Location: Honor Court, in front of the Town Hall, 350 Main Street
Coordinates: 42°02’59.4″N 71°52’48.8″W
Date dedicated: July 4, 1907
Architect/contractor/sculptor: J. W. White & Sons of Quincy, design and manufacturer; Love Brothers Co. of Webster, contractor; Ames Foundry (acquired by Spalding Co.), statue casting; Finn Haakon Frolich, sculptor.
A big city monument in a small manufacturing town, Webster’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is truly remarkable in scale. At the start of the war, the town’s population was just about 3,000. Nearly 50 years later when the monument was constructed, the population had grown due to the success of the mills and the influx of immigrants but still only stood at about 10,000. That such a monument could be built in such a small town likely speaks to the wealth and generosity of the leading manufacturers there at the turn of the 20th century.
The contract for the design and manufacture of the monument was awarded to J. N. White and Sons of Quincy, Massachusetts. The subcontract for the statues went to the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, well known for manufacturing cannons during the Civil War but afterwards one of the leading producers of bronze monumental sculptures. Right about this time, the Ames Foundry was acquired by Spalding Company (now famous for the production of sports equipment).
Finn H. Frolich (1868-1947) was a 39 year-old sculptor working for Spalding when the Webster monument was being designed. Of the many sculptors of Civil War soldiers and sailors in Massachusetts, Frolich arguably had the most unusual and interesting career. Born in Norway, he became a sailor at a very young age, jumped ship in New York when disease struck the crew. Looking for his next opportunity, he spotted and answered a newspaper advertisement posted by Daniel Chester French seeking novice apprentices for his studio. French was a rising star, quickly becoming one of the best known sculptors in the country. Not too long after Frolich began working for him, French was laboring on “The Republic,” the colossal centerpiece of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Frolich learned much from the huge project. He also studied briefly under Augustus St. Gaudens (who sculpted Boston’s Shaw Memorial) in 1895 in Paris.
By 1906, Frolich had been working on his own in New York but needed a change of pace. He moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1907, started working for Spalding, and sculpted the Webster monument statues–a color bearer, a sailor, an artilleryman, a cavalryman and an infantryman. His efforts were clearly successful as the statues are among the finest to be seen on Massachusetts memorials and three were re-produced in Attleboro (and possibly other locations).
Frolich was evidently unsatisfied with Massachusetts as he moved back to New York City the following year. He was known for going on drinking benders and on one such occasion in 1908, he went to a train station in New York, asked for a ticket for the furthest possible location, and soon found himself in Seattle. A long and successful career of sculpting public art and teaching on the West Coast ensued.
The Webster monument was dedicated on July 4, 1907. Among the many, many civic groups which participated was the 15th Massachusetts Regimental Association as some 96 men (roughly one-fifth of those who served from Webster) were members of the 15th Massachusetts. The bronze plaques list the names of all those from Webster who served.