A road as the memorial? Lincoln Cent Coin

Today, the Lincoln Cent Coin with its memorial reverse tells the story of the ideas put forth for the Lincoln Memorial.

First, on February 9, 1911, Public Law 346 in the sixty-first Congress passed: An Act to provide a commission to secure plans and designs for a monument or memorial to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Also on February 9, 1911, the Gettysburg Times printed an article describing part of the debates in Congress regarding the desire for the memorial to be a road from Washington to Gettysburg:


For And Against The Lincoln Way

The Debate in Congress over the Proposed Lincoln Monument Brings to Light Friends and Enemies of Memorial Road Plan.

It is interesting to read how much—or how little—consideration the Lincoln Way project received in the House of Representatives during the debate on the bill appropriating $2,000,000 for the erection of a memorial to the martyr president in that city. The debate which included the suggestion that the memorial might be a triumphial arch entrance to the way from Washington to Gettysburg was in part as follows:

Mr. McCall: “A half century nearly after his death and the close of the Civil War there is nothing in the city of Washington to remind one that Abraham Lincoln ever existed except perhaps that scarecrow in front of the District court building and the statue of which all must speak in terms of veneration and respect which was raised by the contribution of ex-slaves. We have a great monument here to Washington and are soon to have a splendid memorial to Grant, and the object of this bill is to provide that there shall be erected here in this city a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. We were unable two years ago to procure the passage of suitable legislation because of the advocacy of so many different plans. There was a plan for a bridge, there was a plan for some sort of structure in the new parkway, there was also a plan for a way to Gettysburg. All of these plans had more or less merit in them, but on account of the advocacy of all of them none was adopted.

“I have nothing to say about the proposed plan of a way to Gettysburg, but it is very obvious that it brings in a new question and used the fame of Lincoln to settle upon a policy upon which there is much discussion. If we build a magnificent highway through the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania to Gettysburg we shall have established a precedent which will be utilized for the purpose of having the National Government construct great ways at enormous expenses in other states. What, for instance, could be more striking than a great highway from the city of Washington to the city of Richmond, which, but for Lincoln, might have been the capitols of two hostile nations, going through a country every inch of which was fought over by contending armies for three or four years? What could be more fitting also, than a highway from Philadelphia to New York through the region over which George Washington drove the British in the Revolutionary War? So we do not wish to complicate the simple question of having a memorial to Lincoln in the city of Washington with any of these other propositions, and the object of this bill is to secure its consideration by a commission.”

Mr. Bartholdt: “I am heartily in favor of this bill, Mr. Speaker, but, if I construe correctly the remarks of the gentleman from Massachusetts, the commission might feel inclined to eliminate this plan for a highway because of his objection. If I understand, this bill does not confine the commission to any particular plan or form of a memorial.”

Mr. McCall: “No, it does not confine the commission to any plan, but it provides for the erection of a memorial in the city of Washington. Now, it will be entirely within the authority of the commission to recommend a memorial arch, for instance, at the proposed terminus of this way to Gettysburg, or something of that sort, but I should not consider it within the scope of the authority of this bill to provide for the construction of a highway outside of the District of Columbia, either to Gettysburg or to Richmond, although it would be proper if we reach any conclusion favorable to either of those projects for the commission to report that conclusion to Congress.”

Mr. Bartholdt: “Of course I shall not oppose the bill with the statement of the gentleman from Massachusetts, but desire to express my regret that the hands of the commission should be tied to that extent. I think that probably a highway to Gettysburg, as a memorial to the memory of Lincoln, would be more compatible with the character of his life than any mere statue or monument would be, and there are a great many people in this city and in the country who believe that would be a better way to memorialize Lincoln than by a mere monument. I am very sorry this bill will not permit the commission even to consider favorably a plan of that kind.”

Mr. Manu: “Many of us are very glad, however.”

Mr. Gillet: “I will say, for one, that I am very glad it did not.”


Imagine, a road, the Lincoln Way, instead of the larger-than-life Lincoln Memorial.

Somehow, a road just would not honor the man’s stature nor garner the same respect and remembrance as the memorial.

Of course, a Lincoln Highway does from San Francisco to New York —in operation since 1913.

The Lincoln Cent Coin shows against a background of the Lincoln Memorial with the reflecting pool.

Lincoln Cent Coin