Whitman

IMG_3095 (2)Location: Whitman Town Park, Park Avenue
Coordinates: 42°04’57.6″N 70°56’05.5″W
Date dedicated: October 10, 1908
Architect/sculptor: Frederick Kohlhagen (sculptor)
Number of names: No names on monument

Originally, the monument was to be entirely granite with the customary soldier depicted at parade rest. The monument committee changed their minds and greatly enhanced the memorial by opting for a bronze statue in a rare skirmish line stance. The statue was designed by Frederick Kohlhagen and has been reproduced in a number of locations across the country (see below). The pedastal was designed and built by Long & Sanders of Quincy, the overall cost of the monument was $5,000.

Clarence Merton Keevey, commander of Whitman’s George A. Custer Camp No. 11, Sons of Union Veterans, was the driving spirit behind the fundraising effort. He was the son of Peter Keevey, an Irish immigrant who settled in Plympton, served in the 31st Massachusetts Infantry and became a prominent sawmill owner and businessman. During the dedication, the monument was unveiled by beloved veteran Hiram Poole aged 85 and an active participant in civic events throughout the region. Marching as a member of the GAR, Poole was known to set the pace for the younger Sons of Union Veterans who were often winded in trying to keep up with him.[1]

“The Skirmisher,” was sculpted by Frederick Kohlhagen (1842-1927) (another copy can be found in Randolph, Norfolk County). Kohlhagen was a sculptor from Germany who emigrated to New York in 1881 and soon settled in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1885, he was commissioned by the monument committee of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves to design a sculpture to top their regimental monument at Gettysburg. Kohlhagen depicted a soldier on the skirmish line, advancing independently. The design is animated and lifelike, rather different than most of the stone-faced soldiers’ monuments.

With his clay model completed, Kohlhagen needed a company to cast it. He approached the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, already famous for their production of fine silver and gold tableware (Mary Todd Lincoln and Julia Grant both ordered sets of Gorham silver for the White House). Gorham Co. just happened to be looking to break into the sculpture business and agreed to cast “The Skirmisher” in bronze. Kohlhagen has the distinction of designing the first of many, many bronze monuments that would be produced by the company. The Smithsonian catalog lists more than 700 statues produced by Gorham—some of them massive.

“The Skirmisher” was reproduced several times, although it remains somewhat rare. The second version of the monument was placed in Roger Williams Park in Providence in 1898. The Whitman and Randolph statues are the only versions in Massachusetts cataloged by this project.

[1]J.H. Beers & Co., Representative men and old families of southeastern Massachusetts, containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families, (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1912), 1404.
[2] Pearlman’s Precious Metals, Art and Antiques, “The Gorham Manufacturing Company.”

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