Couple donates Lincoln portrait to Catawba College

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Catawba College News Service
An oil painting of President Abraham Lincoln made a circuitous route across the country before arriving at its new home at Catawba College. The painting, given to Catawba by Salisbury newcomers Rodger and Mary Lindsay, was officially unveiled Feb. 17 during a college trustees’ luncheon held in the Corriher-Linn-Black Library on campus.
The painting was purchased from Newman Galleries in Philadelphia, Pa., in the early 1900s by Rodger Lindsay’s maternal grandfather, Louis H. Swind. Swind, a manufacturer’s representative and a great admirer of President Lincoln, hung the unsigned portrait in his office, where it stayed for 50 years.
After Swind’s death, the painting passed through the family to Rodger Lindsay, who held onto it for another 50 years. Lindsay carried the painting across the country to San Diego, California, where he and Mary made their home until they moved last year to Salisbury.
Lindsay said he had shown a photograph of the painting to the retired owner of Newman Galleries who called it a “fine piece,” painted by a leading portraitist in the area. Newman noted the work was unsigned because it was copy work and many artists supplemented their income that way and, “of course, could not sign their own name.”
The Lindsays believe the unsigned painting now hanging in Catawba’s library is a copy of the same Lincoln portrait hanging in the President Barack Obama’s Oval Office.
Lindsay said he and wife Mary “are very pleased to give this painting to Catawba College and trust it will be treasured and inspire thought and interest in this great man.” When the couple made the gift, Lindsay said, they had no idea they were doing so in the 200th birthday year of President Lincoln.
At the luncheon unveiling of Lincoln’s portrait, Catawba College President Craig Turner explained how he and wife Annette’s belongings, along with Lindsays’ belongings (including the portrait), arrived in Salisbury on the same moving van. Rodger Lindsay’s cousin, Darril Fortson, is the owner of Salisbury Movers. It was one of Fortson’s trucks that picked up the Lindsays’ belongings in San Diego, and then made a stop in Abilene, Texas, to pick up the Turners’ belongings. It was through that move the Lindsays and the Turners met and the Lindsays were introduced to Catawba College.
“The Lindsays are a terrific couple and wanted to make sure this fine portrait had a good home,” Turner said. “We’re grateful to them for their gift, and hope Catawba students find inspiration from simply viewing it.”
‘Lies They Tell about Lincoln’
To coincide with the unveiling of the Lincoln portrait at the Corriher-Linn-Black Library, Dr. Gary Freeze, a Catawba College professor of history, offered a short lecture, “Lies They Tell about Lincoln,” following the trustees luncheon.
Freeze noted that Lincoln has had more books written about him than anyone else. He said what historians do is “figure out where the lies are,” noting that “evidence is how you read it.”
He said some historians contend that Lincoln was born in Rutherfordton, that he was born before his parents were actually married, that he had a rocky courtship with Mary Todd and was actually in love with someone else and that he suffered from bouts of deep depression and took mercury to treat it.
History is also about consensus, Freeze explained, and what most historians agree about Lincoln is that he had a sense of humanity. They also collectively affirm that Lincoln was a Whig (the forerunner of the Republican Party) who believed in a strong national party and in the centrality of morality.
“Before the Civil War,” Freeze noted, “people said ‘the United States are’ because the states were considered separate entities. After the Civil War, people said ‘United States is’ because the union of states was considered to be one entity.
“What is undeniable about him was what he changed. During his administration (and during wartime), the dome of the Capitol was finished. It was a symbol of what he wanted the nation to be ó complete and united.”