Hats off

Along with bragging rights, the winner of this weekend's Illinois-Northwestern game will get a small bronze top-hat -- the first-ever Land of Lincoln Trophy. Read about the trophy, which is designed by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Dick Locher, and how it came about.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Starting with this Saturday's meeting between Northwestern and Illinois -- the 103rd all-time gridiron clash -- the two schools will play for a new rivalry prize: the Land of Lincoln Trophy.

The two schools previously battled for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy. But that trophy was retired last year out of respect to Native Americans. Northwestern and Illinois played for the Sweet Sioux for 64 consecutive seasons -- 1945 to 2008.

The new trophy idea was the result of an online vote by Northwestern and Illinois fans this past spring. "Land of Lincoln" edged three other finalists: President's Trophy (named after the state's four presidents), Popcorn Bowl (named after the Illinois state snack) and the Graham-Grange Fire Bell (named after two of the greatest players at each school).

Once the name was determined, an artist was chosen to design a stove-top hat, a signature apparel item of President Abraham Lincoln. The man who designed the trophy was Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Dick Locher, an editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune as well as the artist who helped bring the Dick Tracy cartoon strip to life.

Locher, a graduate of the University of Iowa, was thrilled when asked to create the new trophy. "As a graduate of a Big Ten institution, I know how significant and meaningful rivalry trophy games are to each school," he said. "It was a labor of love to do this."

Locher, with the aid of a sculptor's scalpel, spent about 20 hours creating the clay version of the hat, which was modeled after an authentic Lincoln hat. Locher researched the Lincoln hat with photographs and information from the Smithsonian Institute. The hat that Locher used to design the trophy was one that Lincoln wore while he delivered the Gettysburg Address.

After the clay model was completed, the hat was sent to a foundry in Beloit, Wis., where it was bronzed at a temperature of 2100 degrees. The hat was then placed on a wood base measuring 14 by 14 inches. The trophy, along with a walnut base, weighs 28.5 pounds.

The Land of Lincoln Trophy will reside in the press box for the first half of Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium and then on the field for the second half.

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