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In Land of Lincoln, getting a dose of luck from Abe’s nose

Born on Honest Abe's birthday, columnist salutes 16th president

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD — It doesn’t seem like a decade has passed since my then-4-year-old daughter, Grace, announced that her luck had run out — and something needed to be done.

“Daddy, I rubbed Mr. Lincoln’s nose for good luck two weeks ago, but now my luck is all gone. We need to go to Mr. Lincoln’s tomb right away,” she told me with more than a bit of desperation in her voice.

With Lincoln’s birthday approaching, I got to thinking about that long-ago trip to Springfield’s shrine to Illinois’ martyred saint.

Going to the tomb and rubbing the nose of the Abraham Lincoln statue for luck is one of the more unusual of Illinois’ customs.

Sightseers in the state capital notice that the nose of Lincoln is shiny from visitors’ touches. In fact, it’s touched so often that a metal smith periodically is dispatched to fix the nose when a hole is rubbed through.

The statue was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who also shaped Mount Rushmore.

When you are born in Illinois on Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb. 12, as I was, you quickly become immersed in Lincoln lore.

School children are taught at an early age to revere Lincoln. My second-grade teacher told my class how he walked five miles to return 6 cents to a friend, and that is how he came to be known as “Honest Abe.”

When my daughter Grace asked to be taken to Lincoln’s Tomb on a chilly Sunday a decade ago, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. That tomb just plain creeps me out.

Maybe it’s not an idol. But it’s certainly a graven image many in the Prairie State revere.

Folks travel to the tomb to lay Lincoln pennies on the headstone of the original burial place of the Great Emancipator.

Despite my misgivings, my daughter continued to pester me to take her to see Mr. Lincoln’s tomb.

So, we drove to Oak Ridge Cemetery, which is just a few minutes from our house. Grace scampered to that statue and said, “Lift me up, Daddy. Lift me.”

After she gave Lincoln’s nose a vigorous rub, she hit me up for three pennies.

She left one at the tomb — and kept two for herself.

Maybe the nose rubbers weren’t the most gullible to visit the cemetery that day.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and freelance reporter. His email address is

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