Museum-Heads Of States
Museum-Heads Of States. A group of 10 albumen prints of busts of governors sculpted by Henry Dexter. The photographer is unknown. Hoewever, Southworth and Hawes did make a daguerreotype of Dexter. Did they also make these images? The photographs are 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch ovals on 10 1/2 x 13 1/2 inch mounts. They are identified in ink on the lower right corner and dated January, 1860. The information is written in Dexter's hand.
Henry Dexter (1806–1876) was a prominent American sculptor in the 19th century.
Henry Dexter was a patriot who hoped to create a gallery of sculptural works depicting the president of the United States and the governors of every US state in the late 1850s on the cusp of the Civil War. He hoped to achieve a unifying official portrait of this period in America's history. This initiative was self-funded at its conception, utilizing his own moneys Dexter traveled some 20,000 miles with all of his tools for modeling and casting. His initial plan was to model each governor in clay and later plaster and with the hope that individual states would then purchase marble renderings post facto for the sum of $500, thus helping him recuperate his costs. This gigantic undertaking began in 1859 as Dexter first traveled to every state in New England having governors of each state sit for him and sending the modeled clay busts back to his workshop in Boston. He then began to work his way along the Mason-Dixon line and finally across the South. He returned to the North to model the recently deceased Governor William Henry Bissell of Illinois before heading to Wisconsin and presumably Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana between the months of April - June 1860. It is likely that Dexter was in Indiana in late April or early May given a letter of introductory correspondence between Michigan Governor Moses Wisner to Governor Willard dated April 25, 1860. (Governor Willard died in October 1860).
This expedition resulted in thirty one finished busts which were intended to be displayed in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. However, due to the volatility bred by the recent secession of the Southern states, the totality of the collection was not able to be displayed. By his own admission this endeavor was a failure financially, it left him impoverished for years after his eighteen months of travel across the country. However, historically Dexter's renderings of some of the prominent gubernatorial figures of the United States became a study of many of the most powerful men who were key players in the Civil War. Far from being aware of the long term historical significance of his work Dexter hoped only to accomplish a unifying collection of the nation's administrators.
After his death June 23, 1876, the bulk of his collection of governors was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1889. Some of the busts remain with private owners or in the collections of some of the states who purchased copies for their own collections.(WIKIPEDIA)
The quotes regarding Dexter's work and travels for this project come from: "Henry Dexter, Sculptor: A Memorial" By John Albee. Privately Printed. 1898.
Governor William A. Buckingham, Connecticut
"Governor Buckingham of Connecticut was his first subject among the State governors His home was in Norwich and the artist's impressions were more of the beauty of that ancient town than of the people he met Here as elsewhere I can only refer briefly and in their order to the visits he made to the governors of the States I am taking my materials for this portion of Dexter's life from diaries and family letters in which he gives very particular descriptions of the situation and points of interest in the towns cities and country through which he passed To give them in full would make a quite complete itinerary of the United States He proceeded then to Portsmouth New Hampshire to the hospitable house of Gov Ichabod Goodwin the stanch old Whig owner of ships himself long a sailor the pride of the little city by the sea His figure was that of a solid square post but the artist had to do only with a face beaming with benevolence firmness and a quaint old fashioned humor With his honors thick upon him and driving the finest span of horses in the town he was through and through a sailor ." p. 83
Governor Ichabod Goodwin, New Hampshire
"He proceeded then to Portsmouth New Hampshire to the hospitable house of Gov Ichabod Goodwin the stanch old Whig owner of ships himself long a sailor the pride of the little city by the sea His figure was that of a solid square post but the artist had to do only with a face beaming with benevolence firmness and a quaint old fashioned humor With his honors thick upon him and driving the finest span of horses in the town he was through and through a sailor " p 84
Governor E. D. Morgan, New York
"October 11 1859 he arrived in Albany New York to model the bust of Gov ED Morgan a man six feet two and a Cromwell face Mrs Morgan was disappointed in the appearance of the artist she expected to see him in a long beard and uncombed hair a slouch hat and cloak He was at once established in the governor's mansion and in a few days the bust was made and was so satisfactory that it was ordered in marble ." p. 85
Governor Salomon P. Chase, Ohio
"In November 1859 he reaches Columbus the capital of Ohio where he is to make the bust of Gov Salmon P Chase subsequently Secretary of the Treasury in Lincoln's first Cabinet and Chief Justice of the United States Governor Chase was a tall well proportioned man with a full cheerful face and withal great dignity He describes the domestic head of the house Miss Kate Chase as a very remarkable woman She was then nineteen years old accomplished and as she informed Dexter unappreciated a common complaint among young men and women but not incurable when one gets to Washington and is the daughter of a high official John Brown's body was not yet mouldering in the ground but his gallows was erecting and the artist found all around him admirers and adherents of the old hero Governor Chase's model men are Charles Sumner Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker The bust was a great success and when finished Dexter remarked He will do to be President now ." p. 85
Governor Beriah Magoffin, Kentucky
"At Frankfort Kentucky he modelled the bust of Governor Magoffin Here he entered for the first time the land of slaves fine stock and rich lands The governor's house was full of black servants and he had nine small children He made a dinner party for the artist all the dignitaries of the State attending There were wonder and surprise at the man who could make an image of their great governor in a week drink no wine nor smoke not even swear And so the clay head was ordered in marble as a tribute to art and Puritanism" p. 86
Governor Andrew B. Moore, Alabama
"From Florida he retraced his steps through South Carolina to Montgomery the capital of Alabama where he made a bust of the State executive Governor Moore Thence he steamed down the Alabama River and up the Mississippi bound for Jackson Mississippi where he put Governor Pettus into clay and received an order from the State for a marble copy" p. 90
Governor Robert M. Stewart. Missouri
"On April 2d he arrived in Jefferson City Missouri and made a bust of Governor Stewart which he thought one of his best Again he was on the Mississippi River and by the time his journey ended he had traversed every navigable mile of it He stopped at Keokuk Iowa expecting to meet Governor Lowe there but he was at Davenport to which place he journeyed on and there caught and modelled his governor The Wisconsin governor was in Washington and the artist had to omit him for the time being and though he went to St Paul Minnesota there is no account of his doings there nor in Michigan nor Indiana " p. 92
Governor William Burton, Delaware
"From April to June he was in pursuit of the governors of Pennsylvania Maryland Virginia Delaware and New Jersey National affairs were approaching a crisis and the State officials were moving about holding consultations now at their own capitals and then at Washington and Dexter found it difficult to make them name or keep their appointments He had many amusing experiences as for instance in Milford Delaware where although bearing a letter of introduction from the governor to his wife the timid woman would not give him a room in which to set up his clay until her husband should arrive However she cooked him a dinner of bacon and eggs with her own hands After a year and some months of a chiefly pork diet he came to the conclusion that the South and West would never flourish in strength or morals until they gave up Mr Pig Mistress Tobacco and Sir Bourbon " p. 92
Governor Alex. H. Randall, Wisconsin
"Governor Randall of Wisconsin he overtook in Washington
and modelled him in four sittings" p. 93
Governor Henry H. Sibley, Minnesota
"... and though he went to St Paul Minnesota there is no account of his doings there...." p. 93