Reporting on the planned Claire McCardell statue last week poses the question— who else in Frederick is commemorated with a statue?
The question led to a rabbit hole of research in The Frederick News-Post archives and the Maryland Room of the C. Burr Artz Library. If the statuary of a city can teach about its past, as sculptor Sarah Hempel Irani suggested last week — who and what is valued, and which figures are deemed worthy of memorialization — a close examination of the existing sculptures in Frederick could help remind residents of the standards around which the city was built.
It wasn’t exactly easy. Despite all the local history, Frederick isn’t a wealth of public statues, especially compared to neighboring D.C. The research uncovered 13 sculptures displayed throughout the city, mostly on public property, easily available for public view. Almost a third are animals. Almost half of the men who are commemorated happened to own slaves, and one features Confederate soldiers. Many are tied to war or public office, an enduring trend across the country.
Altogether, the baker’s dozen are a fascinating glimpse at how Frederick has preserved its history over the years. If any were missed any, please email or call with the information.
“Victory” World War I Monument
Memorial Park on the corner of N. Bentz St. and W. 2nd St.
Another bronze landmark, the World War I monument — while technically female in form — is less a real-life historical woman than a corporeal embodiment of the metaphorical concept of victory. Thus, it does little to break up the male and animal-dominated catalogue of Frederick statuary.
Nonetheless, the “Victory” statue is very beautiful. Unveiled on Armistice Day in 1924, the sculpture sits on a plot of land that formerly served as a burial ground for the Reformed Church of Frederick — now the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ. The 8-foot sculpture honors the men and women of Frederick County who served in World War I.
The concept was first proposed by Joseph D. Baker, a prominent resident of Frederick, before the end of the war, though his initial proposal — to remove the fountain in Courthouse Square and replace it with the new monument — was vetoed by the county’s Board of Commissioners. As a compromise, the Francis Scott Key Post of the American Legion suggested the overgrown graveyard as the site for the memorial in 1923. The newly-minted Memorial Park was dedicated the next year. The bronze plaques at the base of the statue separately list the veterans who served and the veterans who died in the war.
“Becky” the Calf
North Bentz St., near the intersection with West Patrick St.
Thanks in part to Becky, nearly a quarter of the statuary in Frederick are animals.
The little calf — a bronze sculpture created by regional artist Adam Lubkin — was installed in 2009 as tribute to the county’s agricultural heritage. A News-Post article that year said Lubkin hoped that the statue, anchored in 400 pounds of concrete, would emphasize the importance of farmland conservation.
The calf, according to another News-Post article, was named after Becky Griffin, a beloved benefactor in Frederick who founded the Blue Elephant Art Center on North Market Street (now known as the Griffin Art Center).
Lubkin also said that he could imagine a cow escaping through the city from the pasture that once covered Baker Park. Unfortunately, the $11,000 budget — funded largely through grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and Frederick Arts Council — wouldn’t cover a larger sculpture.
“A cow would be great, but the budget barely covered a calf,” Lubkin said.
More anecdotally, the sculpture was originally slated for Baker Park in the grassy field beside the bell tower. That idea was later scrapped for liability reasons, according to a past interview with former Arts Council director Catherine Moreland. “Liability,” in this case, means that the city didn’t want people running into the statue at full speed in the middle of a game of frisbee.
“Charity” the Dog
22 S. Market St., in front of the Federated Charities building
Is it possible that Frederick’s favorite statue — for locals, at least — is ... a dog? The cast-iron Newfoundland has been vandalized at least three times in its 161-year history, but the shaggy sculpture still maintains its perch in front of the Federated Charities building, built in 1820 and formerly owned by the Williams family.
The dog was purchased from a New York company in 1858 by family patriarch John Williams, according to a 1989 article in The Frederick News-Post. The original cost — $45, plus a $5 marble stand — has long since been outweighed by repairs to the statue. In 1946, research shows, two U.S. soldiers stationed at a nearby prisoner of war camp drunkenly vandalized the sculpture on a night out downtown. In 1968, the poor pup’s head was decapitated and found in Baker Park. In 2005, its tail was destroyed by another set of vandals, according to a July article in The Frederick News-Post.
Each time, the Newfoundland was triumphantly returned to its rightful place on the building’s front porch. “Charity,” by the way, is the dog’s official moniker — selected from 133 other entrants in a 1989 naming competition by Federated Charities.
“Guess” the Greyhound
108 W. Church St.
Yes, Frederick has not one, but two beloved dog statues. The latter, a lean, cast-iron greyhound, has been sitting in front of the former rectory for All Saints Episcopal Church since around 1856.
Like Charity, the greyhound is one of only a few existing examples of sculptural front porch embellishments in Frederick. The tradition, according to local historian E. Ralston Goldsborough, popped up when English settlers brought a more lavish architectural style to the city. Poor Guess doesn’t have the same name recognition as Charity, but he does have a more colorful backstory.
It starts with the house itself, first owned by Dr. John Tyler — reportedly the first doctor in the United States to perform cataract surgery, according to Goldsborough. In 1840, the property was purchased by a Mr. Grayson Eichelberger, who bought the greyhound for the front porch around 16 years later.
When Confederate soldiers marched toward Antietam in 1862, they stole the dog to melt down for ammunition. Luckily, the statue was returned, fully in tact, after the battle — a Union victory — either through a lost-and-found advertisement, according to one family legend, or through a direct appeal by Grayson Eichelberger to Union soldiers. According to his granddaughter, Margaret, Eichelberger was a prominent Union supporter who once had a Confederate bounty placed on his head.
As for the name? That comes from Eichelberger’s two oldest daughters. According to a letter from Margaret: “When my aunts were little girls they named the dog ‘Guess’ and thought it was very funny to have people ask what his name was. They’d say ‘Guess’ and were very delighted to fool people.”
Roger Brooke Taney
Mount Olivet Cemetery, 515 S. Market St.
The controversial bust of Supreme Court chief justice Roger Taney was removed from the front of Frederick City Hall in March of 2017 after at least a decade of discussion, based on past articles in the News-Post.
The city spent $5,100 to uproot Taney and a neighboring bust of former Maryland Gov. Thomas Johnson in the midst of a national debate over landmarks across the country. Both busts were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery, re-bronzed, and repositioned behind the Francis Scott Key Memorial, where they’ll glare dolefully at each other for the foreseeable future.
For Taney, once lauded as one of Frederick’s most respected citizens, the historical fall from grace was significant. The dedication of his bust, on Sept. 26, 1931, was attended by then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes, who praised his “great predecessor” and visited the so-called “Taney house” on South Bentz Street later that afternoon. Taney never lived in the two-story brick home, according to a 1931 newspaper article on the dedication, but he did spend 22 years as a Frederick resident, practicing law on Court Street with his brother-in-law, Francis Scott Key.
Taney’s legacy is occasionally defended — including in the pages of this newspaper — based on what appeared to be a personal aversion to slavery. In 1819, he called the institution a “blot on our national character,” a year after he emancipated his own slaves in Maryland, according to a 2010 article by historian Timothy S. Huebner. But his enduring national contribution remains the Dred Scott decision, characterized as one of the worst Supreme Court verdicts in history, according to the National Museum of African American History, and often credited for sowing the seeds of civil war.
The 1857 verdict, which ruled that black people could never be considered citizens of the United States, was decided by a predominantly pro-slavery court. The decision was doubtlessly informed by Taney’s own extrapolation that black people were “regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race,” as he stated in the ruling.
In 2009, the city tried to contextualize the Taney bust with a plaque dedicated to Dred and Harriet Scott, the former slaves who filed the historical lawsuit. The plaque was removed with the bust nearly a decade later, and remains in storage at Mount Olivet.
Gov. Thomas Johnson
Mount Olivet Cemetery, 515 S. Market St.
The bronze bust commemorating the first governor of Maryland was unveiled on a “bright and sunny day” with “a cool breeze blowing from the southwest,” according to a souvenir program from the dedication on July 4, 1929.
Funds for the bust, created by local sculptor Joseph Urner, were raised by the Thomas Johnson Memorial Association, then a 12-year-old organization founded by D.C. native Sterling Galt. Galt had moved to Frederick County a few years earlier, according to the program, where he began publishing the Emmitsburg Chronicle. Tangentially, he was related by marriage to the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, who frequently came to visit with husband in tow.
“[Galt] marveled that nothing in the way of a memorial had ever been erected in Frederick County to honor [Johnson’s] memory,” said Judge Glenn Worthington in his address at the dedication.
Galt may have spearheaded the memorial to Johnson, who famously spent his later years at Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, but the governor didn’t fare as well under historical reconsideration. Like Taney, his bust was uprooted from its place of honor in front of Frederick City Hall in light of his legacy as a slave owner. Along with the slaves at Rose Hill Manor — documented by several certificates of sale Johnson signed — he once co-owned Catoctin Furnace, an iron forge between Frederick and Thurmont predominantly powered by slave labor, according to archaeological data recovery by the Western Maryland Regional Preservation Center.
101 Clarke Place, on the grounds of the Maryland School for the Deaf
Poor William Barry gets overshadowed in Frederick’s catalogue of statuary, but the former board member for the Maryland School for the Deaf was, by all accounts, a very nice man.
Born in 1828, Barry was a successful Baltimore merchant with a deaf child, prompting his avid interest in services for the hearing-impaired, according to a 1904 article in The Baltimore Sun. He joined the MSD board in 1869 — the second year of the school’s existence — and served for the next three decades. In his later years, he was elected as president of the board, and also directed the Maryland School for the Colored Deaf and Blind in Baltimore.
His bronze bust was unveiled at the fourth quadrennial reunion for MSD graduates, celebrated in June of 1904. The statue was created by Baltimore sculptor E.W. Keyser and cost $600, raised entirely by the Maryland Association for the Deaf.
100 W. Patrick St., in front of the Frederick County Courthouse
One of the newer bronzes to join the scene, John Hanson was approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners in 2009. Three years later, the 8-foot-tall sculpture was unveiled in front of the Frederick County Courthouse, a $100,000 project crafted by local sculptor Toby Mendez.
Hanson, a Frederick resident who once lived at the intersection of Court and Patrick streets, was the first elected president of a transitional government formed in March of 1781 when the Articles of Confederation (a precursor to the U.S. Constitution) were formally ratified. Some historians, including original Hanson biographer Seymour Wemyss Smith, claim that Hanson should thus be considered the very first president of the United States of America.
This claim is debated by the fact-checking site Politifact, largely because the “presidents” of that first transitional government — known as the Confederation Congress — were mostly ceremonial leaders who served rotating one-year terms. Regardless, Hanson fans still affectionately refer to him as America’s first president. One of his biggest enthusiasts is Peter Michael, an Adamstown resident and Hanson descendant who authored an award-winning biography of the Founding Father in 2013.
A staunch patriot, Hanson grew up in Charles County on a plantation called Mulberry Grove, Michael said. Hanson moved to Frederick with his wife, Jane, in 1769 after realizing that his revolutionary ideas weren’t gaining much traction in southern Maryland.
“In 1765, Frederick was the first jurisdiction to refuse to pay taxes under the Stamp Act, and the city was filled with a lot of Swiss and German immigrants with no particular loyalty to the British Crown,” Michael said. “So, he found that people here were much more receptive to his cause.”
Seven years later, in 1776, Hanson was instrumental in convincing the Maryland Convention to sign the Declaration of Independence. If he hadn’t argued in favor of the document, Michael said, the colonies could have become a divided country with Maryland as an independent nation in the center.
Like most of his peers, Hanson was a slave owner. Many of his personal letters referenced specific slaves, Michael said, including a man who escaped from Frederick to join his family in southern Maryland.
“Hanson and his son-in-law go back and forth on what to do about the situation, and the solution was that Hanson bought the man’s wife and children and moved them to Frederick,” Michael said.
Despite the years he spent in the city, Hanson died in Prince George’s County, in 1783, visiting his nephew at an estate called Oxon Hill Manor. He was buried in a family vault, but the space was emptied some time in the 20th century. It’s possible that Hanson was reinterred at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Maryland, Michael said, but his final resting place has never been confirmed.
Mount Olivet Cemetery, 515 S. Market St.
In what Michael called “no sadder story of a president and his first lady other than the Lincoln assassination,” Jane — buried in Frederick — was separated from John in death (see previous entry). But her remains have a story to rival her more well-known husband’s.
First, some background.
Jane Hanson was only 15 years old when she married John (he was 21) and outlived him by 29 years. Both came from the same circle of ultra-wealthy colonial families, Michael said, which is how they were first introduced in southern Maryland.
After her husband died, the widowed Jane was diligently cared for by her son-in-law, Dr. Philip Thomas, a fellow widower who lived next door on West Patrick Street. When she died, her remains were interred in the graveyard of All Saints Episcopal Church, then on Carroll Street. In 1913, the church sold the graveyard to a developer, and around 300 bodies were dug up and reinterred at Mount Olivet.
“If you had a legible gravestone, it was transferred and you were reinterred in a normal fashion,” Michael said.
But Jane was buried in an unmarked coffin in the family vault, which made it impossible to definitively identify her remains. Like 286 others, she was reinterred in a slate-lined mass grave at the center of Mount Olivet. She remained there, un-memorialized, for almost 100 years, until Michael rediscovered the grave thanks to meticulous record-keeping on the part of the cemetery.
“It was a truly exciting day,” Michael said.
It’s still impossible to identify Jane’s specific remains, but he spearheaded an effort to construct a memorial to the former “first lady” right next to her final resting place. The bronze bust, which depicts Jane in her 30s, gleams proudly next to an identical statue of John. Both were dedicated in 2016 and created by sculptor Toby Mendez.
“Toby said, ‘Let’s reunite them with a dual sculpture,’” Michael said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
Unnamed Confederate soldier
Mount Olivet Cemetery, 515 S. Market St.
There isn’t a whole lot of information on the Confederate general statue at Mount Olivet. It certainly isn’t advertised by the cemetery, and it’s not included in most of the archival research on monuments and public art in Frederick. But it’s hard to miss if you’re driving through Mount Olivet, especially considering the prominent Confederate flag next to the sculpture.
Most of the information comes from the statue itself. An inscription in the granite reveals that it was erected in 1880 by the Ladies Monumental Association of Frederick County, “in honor of the soldiers of the Confederate Army who fell in the battles of Antietam, Monocacy, and elsewhere.” The bearded soldier is unnamed, but he’s dressed in an officer’s uniform and doesn’t look too dissimilar from portraits of Gen. Robert E. Lee. According to a program from Mount Olivet’s 150th anniversary celebration, the statue stands near “Confederate Row,” where unclaimed Confederate soldiers — also in 1880 — were interred in a mass grave funded by the Frederick chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy.
Francis Scott Key
Mount Olivet Cemetery, 515 S. Market St.
The “Key City” moniker, Frederick’s beloved minor league baseball team, they trace back to one of Frederick’s most famous residents, the attorney and poet best remembered for penning the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Francis Scott Key was born at Terra Rubra, a former Frederick estate now within the boundaries of Carroll County. Those shifting borders didn’t erode Key’s reputation as a proud Fredericktonian. For five years, he practiced law on Court Street with brother-in-law Roger Brooke Taney (see upcoming entry).
In 1898 — 55 years after Key’s death, and 84 years after he composed the poem that would later become our national anthem — Frederick unveiled the Francis Scott Key Monument, a $30,000 bronze sculpture marking the site of Key’s grave at Mount Olivet Cemetery. The 9-foot statue — a brandishing Key with parchment in hand — was modeled after various historical portraits of the poet, according to a 1914 program from the city’s Star-Spangled Banner centennial celebration.
The bronze was designed by Alexander Doyle, a prominent sculptor from New York City. Later research, though — particularly by the late Edward S. Delaplaine, who authored a three-part series on the statue for The Frederick News-Post — suggests that most of the work was done by 28-year-old Pompeo Coppini, a destitute Italian immigrant who became an apprentice of Doyle’s in the late 1800s.
Coppini, who later found fame as a sculptor, was a proud émigré to “the land of the free.” During Key’s lifetime, though, his words were often mocked by abolitionists, who pointed to the lawyer’s own participation in the slave trade. It’s fair to say that Key’s human rights legacy was decidedly mixed, according to research reprinted in the 1914 program. He owned slaves for most of his adult life, but allegedly set several of them free in the 1830s. He was outspoken on the evils of slavery — even defending several slaves suing for their freedom in court — but also represented slaveowners seeking the return of their escaped “property.”
Notably, Key used his eventual position as a U.S. attorney to suppress abolitionists, a group he blamed for sowing division in the antebellum United States. He was a founding member of the American Colonization Society, a controversial organization that supported sending freed slaves back to Africa. In May of 1842, just months before his death, he delivered a speech for the group that called for an end to the slave trade.
C. Burr Artz Public Library, 110 E. Patrick St.
This life-size bronze, a gift to Frederick from the Joseph D. Baker Fund, varyingly shows a “youngster,” “teen,” or “adult” reading to two younger children, depending on the article and your own subjective interpretation of the piece. Peer closely at the pages of the oddly flat book and you’ll find the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The statue, created by Colorado sculptor George W. Lundeen, was installed in front of the new C. Burr Artz Public Library on East Patrick Street in 2002. Formerly, the library was on Court Street.
“Cain and Abel” Fountain
101 N. Court St., in front of Frederick City Hall (formerly the Frederick County Courthouse, overseen by the county’s Board of Commissioners)
It’s still a bit of a mystery why the cherubs atop this historic cast-iron fountain are occasionally referred to as Cain and Abel.
A Washington Post article from 1995 listed “Cain and Abel” as the name of the sculpture, as did the Visit Frederick public art tour until a couple of weeks ago. Executive director John Fieseler mostly attributed the label to local city lore, passed down by longtime residents.
The putti, or cherubs, do appear to be fighting, but their names aren’t listed on the fountain itself. There’s little historic evidence for the monikers. A 1965 article in The Frederick News-Post specifically mentioned that the boys were unnamed. Whoever they are, they have a long history in the city of Frederick. According to the same article, the fountain was purchased in 1888 with a $250 grant from Gen. James C. Clarke, a one-time resident invested in the beautification of the city. At one point, the fountain was stocked with goldfish and bedecked with elaborate flower arrangements. Despite the initial investment, the boys weren’t kept in good condition, and the city once gifted the damaged and “worthless” statue to the former Peter Pan Inn in Urbana.
For a while, it was unclear whether the original statue was returned by the now-shuttered restaurant. The boys were gracing the fountain again by the mid-1950s, but several historic articles referred to the statue as a replica. Some digging through the News-Post archives uncovered a 1963 article with the contemporary history of the cherubs.
The boys were given to the Peter Pan Inn in the summer of 1953, which caused a local commotion when residents discovered the historic sculpture restored to excellent condition on the grounds of the restaurant.
“There was some movement to try to get them back now that they were mended and good as ever,” wrote columnist Elsie White Haines, until the county discovered that the foundry — New York-based J.W. Fiske & Company — had kept the original molds.
“So, the county had new ones made, as I remember the story,” Haines wrote.
Today, the sculpture still displays the name of the once-prominent iron foundry where it began its life. The fountain and the cherubs grace one of the most historic sites in the city, famous for hosting the first-ever acts of sedition against the British Stamp Act.
Another fun fact about the putti, according to Haines, originated in the spring of 1937, when the county decided to paint the statue a realistic flesh tone.
“Many of the town’s female residents considered [this] a little too lurid,” she wrote. “After complaints arose, the county commissioners decided to tone them down, and they were repainted a chaste silver.”
Follow Kate Masters on Twitter @kamamasters.