Canton

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Canton (Norfolk County)

Location: In front of to Canton Town Hall, 801 Washington Street
Coordinates: 42°09’33.0″N 71°08’40.7″W
Date dedicated: 1890
Architect/Sculptor/Manufacturer: J.W. Fiske & Company, manufacturer

A gift of Elijah Adams Morse (a Civil War veteran and later Congressman from Massachusetts), the monument outside the Canton Town Hall is one of the designs frequently reproduced by J.W. Fiske & Company. Founded by Chelmsford, Massachusetts native Joseph Winn Fiske (1832-1903), and based in New York City, the firm was the largest producer of decorative cast iron and cast zinc during the latter part of the 19th century. There is at least one other Fiske soldier in Massachusetts (Oak Bluffs) and likely a one or two more to be identified in the course of this project. There were many made for towns in other parts of the country. The ornate and unusual cast iron base of the Canton monument incorporated drinking fountains on either side.

Fiske’s soldiers were made from cast zinc and plated with bronze. Zinc was extolled by several statue manufacturers at the time as superior to granite, which would “crumble away” long before zinc, and an inexpensive alternative to solid bronze. Unfortunately, because the monuments are hollow, they are highly susceptible to vandalism and breakage.

Canton’s monument was vandalized around 1970 (newspaper accounts vary on the date). In 1978, it was given what Conservation Solutions, Inc. (the firm that conducted the recent restoration) called “a well-meaning partial restoration” and placed inside the vestibule of Town Hall for safe-keeping. The monument was thoroughly restored in 2014 and placed in its originally intended location after an absence of roughly 50 years.

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