and it’s really special,” Hamm says.
“At the time he knew nothing, he didn’t know who Gage was. We decided to move forward with this project even before
we knew this amazing backstory. It’s not just a piece of art. It’s a piece of history. This is an American masterpiece, as far
as we see it.”
Shortly after being cast, the bronze began to garner attention outside North Carolina. Washburn University, Gage’s
alma mater, purchased the first copy.
“They paid us to ship it, but we said it’s the first sale, we want to hand-deliver it,” Short says. “They combined it with a
lecture by Lincoln historian Harold Holzer. That was the first time he had seen it. He immediately changed his speech to
open with the Volk mask and how it was done.”