WELCOME to the “Hermon A. MacNeil” — Virtual Gallery & Museum !

~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

DO YOU walk by MacNeil Statues and NOT KNOW IT ???


Behind the University is Ezra Cornell . –.. .-. .- -.-. — .-. -. . –.. –.. Behind Ezra Cornell is the Telegraph – . .-.. . –. .-. .- .–. ….



Hermon MacNeil include this sculpture of the 'original telegraph' into his tribute to Erza Cornell in 1917. (Photo courtesy of Chris Carlsen)

Original telegraph receiver, used in Baltimore for the receipt of the first telegraph message, May 24, 1844. (On loan from the Cornell University College of Engineering.)


Hermon MacNeil often included symbolic details in his sculptures and statues.  Here is a prime example.  MacNeil  came to the Cornell University faculty twelve years after Ezra Cornell’s death.   Teaching at Cornell for those three years, from 1886-1889, he had a first hand knowledge of Ezra Cornell’s story.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil chose the telegraph as the appropriate object to place “behind-the-man who was behind-the-University.”   Compare  MacNeil’s bronze relief work on the RIGHT to the Cornell Archives photo of the “Original telegraph receiver” on the LEFT. (On loan from the Cornell University College of Engineering).  http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Ezra-exhibit/EC-life/EC-life-5.html

In his lifetime Ezra Cornell made and lost several fortunes. He envisioned the telegraph as the most promising device of the immediate future of communication.  Holding that vision through ups and downs, booms and busts, he rode the wave of communication technology into the future.  In the end his wealth from his Western Union shares that evolved from the telegraph became the profit that made his dream of a University a reality.  He continued to achieve success and failure as an entrepreneur and investor.

The short story goes this way:

Ezra made his fortune in the telegraph business as an associate of Samuel Morse, having gained his trust by constructing and stringing the telegraph poles between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, as the first ever telegraph line of substance in the U.S. To address the problem of telegraph lines shorting out to the ground, Cornell invented the idea of using glass insulators at the point where telegraph lines are connected to supporting poles. After joining with Morse, Cornell supervised the erection of many telegraph lines, including the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company connecting Buffalo to Milwaukee. He earned a substantial fortune as a founder of the Western Union company. [ Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra_Cornell ]

The University’s website tells the story this way:

Ezra Cornell's Patent Picture of his "useful" trenching machine

While traveling in Maine, Ezra Cornell met F.O.J. Smith, editor of the Maine Farmer. When Congress appropriated $30,000 for the laying of a test telegraph cable between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Smith had taken a contract from the inventor, Samuel F.B. Morse, to lay the lead pipe which enclosed the telegraph wires. In the summer of 1843, on his second trip to Maine, Cornell visited Smith’s office and found him struggling to design a machine to lay the cable underground. At Smith’s request, Cornell created a plow that would both dig the trench and lay the cable. Morse came to Maine for a demonstration of the machine, approved it, and hired Cornell to lay the cable for the test line. In October 1843, Cornell went to Washington to begin work on laying the telegraph line. As the work proceeded, he became concerned that the insulation of the wires was defective. He notified Morse, who ordered the work stopped. Cornell then devised a machine for withdrawing the wires from the pipes and reinsulating them.

Cornell spent that winter in Washington studying works on electricity and magnetism in the Patent Office library and the Library of Congress. His reading convinced him that underground wiring was impractical and that the wires should be strung on glass-insulated poles. He was retained as Morse’s assistant at the pay of $1000 per year. In the spring of 1844, Cornell built the overhead line from Washington to Baltimore, and on May 24, Morse tapped out the historic message: “What hath God wrought.” Some of Cornell’s earliest telegraph communications relayed the results of the 1844 Whig and Democratic Conventions, which nominated Henry Clay and James K. Polk, respectively.  http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Ezra-exhibit/EC-life/EC-life-5.html


Ezra Cornell's Patent for a "new and useful machine for cutting trenches."

Ezra Cornell’s commitment to his vision of the potential of this invention drove him forward.  Again the Ezra Cornell’s university tells his story this way: 

Ezra Cornell’s story is the story of the telegraph in America. Always confident of its great commercial future, he enthusiastically demonstrated it, enlisted capital, and built lines. Although doing so frequently left his family destitute, he always took a large part of his pay in stocks, and invested in the first telegraph company, which connected New York and Washington. He built lines from the Hudson to Philadelphia and from New York to Albany, as well as lines in New York, Vermont and Quebec, and west to Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee. He was involved in the rapid construction of subsidiary lines, especially in the midwest, where the telegraph preceded rather than followed the railroad.

The early days of the telegraph industry were tumultuous. Many companies were formed, operated briefly and died. Stronger companies managed to survive despite conflicts, deception, and numerous lawsuits. Service on the hastily built lines was frequently unreliable. In 1851, the New York & Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company was organized in Rochester by Hiram Sibley and others, with the goal of creating one great system with unified and efficient operations. Meanwhile, Cornell had bought back one of his bankrupt companies and renamed it the New York & Western Union Telegraph Company. Originally fierce competitors, by 1855 both groups were finally convinced that consolidation was their only alternative for progress. The merged company was named The Western Union Telegraph Company at Cornell’s insistence. Western Union rapidly expanded operations to most parts of the United States and Canada. While Cornell now took a less active role, he continued to have great faith in the telegraph. He held on to his Western Union stock, and for more than fifteen years was the company’s largest stockholder.       http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Ezra-exhibit/EC-life/EC-life-6.html


While Cornell’s commitment to the “telegraph” makes a fascinating story, his greater vision and commitment to the idea of a “UNIVERSITY” marks the zenith of his ingenuity.

His vision of co-education, free of sectarian coercion, open to all,  is encapsulated in an open letter he wrote on the occasion of the the opening of Sage College.  He addressed it to “The coming Man and woman” — those students of the nineteenth, twentieth, and now, twenty-first centuries that would grace the halls of Cornell:

Ezra Cornell to “The coming man and woman.”

Ithaca, May 15, 1873.
Autograph letter signed by Ezra Cornell

(read original HERE)

To the Coming man & woman

On the occasion of laying the corner stone of the Sage College for women of Cornell University, I desire to say that the principle [sic] danger, and I say almost the only danger I see in the future to be encountered by the friends of education, and by all lovers of true liberty is that which may arise from sectarian strife.

From these halls, sectarianism must be forever excluded, all students must be left free to worship God, as their concience [sic] shall dictate, and all persons of any creed or all creeds must find free and easy access, and a hearty and equal welcome, to the educational facilities possessed by the Cornell University.

Coeducation of the sexes and entire freedom from sectarian or political preferences is the only proper and safe way for providing an education that shall meet the wants of the future and carry out the founders idea of an Institution where “any person can find instruction in any study.” I herewith commit this great trust to your care.

Ezra Cornell

On the Arts Quadrangle Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s vision of Ezra Cornell can be seen in bronze.  Behind this man behind the University, MacNeil has tucked away inconspicuously, a Samuel Morse style ‘telegraph.’  Cornell’s commitment to this little piece of nineteenth century technology provided the ‘seed-money’ for his “Dream of a University” which has encompassed this sculpture for nearly a century.

[ For a fascinating TIME-LINE of Erza Cornell’s life and the Founding of the University, chick HERE. ]

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Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

Daniel Neil Leininger ~ HAMacNeil@gmail.com
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1. Take digital photos of the work from all angles, including setting.
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