Archive for Ezra Cornell
Judge Douglas(s) Broadman became the first Dean of the Cornell University Law School in 1887 when Hermon MacNeil was on the faculty. After the Judge’s death in 1891, MacNeil was commissioned to sculpt a bust of Professor Boardman for the University. This was one of MacNeil’s earliest works in marble. At the time he was residing in Chicago working on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition
MacNeil taught modeling of sculpture at Cornell from 1886-89. He would have known Broadman who came to teach Law in 1887 after a distinguished career on the bench
According to Cornell Archives:
Douglass Boardman graduated from Yale in 1842 and then studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1845 and practiced law in Ithaca, New York. From 1848-1851 he served as District Attorney of Tompkins County, New York, and from 1852-1856 was County Judge. In 1856 he and Judge Francis M. Finch formed a law partnership which continued until 1866 when Boardman was elected a justice of the Supreme Court for the 6th district. He was a director of the First National Bank of Ithaca from its organization in 1864 and became its president in 1884; became a trustee of Cornell University in 1875; and was appointed Dean when the Cornell Law School was organized. Judge Boardman retired from the Supreme Court in 1887, and died in 1891. [ http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/RMM01622.html ]
For More history see:
Upon graduation from Massachusetts Normal Art School, MacNeil’s work was recognized with the award ‘first prize’ in his graduating class. This honor attracted the attention of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. They invited him to teach as Instructor of Industrial Art. His discipline there was sometimes described as ‘modeling’ – meaning sculpturing from live models.
For three years (1886-89), he taught on the faculty. It seems a formative time. He saved his money, followed his dreams, and resigned in 1889 to travel to Europe studying art in Paris. The Cornell University, wanting to stay connected to this promising young sculptor, told him they would hold his faculty position for him.
Upon returning to the USA, MacNeil decided to settle in Chicago, instead. The reason was that the Chicago Worlds Fair was generating commissions for Sculpture as part of this ‘modern’ extravaganza.
Yet despite Hermon MacNeil’s decision to not return to Cornell University, the ties and the mutual affection, have remained over the years as evidenced in the following:.
- In 1893, he was commissioned to sculpt a bust of the first dean of the Law School Judge Douglas Boardman . The work remains in Myron Taylor Hall, inside of the Rare Book Room (as seen in the above link).
- In 1930 he was asked to make a sculpture of Ezra Cornell, the founder of the school to grace the campus. A moving account of his experience of this sculpture will be posted later on this website.
- Later, toward the end of his life, he chose to archive his personal papers in the library at Cornell where they remain the largest repository of his records and correspondence, to this day. See MacNeil Personal Papers
MacNeil’s fingerprints remain on Cornell University to this day.
The upcoming post, MacNeil Month #3, will feature “Studies in Paris.”
Over two hundred years after his birth [See the Party], Ezra Cornell is advising students on-line at Cornell University. His statue, sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil, offered some sense of the founders presence on campus when it was dedicated ninety-one years ago. But MacNeil’s figure like all other such art captured the benefactor as ‘frozen in time’ and non-interactive.
So, enter the digital world, circa 1986. Jerry Feist, Assistant Dean of Students and Steve Worona ’70, M.S. ’73 inaugurated Dear Uncle Ezra (DUE) as the world’s first online advice column. Feist became the first Uncle Ezra, answering questions for years many before passing the torch to his unknown successor. The creation has continued to answer “over 20,000 questions, ranging from the serious (“I’m stressing out big time — where can I get help?”) to the silly (“Why is there no chair lift on the slope?”).”
The site provides an interactive voice for Cornell students to meet their “Dear Uncle Ezra” (whose identity is kept strictly under wraps). Not only is it popular on Cornell but several universities have copied the idea for their own campus websites. “Uncle Ezra is the original, of which all others are copies.According to Christine Ryu in an article in the Cornell Daily Sun,“Two centuries after his birth Ezra Cornell is most readily identified by his green statue on the Arts Quad.” So Hermon gave Erza a likeness. Computer technology and Staff creativity have given him a voice and a presence in student life and the staff services. Ryu quotes local sources as follows:
Resident Cornell history buff and former Sun columnist Corey Earle ’07 says “I think Dear Uncle Ezra is a phenomenal resource for the Cornell community,” noting that “with all the vast resources that Cornell students have available to them at Cornell, the most difficult thing is finding the right one to use. More than anything else, Uncle Ezra points people in the right direction.”
We at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com have brought our own “Dear Uncle Hermon” into the digital age. Perhaps both Uncles would be proud. If Uncle Hermon’s art gave Ezra a three dimensional likeness on campus, then Dear Uncle Ezra (DUE) certainly gave him a voice. Ezra has come a long way from his telegraph technology days and Western Union fortune and empire that he used to build Cornell University. Thanks to both of our Uncles. You have provided quite an inheritance.
MacNeil’s said of this statue, “When I began to work on that, my heart fairly leaped within me. Mr. Cornell, I discovered, looked like my own father! … And so throughout it was a labor of love; it almost worked itself out.” [ J. Walker Mc Spadden, Famous Sculptors of America, pp. 319-320. ]
Dear Ezra http://ezra.cornell.edu/
Cornell Daily Sun http://cornellsun.com/node/2726
See Also: [ J. Walker Mc Spadden, Famous Sculptors of America, Libraries Press: Freeport, New York, pp. 319-320. ]
Ninety-four years after its first minting, the MacNeil “Standing Liberty quarter” retains a strong following among coin collectors. Tom LaMarre of Coins Magazine calls it MacNeil’s “real masterpiece.”
That says a lot coming from a coin expert like LaMarre. In a fascinating article at NumisMaster.com, he offers the usual numismatic history of the SLQ mixed with new information and delightful humor. The author has studied enough about MacNeil to mention about a dozen of his other works in the article including, “Sun Vow”, “Pony Express”, and “Ezra Cornell.” So, the “real masterpiece” compliment seems more than just another ‘two-bit’ comment. Some of LaMarre’s words which laud MacNeil’s Standing Liberty quarter include:
“Rich in symbolism and finely engraved detail, the new quarter reflected the spirit of peace and preparedness just before the United States entered World War I. It also revived a classical style in sharp contrast to the abstract and modern trends that were sweeping the art world at that time.”
LaMarre gives a thorough history of the design development, the changes, the controversies and the over-involvement of the Director of the Mint. A previous post on this website describes Jay H. Cline’s research book on the Standing Liberty Quarter includes nearly forty pages of letters between MacNeil and the Mint. LaMarre, finds this humorous quote on the over-involvement Mr Woolley in MacNeil’s project:
Mint Director Robert W. Woolley was so involved overseeing the preparation of the quarter design at the Mint that the Gettysburg Times predicted it would be known as the “Woolley quarter” or simply the “Woolley.”
The article offers some details of MacNeil history not seen before. He gives a discussion of the two women who served as models for the MacNeil’s art, namely Doris Doscher and Irene MacDowell. I had not known that Doris Doscher went public with her role in the SLQ on the TV show “I’ve Got A Secret” (or click HERE for second link).
Coin Collectors, especially SLQ fans and MacNeil enthusiasts alike, will enjoy Tom LaMarre’s article “MacNeil’s Standing Liberty Remains a Favorite.” It summarizes the importance of this art piece for collectors, it’s fascinating history, and MacNeil’s persistent creativity in developing the SLQ. LaMarre states:
The Standing Liberty quarter had a sculptural quality that set it apart from all previous quarter dollars. The Numismatist described it as “strikingly beautiful.” The New York Times called it a “silvern beauty.”
Coin collectors looking for more can graduate to Jay Cline’s book on Liberty Quarters. Cline’s book devotes Chapter 5 to telling the story of the two models that posed.
Either way the coin provides in interesting study in history, art and human nature. Treasury officials, namely Secretary William MacAdoo, had concerns about MacNeil’s delicate engraving not wearing as well in circulation as less artistic coin images of the past. But numismatists fine the delicate piece simply a treasure. Again LaMarre offers a good twist:
According to the Treasury secretary, it was a “fast-wearing” design that never quite worked out. In the opinion of collectors, it is a masterpiece that will stand in beauty forever.