Lily Tolpo, Lincoln and Douglas in Debate Sculpture


A Miniature of her Freeport, IL Commission 

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Lily Tolpo’s Lincoln and Douglas in Debate, was commissioned by the town of Freeport, IL to commemorate the second Lincoln Douglas Debate, which took place in Freeport on August 27, 1858. Dedicated on the 134th anniversary of the debate, the sculpture is installed at Debate Square.

The question Lincoln posed at Freeport, “could the people of a territory in any lawful way, against the wishes of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from their limits prior to formation of a state constitution?” Douglas had answered this question before. Lincoln knew what the answer would be. However Lincoln was also aware that the Debates had become a national forum, thanks to the telegraph and the newspapers.

In the end, Douglas held his senate seat, but his support of slaveholders caused a split in the Democratic party. As a result, the Democrats ran two candidates for the presidential election in 1860. The split gave the contest to the Republicans, who had nominated Abraham Lincoln as their presidential candidate. 

This sculpture features a seated Lincoln, with his famous hat next to him on the stage. His face is solemn and thoughtful. Douglas takes a classic orator pose. His face seems angry and determined. Both me are on a planked stage. The piece is cast in dark bronze; the color is close to cast iron. 

Tolpo, Lily. Lincoln and Douglas in Debate. Bronze Sculpture. Signed on back of Lincoln’s chair, Lily Tolpo/1990/11/150. 11″ x 10″ x 8. 

About Lily Tolpo…

Born in 1917, Chicago, Illinois, Lily Tolpo established her reputation as a portrait, abstract and genre painter as well as an abstract and portrait sculptor – particularly of American Historical figures. Her work appears across the USA as well as internationally.

She was raised in Chicago, Illinois and was the eldest of five children in a Chinese/Polish American family. As a pre-school child she was aptly named, ” The Little Artist.” Additional encouragement came later in Chicago Public Schools with selection of her soap carving presentation in the Smithsonian Museum (Washington, D.C.)

She received a scholarship to the Chicago Academy Fine Arts, in from 1935-1939; she made her professional debut in 1941 at a one-artist show sponsored by the Illinois Society of Fine Art at the Chicago Drake Hotel.

She has been referenced in Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who of American Women, Artists of Renown, and the Dictionary of International Biography. Lily Tolpo is also listed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Catalog of American Portraits.

Lily has published works including: The Turning Point, a biographical painting celebrating the centennial of the Black Hawk Wars of 1832 and the Freeport Doctrine, a biographical painting that was part of the Lincoln and Douglas in Debate Statue project, which includes this sculpture.

Lily Tolpo also has 52 of her Biological Portraits (a layered depiction of the subject with overlaid illustrations of the their history in the background) that were done for the Leadership Awards of Chicago historical figures, one of which, is Delores E. Cross President of Chicago State University. 

Some of her most noted works include: Law and Justice, a corten steel chandelier located at the Waukegan IL. Courthouse… I Am, a bas relief of cold cast bronze, the first in a series of six, for St. Paul Episcopal Church in Savanna IL., as well as, Minuteman, a bronze figurine for the Minutemen of America in Peoria IL.

Lily Tolpo Public Sculptures are: Lincoln & Douglas in Debate, a life sized bronze sculpture of figures in action located on the debate site in Freeport IL. Whoofle, the Magic Dragon, found in Ross Garden at Krape Park in Freeport IL. and the bronze monument statue of Julia Dent Grant is at The Ulysses S. Grant Home in Galena, Illinois. Her bust of Mary Lincoln is one of the few of the first lady.

In 2009, Lily Tolpo received The Laureate for Order of Lincoln Award by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois Bicentennial Convocation in recognition of her many accomplishments.

The Freeport Illinois Noon Rotary Club Foundation and the Rotary International commissioned Lily Tolpo to create for their ongoing Literacy and the Arts project, The Reading Lincoln; it was dedicated in 2011 at the Freeport Library in Freeport, Illinois.

There are several sculptures by Lily Tolpo in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, as well.

Lily Tolpo portraits, landscapes, music abstract paintings, abstract paintings and sculptures, as well as, the Great Americans sculpture series grace many private collections throughout the USA and Europe.


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