The first time John Sherman met Abraham Lincoln was on February 23, 1861, the day the President-elect arrived in Washington D. C. He arrived in disguise with his valet and bodyguard William H. Johnson after evading a suspected assassination in Baltimore. Sherman wrote of meeting Lincoln and his wife in his autobiography. The event happened at Willard’s Hotel, where Sheman was then staying. When he was introduced, Lincoln took both of Sherman’s hands and said, “You are John Sherman! Well, I am taller than you; let’s measure.” They then stood back to back and someone announced that Lincoln was two inches taller. Sherman said their conversation was cheerful and that a “congratulations for his escape from Baltimore ‘roughs’ was received with a laugh.”
Both of these men would later be immortalized by American Sculptor, Daniel Chester French. The statue of Lincoln, in the Lincoln Memorial, would become much more famous and is still one of the top tourist attractions in Washington D. C. today. Sherman inquired about a bust in 1886 while Senator. In a letter received by Sherman dated May 12, 1886, from French, French indicated the price for a marble bust sculpture was $1000 and that he would soon be in Washington D. C. to finish a bust of former Vice President Henry Wilson and that he could stay and begin Sherman’s if he desired.
French was born April 20, 1850, to Anne Richardson and Henry Flagg French. In 1867 the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts where French became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and decided to pursue sculpting under the influence of Lousia May Alcott’s sister, May. Though he is most famous for his Lincoln design, he also is credited with many other monuments and sculptures. This includes the Justice statue, which adorns the pediment of the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State in Manhattan and the bronze doors of the Boston Public Library.
The bust of John Sherman eventually came into the possession of his grandson, Lt. John Sherman McCallum, and was donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Memory of John Sherman in 1920. The bust is currently part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.