Historical Figures

Dallin and his wife were born in 1861. The Civil War, which also began that year, re-ignited a passion for the values that had been at the core of the American experience that dated from the arrival of the Pilgrims, particularly the pursuit of freedom.

The illustrious figures who are the subjects of Dallin’s historical sculptures trace the evolution of freedom in the US, from the nation’s origins through the artist’s lifetime. Dallin’s iconic Paul Revere, that he labored for 58 years to bring to fruition, champions the American belief in taking rightful action in defense of liberty. Dallin portrays the preservation of democratic republican government and the abolition of slavery with his General Sherman, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Julia Ward Howe. Two figures from the First World War represent the ongoing battle against tyranny in the artist’s lifetime.  A founder of the women’s rights movement as well as a Civil War poet, Julia Ward Howe exemplifies a new struggle for freedom that continues into the 21st century.

As well as espousing the prevailing view of American history in Dallin’s time, the artist’s historical sculptures shape our perspective of the appearance of the nation’s iconic figures.

 

Paul Revere

Paul Revere No. 5

Plaster, 1899
P.P. Caproni and Brothers cast
Gift of students and parents of the Locke School

On his famous ride in 1775, Paul Revere rode past the future home of the Cyrus E. Dallin Museum, to be built some 50 years later. A youthful Dallin won the competition for Boston’s Paul Revere Monument in 1882 at the age of 21. Nevertheless, his quest to complete the commission was a 58-year test of perseverance and resolve. Dallin created seven different versions (shown in photos in the gallery) before it was finally installed in bronze at Old North Church in 1940. This fifth version was reproduced in plaster and widely marketed by the Caproni Brothers.  It became an American sculptural icon in the early 20th century, so much so that the Marx Brothers parodied it in their movie, Duck Soup.

 

General Sherman

General Sherman

Plaster, 1895
Permanent loan, the Murray family

It remains a mystery why Dallin’s entry for the General Sherman Monument in Washington, DC was omitted from the official record of the competition, held by the Society of the Army of Tennessee. The sculpture itself vanished for almost a century when its owners moved to South Carolina. That the work survived for so long in a region where Sherman is still reviled for his actions in the Civil War is something of a miracle. The Museum restored the sculpture in 2006 with a new sword for Sherman and a new tail for his horse. Although Dallin did not win the competition, the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (Paul Revere was its first president) awarded him a Silver Medal for the sculpture. The medal, by Christian Gobrecht, was rediscovered in the cornerstone of Arlington’s Cyrus E. Dallin Elementary School.

 

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe

Plaster, c. 1914
P.P. Caproni and Brother cast
Museum purchase

Abolitionist Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) is the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After the Civil War, she became a champion of women’s rights. (Some speculate that it was a response to her difficult marriage.) Julia Ward Howe was the first president of the New England Women’s Suffrage Association and instrumental in creating Mother’s Day. Her husband, the abolitionist and Transcendentalist Samuel Gridley Howe, was the esteemed educator and manager of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.