This plaster study for a larger bronze sculpture was made by the prominent Illinois sculptor, educator, and writer Lorado Taft. The full-scale bronze statue was erected in Urbana, Illinois, in 1926, where it still stands today. The sculpture was a commission made possible through a bequest of a family that had known Lincoln during his circuit lawyer days from 1837-1848. Taft explains his choice to portray the young Lincoln of this period: "He was not 'the martyred president' all of his life. I need not show him as a man of sorrows, but as an earnest good humored orator, stating his case. I shall model him leaning slightly backward, supported by both hands on an imagined desk."
Lorado Taft championed the cause of sculpture in the United States as essential in the formation of our young nation's identity. He wrote of himself as an "artist citizen," someone who did more than just pay his taxes to his country. In a speech at a dedication of a sculptural group in his hometown of Elmwood, Illinois, Taft stated "...it would give me great joy to be able to place in every community some work of art that would make permanent the traditions around which it was founded. I should like to help in making all communities interesting to themselves."
Taft wrote that public sculpture should inspire and that "one thing that separates us from our brother animals is the fact that we can send messages down through the generations. We can send greetings to a world unborn.”