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Lincoln Bust


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Syttende Mai in 1914 a number of Norwegian-Americans living in North Dakota marked the occasion by presenting a gift to their Norwegian brethren still living in the old country. Inspired by a similar work of art at Gettysburg, the group decided to commission a bust of Abraham Lincoln, collected the needed money and hired the then little-known Norwegian-American artist Paul Fjelde to sculpt it.

Paul Fjelde would eventually achieve international fame as an artist, with works adorning the Federal Street Building in Boston, the Indiana Statehouse, the Minneapolis Art Institute and Lindbergh Field in San Diego. However, in 1913 the twenty-one year old alumnus of Valley City State Normal School was an unknown commodity. The bust of Lincoln was Fjelde’s first major commission.

After a year of labor Fjelde had completed his work and a collection of prominent North Dakotans traveled to Norway to present the bust of Lincoln as gift from the people of North Dakota. Speaking at the July 4 dedication ceremony were North Dakota Governor Louis B. Hanna, and Smith Stimmel, the Fargo man who had previously served as one of Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguards.

For two and a half decades Fjelde’s work stood silently at Frogner Park in Oslo. But following Germany’s invasion of Norway in World War II, the Lincoln bust was made a rallying point for Norwegian protests. Beginning on the first July 4th of the Nazi occupation of Norway in 1940, until the war’s end in 1945, thousands of Norwegians assembled around the bust and stood with their heads bowed, in silent protest of their Nazi occupiers. The Nazis, who traditionally suffered no challenge to their authority, allowed the protests at the statue to continue.

The bust of Abraham Lincoln still stands in Oslo, and remains the only statue in Frogner Park not created by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. For those not able to travel the thousands of miles to Norway, North Dakotans can still see Fjelde’s sculpture of our 16th President. The original plaster cast now resides in the Allen Memorial Library at Valley City State University, and a replica of the bust, which was dedicated on this day September 8, 1918, can be found in front of the Traill County Courthouse in Hillsboro, North Dakota.


Collin, Rick, "Working Plan for the Lincoln Bicentennial in North Dakota: November 2006", The State Historical Society of North Dakota, etc

http://www.nd.gov/hist/LincolnFinalWorkPlan11_07.pdf (accessed July 9, 2008).

Nemenoff, Ben, "Fjelde, Paul", North Dakota Council on the Arts http://www.nd.gov/arts/artist_archive/F/Fjelde_Paul.htm (accessed July 9, 2008).

"Paul Fjelde", VCSU Alumni Association http://alumni.vcsu.edu/awards/vp.htm?p=106|&inf=244|#244 (accessed November 13, 2007).

Welsh, Donald H. "Lincoln Bust Has Interesting History." In Cornerstones: A Centennial History of Valley City State University 1890-1990, 97-98. Valley City, ND: Valley City Times - Record, 1990.