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

~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor of the Beaux Arts School. MacNeil led a generation of sculptors in capturing many fading Native American images and American history in the realism of this classic style.

~ World’s Fairs, statues, public monuments, coins, and buildings across to country. Hot-links (on the lower right) lead to photos & info of works by MacNeil.

~ Hundreds of stories and photos posted here form this virtual MacNeil Gallery of works all across the U.S.A.  New York to New Mexico — Oregon to South Carolina.

~ 2016 marked the 150th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth on February 27,

Take a Virtual Journey

Since 2010 this website has transported viewers through the years and miles between 100’s of Hermon MacNeil’s statues & monuments throughout the USA.

For over one hundred years these sculptures have graced our parks, boulevards, and parkways; buildings, memorials, and gardens; campuses, capitols, and civic centers; museums, coinage, and private collections.

PERHAPS,  you walk or drive by one of his public sculptures daily. HERE, you can gain awareness of this great sculptor and his many works.  Maybe there are some near you! CHECK HERE!

Archive for Ezra Cornell

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Dan Leininger holds the “Galley” for Summer 2014 with MacNeil’s “Pony Express” statue on the cover and an 8 page feature story inside.

“Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil”

The current issue of the Clan MacNeil Association of America magazine has a feature story on Hermon Atkins MacNeil by webmaster, Dan Leininger

The Galley edited by Vicki Sanders Corporon titles Dan’s story as “Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil.” The feature and photos fill 8 pages in the “Galley” issue for Spring/Summer 2014.

Ezra Cornell statue at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY was dedicated in 1918 after WWI.

Ezra Cornell statue at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY was dedicated in 1918 after WWI.  Page 19 of the “Galley” (This Photo from Cornell University is Courtesy of Chris Carlsen).



Page 20 of  “Galley” for Summer 2014

Page 20 of the “Galley” for Summer 2014

The featured photos include the East Pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (with a detail close-up of Moses, Confucius, and Salon); The George Rogers Clark monument in Vincennes, IN at the site of his victory over the British in 1779; Confederate Defenders of Charleston, SC; the Young Lawyer Abraham Lincoln in Champaign, IL; General George Washington on the Washington Arch, NYC, NY. Also in this article are photos of the grouping Coming of the White Man in Portland, OR; The WWI Angel of Peace Monument in Flushing NY; and a bust of Dwight L. Moody (who MacNeil sketched during the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.

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Page 18 of the “Galley” for Summer 2014

Hermon MacNeil was the first president of the Clan MacNeil Association of America.  This summer, the Galley will contain a feature article about him, written by Dan Leininger, webmaster of this website — HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com.

"The Galley" Spring/Summer 2013; Clan MacNeil Association of America

“The Galley” Spring/Summer 2013; Official Publication of the Clan MacNeil Association of America

The previous posting of February 8, 2013, entitled, “MacNeil Kinsman ~ Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Robert Lister MacNeil,” tells part of the story of these two men.

Vicki Sanders Corporon, editor of the Galley, has accepted the article and accompanying photos that tell more of the story. She said in recent correspondence:

“Thanks for sending such excellent photos of Hermon’s sculptures. I know their inclusion, along with your article, will be the highlight of the upcoming issue! He really was one of America’s finest sculptors … how important is your mission to make sure he is fully appreciated!”

Sculpture photos of the Supreme Court (East Pediment); George Washington from the Washington Arch in NYC; Abraham Lincoln from University of Illinois; Ezra Cornell at Ithaca; Confederate Defenders Monument (1932) Charleston harbor, SC; and George Rogers Clark at Vincennes will illustrate the story.

On May 26, 1921, the Clan MacNeil Association of America was organized in New York City.  Central to that moment were Robert Lister MacNeil, (The MacNeil of Barra – 45th Chief of the Clan), and Hermon Atkins MacNeil, the clan’s first president.

Stay tuned for more as the publication is released. 


 Ezra Cornell now interacts with Students through "Dear Uncle Ezra" website.

“Ezra Cornell” the man in front of the telegraph and behind the University, sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil. [Photo courtesy of Chris Carlsen]

In 1917 when Hermon MacNeil made the standing sculpture of Ezra Cornell, he placed a “machine” behind The man who made Cornell University.  While MacNeil never knew Ezra Cornell, he did know Robert Thurston.  Both Thurston and Cornell were men of machines. This third and final segment of the MacNeil ~ Thurston Story offers more on the brilliant engineer’s influence on the brilliant sculptor. Their individual creativity became a meeting ground of mechanical vision and artistic vision, foundational to Sibley College, and eventually,  Cornell University College of Engineering. 

Hermon MacNeil include this sculpture of the 'original telegraph' into his tribute to Erza Cornell in 1917.

Hermon MacNeil include this sculpture of the ‘original telegraph’ into his tribute to Erza Cornell in 1917.  [Photo courtesy of Chris Carlsen ]

Francis C. Moon in his 2007 volume on The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux  tells his story this way, combining three elements:

“Thurston – MacNeil – and Machines”

Source: Francis C. Moon, The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux: Kinematics of Machines from the Rennaisance to the 20th Century: Springer, 2007, p.180.

Source: Francis C. Moon, The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux: Kinematics of Machines from the Rennaisance to the 20th Century: Springer, 2007, p.180.     [The Two Cultures is the title of an influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow. Its thesis was that “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was split into the titular two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. ]


For Hermon MacNeil to come to Cornell as a young 20 year old artist was a serendipitous opportunity. For him to work directly with this mechanical engineer and seasoned educator, Robert Thurston, and to teach Thurston’s engineering students drawing and design was a melding of “The Two Cultures” ** of science and humanities. Thurston wanted to educate engineers who could draw, who could solve problems, and had an artist’s eye for detail and design.

  **  [The Two Cultures is the title of an influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow. Its thesis was that “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was split into the titular two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. ]

In MacNeil, Thurston found the artist/sculptor that he wanted. His encouragement of the ‘sculptor’ in MacNeil led Hermon on to Paris, Chicago, Rome and eventually, New York City. but he kept returning to Cornell. In 1893 he make the bust of Justice Douglas Boardman. After Thurston’s death, he made the bronze bas-relief honoring the Dean. In 1917-18 MacNeil returned to make to the statue of Ezra Cornell. And after MacNeil’s own death in 1947, his personal papers were placed in the Cornell Universiry Library at his bequest.  Robert Thurston appears to be the encourager and instigator of that loyalty. It seems that MacNeil never forgot Cornell.

Thurston achieved his mastery of steam engine technology early in life by working in the machine shop at his father’s steam engine manufacturing company in Providence, Rhode Island. He later volunteered to serve in the Navy Engineering Corps during the Civil War and afterwards taught at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. Writing 21 books and 574 scientific articles, he spanned a prolific career first as President of Stevens Institute of Technology for 14 years, and later as director of  Sibley College,  Cornell University  for 18 more years.   

Professor Robert Thurston  became a recognized expert on the “steam engine,” the primary ‘work horse’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  He wrote dozens of monographs on the subject.  His visionary approach to engineering education brought Cornell to the forefront of the field.  The choice of young Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a trained artist and ‘soon-to-be’ sculptor, brought an artist’s eye to Thurston’s vision for Cornell’s scientifically trained engineering graduates.  That vision has now shaped the “growth” of Cornell, engineering education, and the A.S.M.E. for 125 years.  Steam engines, telegraphs, and even engineering schools, can all be coinsidered “great inventions.”  Here is what Thurston had to say about the “growth” of such great discoveries:

“Great inventions are never, and great discoveries are seldom, the work of any one mind. Every great invention is really an aggregation of minor inventions, or the final step of a progression. It is not usually a creation, but a growth, as truly so as is the growth of the trees in the forest.”  — Robert H. Thurston
[In ‘The Growth of the Steam-Engine’, The Popular Science Monthly (Nov 1877), 17 ]
[SEE also:  http://todayinsci.com/T/Thurston_Robert/ThurstonRobert-Quotations.htm ]
Professor Robert H. Thurston, first Director of Sibley School of Mechanical Engineering at Cornell, 1886-1903

Professor Robert H. Thurston, first Director of Sibley School of Mechanical Engineering at Cornell, 1886-1903

Hermon MacNeil’s three years at Cornell (1886-1889) with Professor Robert Henry Thurston shaped the rest of his sixty years of life and his entire career as a sculptor.   After leaving there, MacNeil would eventually return to make four major sculptures for the University. In his will executed after his death, he ordered that all of his professional papers be left to the Cornell University Library (Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections #2425).

Of Robert H. Thurston’s thousands of career accomplishments, perhaps his quietest yet most profound, was his personal praise for Hermon MacNeil‘s sculptural talent and the confidence with which he encouraged Hermon to develop those skills in Europe and the Beaux Arts schools of Paris.

Professor Robert Henry Thurston (1839-1903). Founding Director of the Sibley College School of Engineering of the Cornell University. Thurston hired and mentored Hermon Atkins MacNeil from 1886-89 age 20 to 23 (1886-89) to teach industrial art, drawing, to the engineering students.  A duplicate of this bronze bust and memorial plaque was erected at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) office in NYC.  Thurston was the first President of ASME.

Professor Robert Henry Thurston (1839-1903). Founding Director of the Sibley College School of Engineering of the Cornell University. Thurston hired and mentored Hermon Atkins MacNeil from 1886-89 age 20 to 23 (1886-89) to teach industrial art, drawing, to the engineering students. A duplicate of this bronze bust and memorial plaque was erected at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) office in NYC. Thurston was the first President of ASME.

In the 1880s, Thurston was a man of vision who became a central pioneer in the developing field of Mechanical Engineering.  He would soon become the first president of the newly organized American Society of Mechanical Engineers (A.S.M.E.). The faculty of Cornell brought him there to start the Sibley College of Engineering. 

The bronze memorial sculpture at the right was a tribute to Thurston who died in 1903. The Cornell University, its Sibley College of Engineering and the Ithaca community conceived, subscribed and and commissioned MacNeil to sculpt this bas-relief in 1908.  A duplicate of this bronze memorial was placed in New York City at the offices of the ASME.  Thurston was the first president of that national engineering society.

In 1886, Hermon MacNeil was a fresh twenty year-old graduate of Boston State Normal Art SchoolMacNeil was then the same age as a certain carpenter named Ezra Cornell when he walked forty-one miles (in 1826) into the town of Ithaca from DeRuyter, New York. Arriving at the crest of Libe Slope (the current location of MacNeil’s statue of him), Cornell could see the town of Ithaca in the valley below.  The place looked so promising as young Ezra could see manufactured goods and commodities being transferred from wagons to steamboats and barges.  University history explains it this way:

At last he had come to a place, Cornell decided —before continuing down the hill, taking a boardinghouse room for the night and finding a carpentry job the next morning— where he could make something of himself.  [ Cornell Engineering: A Tradition of Leadership and Innovation, p. 2. ]

Exactly sixty years later, another twenty year old was brought to Ithaca, this time by Professor Robert Thurston.  MacNeil had just Graduated with first honors from the Boston State Normal Arts School (Massachusetts School of Art).  This talented youth brought skills that Thurston desired all of his engineers to develop (mechanical drawing, drafting, architectural drawing, geometries, modeling and sculpting. 

So Thurston hired Hermon MacNeil as Instructor of Art to teach these skills. The engineer degree required four years of these classes.  Thurston wanted mechanical engineering students to know how to draw and to absorb the visual skills of a true artist.

Stay tuned for more (Part 2) on MacNeil’s first attempts at sculpting at Cornell and Professor Thurston’s vital role in affirming Hermon’s talent and future as a sculptor. 

Judge Douglas Boardman _ 1893 ~ Cornell University

Judge Douglas Boardman ~ 1893 ~ Cornell University (Photo Courtesy of Chris Carlsen)

Judge Douglas Boardman ~ Cornell Univerity 1893

Judge Douglas Boardman ~ Cornell Univerity 1893 ~  (Photo Courtesy of Chris Carlsen)

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:

Guide to the Douglass Boardman Papers, 1839-1891;Collection Number: 1622. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections of the Cornell University Library”


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. ]


Nearby or far away, there is no ONE place to go and appreciate this wide range of art pieces. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and hidden, these creations point us toward the history and values in which our lives as Americans have taken root.

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1. Take digital photos of the entire work from several angles, including the surroundings.
2. Take close up photos of details that capture your imagination.
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