Tag Archives: Lincoln

Rubbing Abe Lincoln’s Nose

Background: The informant  is a 22 year old male currently living in San Luis Obispo, California. The superstition was told to her by his past girlfriend, X, who attended University of Madison-Wisconsin. He stayed with her for a summer at the college and is well versed in the community.

Context: The informant shared the context when the UW-Madison was brought into conversation while over the phone, as was speaking about past trips around the United States.


WC: So, at UW-Madison there’s this Abraham Lincoln statue on campus. It’s a statue of Lincoln, where he is sitting in a chair and he is staring out, sternly. It’s a pretty large statue, you’ll have to climb up and reach his head.

Me: What do students do with him?

WC: People will do a lot of different things. The most common I heard was that students would rub his nose for good luck. I think they also rub his feet. You can see this on the statue because it’s worn down a bit. [X] also told me that her friends would sometimes climb up onto his lab and whisper things, like their dreams after graduation, into his ear.

Me: Has it always been like this in history?

WC: I’m pretty sure. I believe people will also dress Lincoln up, depending on the time of year, just to celebrate whatever was happening on campus. It’s pretty cool.


Informant:  As he wasn’t part of the college and was looking in from the outside perspective, it’s clear he thought the tradition was very unique and popular enough to report on. He has seen the statue and noticed the physical marks that folklore left behind on it.

Mine: The statue represents that signs of good luck do not need something small that can be carried around by the person. Instead, they can be large objects that are stationary, all that matters if what is put into it. For instance, with the Lincoln statue, there is the want to have good luck or the wish for their dreams to come true. People believe in this statue because it’s something personal to their school, making it intimate to them. Also, Lincoln is a very popular figure in the Midwest, and likely was chosen as a symbol of good luck because he is generally seen as someone who brings good tidings, can end conflict, and more. He is an example of a historical figure that has taken on a somewhat folkloric role as time has passed on. He nearly doesn’t seem real, but simply a figment of fantasy.