BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The nation he preserved more than 150 years ago has forty statues in honor of Abraham Lincoln – and probably many, many more – including those in downtown Bakersfield on Chester Avenue and the Truxtun Avenue.
But you need to know where to look to find it because unlike the statue of Father Garces in the middle of Garces Circle, it’s hidden from the sidewalk between two huge palm trees.
Lincoln rests on the side of the county’s Hall of Records where he faces a statue of Colonel Thomas Baker just across Truxtun Avenue.
The statue – actually a bust – was inaugurated 94 years ago as a gift from the Argonaut Club on February 12, 1927, and was a major event in this city of 26,000 at the time.
Swedish-born sculptor Peter David Edstrom grew up in Iowa and settled in Los Angeles. The Lincoln sculpture in Bakersfield – one of three known replicas – is a copy of the sculpture he worked on for four years and which it unveiled in LA in 1925. The other replicas are in Riverside and Redlands. Edstrom called it “The Monumental Lincoln”.
It may seem difficult to fathom, but Lincoln’s image had gained a little more prominence lately. He did not always express beliefs about racial relationships that we would adopt today – after he once denounced interracial marriage in 1857.
Well-known sculptor Benjamin Victor, a native Bakersfield-American who now works in Idaho, says it is problematic to judge historical figures by today’s standards.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to ever downplay our heroes’ mistakes,” he said. “If it brings up something that evokes deeper thoughts about their heritage, that’s fine with me. That’s history. “
But judging 19th century numbers through 21st century eyes is exactly what the San Francisco Board of Education did last month when it voted to remove the names of 44 people, including Lincoln – whose Native American policies were criticized – and George Washington, who owned slaves, of 44 schools in the city.
The move further cemented San Francisco’s image as a bastion of liberalism. Democratic strategist Brian Brokaw said after the 6-1 vote: “We have become parodies of ourselves.”
Presidents have been on the news for the past six weeks – two presidents in particular – and many of us look forward to not hearing from them for a while.
Aside from the opinions of the San Francisco Board of Education, the rest of us should be able to agree on the virtues of this man who keeps watch where we live.
The downtown bust of Abe Lincoln is not the only homage to the 16th President in Bakersfield. The Bakersfield City School District office on Baker Street – formerly Lincoln Junior High – also contains a statue of the Great Emancipator.