Why Does Wyoming Have An Abraham Lincoln Memorial?
On the drive from Cheyenne to Laramie, visitors to the Gem City of the Plains are often perplexed to discover the wise face of Abraham Lincoln peering down at them. Of course, Abe's presence is normal for us locals and goes unquestioned, but as I drove past him today, I couldn't help but wonder: why does Wyoming have an Abraham Lincoln monument? After all, Wyoming had yet to become a U.S. territory when Lincoln was President; he'd never visited Wyoming - the first President to visit was Grant in 1868, but I digress. As it turns out, the Lincoln Memorial Monument has an interesting history.
How President Abraham Lincoln Got His Wyoming Monument
The story of Laramie's presidential landmark began on July 1, 1862, when President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. The act offered governmental aid to "men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest" in the U.S.'s first transcontinental railroad. The transcontinental railroad tracks would reach the Wyoming Territory by 1867, bringing with them the pioneers that would settle our state.
Now, fast forward to 1959 when the Wyoming Parks Commission decided to commemorate President Lincoln's 150th Birthday with a giant bronze statue. Their reason for raising Abe above the Lincoln Highway? Well, he did help launch the railroad that contributed to the growth of Wyoming cities like Laramie.
From Mexico to Laramie, Lincoln's Journey to Wyoming
The bust of Lincoln made quite the journey to rest upon its current home. Artist Robert Russin designed and built the bust in Mexico City, utilizing 4,500 pounds of bronze to create his masterpiece. The complete work rises over 40-ft tall; its 12.5-ft bust sits atop 30-ft of Wyoming granite. In 1959, the bust traveled along the railroad and highway under armed guards to its original resting place on Sherman Summit, where it stayed for a decade before moving to its current abode above I-80.
Lincoln's Legacy in Laramie
Today, the Lincoln Memorial Monument on I-80 is the only monument to the U.S.'s 16th president along the Lincoln Highway. The massive 12.5 ft tall bust remains the largest in the country and marks the highest point of the first transcontinental railroad line.
Against the gorgeous backdrop of Medicine Bow and Wyoming's serene blue skies, Abraham Lincoln continues to guard the road into Laramie. His craggy features mirror the rugged mountains and bronze-colored hills that descend into the Gem City of the Plains, encapsulating the beauty of Wyoming and an icon of American history.
Visitors can stop to admire the monument by stopping at the Summit Rest Area off I-80. Or, you can just give Abe a wave as you drive past on your trip into Laramie.