Sunday, May 18, 2014

Soldiers & Sailors Monument, Boston Common

A few photos of Boston's Soldiers and Sailors Monument, atop a low hill in the middle of Boston Common. It's a big allegorical Civil War memorial, like the later and more ornate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Cleveland's Public Square. A page at Celebrate Boston describes the monument's allegorical odds and ends and what they all represent. CT Monuments laments graffiti and vandalism at the monument, and points out a nearby World War I monument made from a converted sea mine, which I'm quite sorry I didn't notice when I was there. Historical Digression talks about the monument a bit and moves on to Martin Milmore, its sculptor. Milmore died young at age 38, and was memorialized by Daniel Chester French's famous Death and the Sculptor, which may actually be better known than Milmore himself these days. French is best known for his Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial, and he also created the Minute Man statue at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA.

Public Art Boston's info page for the monument notes that "In honoring ordinary soldiers and sailors, rather than military leaders, this work set an important precedent adopted by the designers of subsequent memorials." and points out that it's available for "adoption" in the city's Adopt-a-Statue program.

On the point about this memorial defining a style for future ones, I came across a paper in the Spring 1988 Journal of American Culture, "Martin Millmore's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on the Boston Common: Formulating Conventionalism in Design and Symbolism". It looks interesting but unfortunately it's paywalled, and I'm not a Real Historian who can get it through a university library, and JSTOR does't have it, so -- peon that I am -- I can only see the first page. So this is the part where I put in a plug for Open Access publishing. Here's the first paragraph, in the spirit of fair use, since that hasn't been abolished yet:

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on the Boston Common, designed by Martin Millmore and erected 1870-1877, is one of several types of memorials elevated after the Civil War. The characteristics of this monument, its configuration and iconography, were influenced by popular ideas and eclectic stylistic trends in post-Civil War America. The shaping of this type of monument was especially influenced by the popular tastes of the period. An analysis of the style, sources, and imagery of the design offers insight into the ideologies, the formulating conventions of the age, and the role of the artist in satisfying the prevalent demand for military monuments as art within the public domain.

Without really intending to, I've ended up with a handful of posts here about Civil War memorials. Beyond this one and the one in Cleveland, I've also got Southern contributions to the genre in Edgefield, SC and Tupelo, MS, as well as Portland's own very humble contribution, a couple of puny surplus cannons in Lownsdale Square. So I figured I'd go ahead and add a "civil war" post tag, so it's one stop shopping for visitors who just can't get enough of the Civil War for whatever reason. I don't get that, personally, but I like to feel I'm providing a valuable service here, even when I find it inexplicable.

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