History Book – Sculpting Honest Abe


MARY REICHARD, HOST: The world and all in it: The WORLD History Book. Today, royal wedding bells are a saving breakthrough, and a young sculptor is carving a place for herself in history. Here’s senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.

MUSIC: “St. Patrick’s Day in the morning”

KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: President Abraham Lincoln was known in his day for his striking features. He was tall, measuring 6 feet, 4 inches. He had a high forehead and he was the first fully bearded president. These mustaches adorned chiseled cheekbones.


And the US government has determined that these distinct features should in fact be set in stone. So on July 28, 1866, a little over a year after Lincoln’s death, Congress awarded an order for a life-size marble statue of Honest Abe. The artist was a young sculptor: Lavinia “Vinnie” Ream.

Ream was only 18 when she got this commission. She was the youngest person and the first woman to be hired by the US government as an artist. But it wasn’t the first time she had sculpted Lincoln’s portrait. In 1864, the President accepted the Apprentice Sculptor’s request to sit for a bust. He would meet her half an hour a day, five months straight.

After Congress chose her to make a Lincoln sculpture posthumously, Ream came under public scrutiny. At a 2009 event at the Capitol Rotunda, Lincoln historian Harold Holzer reflected on the public reaction to the sculpture after its unveiling.

HOLZER: He was criticized by people who thought Congress had behaved inappropriately by paying so much money for a sculpture by such a young and untested artist …

However, he still stands at the Capitol Rotunda, depicting the President with a fixed, downward gaze. He holds the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand and wears the waistcoat, tie and coat he wore at Ford’s Theater the night he died.

Ream was only 23 when the statue was presented. She opened studios in New York and Washington, but withdrew from the art world when she became a wife and mother.

Now move from art to science.

SOUND: laboratory equipment

One hundred years have passed since researchers at the University of Toronto proved that the hormone insulin regulates blood sugar. The team of scientists, led by biochemist Frederick Banting, marked this achievement on July 27, 1921.

Before this breakthrough, people with diabetes followed horribly restrictive diets: an egg, a few green beans or Brussels sprouts, an olive. The children lost weight quickly, succumbing to the disease within weeks or months.

Shortly before Banting perfected his method, scientists began to suspect that a hormone in the pancreas was regulating blood sugar. They even called it insulin. But they couldn’t extract the substance; it broke down too quickly. With support from the University of Toronto, Banting and fellow student Charles Best devised a way to destroy cells that break down insulin, leaving insulin intact for extraction.

A 1958 Canadian short film, The quest, underlines Banting’s journey. Here is an excerpt from a meeting between the researcher and his mentor, Professor JJR McCleod, where Banting explains his plan.

THE QUEST: I extract the hormone from the parched pancreas, islet cells, and give it to a diabetic dog. The blood sugar of this dog is reduced, you have the proof. The isolated anti-diabetic principle, put to work!

Besides dogs, Banting and his company have experimented with fetal calves. Ultimately, pork and beef remained the main commercial sources of insulin until the late 1970s, when researchers created synthetic insulin. For their efforts, Banting and Best were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1923.

And we’ll end today’s episode with wedding bells.

ANNOUNCER: And so, out in the sun and the bells and wild fun as a palpable wave of affection and pride surges from the crowd (bells) …

It has been 40 years since Charles, Prince of Wales, married Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981.

The UK has made the long-awaited wedding day a national holiday. Charles, of course, was heir apparent to the British throne, while Diana came from a noble family but worked as a childminder. The idea of ​​the prince marrying an “everyday girl” has captured the hearts and eyes of the public. A global television audience of over 700 million people watched the ceremony.

ANNOUNCER: As haunting and romantic as a bride has touched the hearts of the world more than ever …

SONG: “Trumpet Voluntary” by Jeremiah Clarke

But, like most wedding days, there were a few hiccups. Diana spilled perfume on her dress and covered the spot with her hand during the ceremony. She also confused the order of Charles’s names during her vows:

CEREMONY:… Take yourself, Charles Philip Arthur George / Take yourself, Philip Charles Arthur George…

In all fairness, that’s a lot to remember. Charles, meanwhile, said he would offer his wife “your worldly goods” instead of “my worldly goods”. And the couple have shaken up the tradition that the bride promises to “obey” her husband.

The wedding cost around $ 48 million, up to $ 110 million, adjusted for inflation. Proof that an expensive marriage does not necessarily equate to a happy marriage, the union did not last.


Sadly, after separating in 1992, Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in 1996, a year before Diana died in a car accident.

This is this week’s history book. I am Katie Gaultney.

WORLD Radio transcriptions are created in the shortest possible time. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of WORLD Radio’s programming is the audio recording.

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