Brandon Bird: King of the Cage (2001)

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Oil on canvas – Private collection

Illustrator Brandon Bird painted “King of the Cage,” which portrays the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as a cage fighter.  This plays on the well-known fact that Lincoln wrestled professionally in his younger years.  However, the wrestling in Lincoln’s day was much different than the modern wrestling shown in the painting.

This past Lincoln Day, WWE.com covered a story about Lincoln’s wrestling past and included its own interesting visual with Lincoln as WWE champion.

These portrayals celebrate Lincoln the cultural icon.  However, history’s celebration of Lincoln’s politics may be just as accurate.  Lincoln the Cage Fighter may be as realistic as Lincoln the Great Emancipator or Lincoln the Greatest President.

In his 2003 book The Real Lincoln, libertarian historian and economist Thomas DiLorenzo paints a sinister image of Lincoln the Tyrant who waged an unnecessary Civil War.  This work tarnishes Lincoln’s legacy and criticizes those who constructed the myth of Lincoln.  The book makes clear to readers exactly why Booth uttered sic semper tyrannis after assassinating the president.

While it may be fun to celebrate the mythic Lincoln, perhaps the stories of Honest Abe are best enjoyed in the way we enjoy professional wrestling today—placing reality on hold, momentarily.

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