Sunday, November 30, 2014

Minute Man Monument, Concord MA

When I was in Boston back in 2012, I spent most of the week at a conference hotel out in the 'burbs. The hotel turned out to be a few miles down the road from Concord, MA, the site of a famous Schoolhouse Rock video, and the related historical events of 1775. One day after a long day of death by PowerPoint, I drove over and visited the historic Old North Bridge, which turns out to not be very old at all. In addition to the bridge itself, both ends of the bridge feature modestly-sized memorial columns, which were added in the 1800s. (If the Revolution had begun in what's now DC, or anywhere in the South, there would be a giant bombastic ultra-patriotic memorial here, and you'd have to go through a TSA checkpoint to visit it. But this being New England they've managed to keep it modest and low key and reasonably authentic, right down to the simple wood replica bridge.)

The column on the south side of the bridge dates to 1875, the centennial of the battle here, and it's topped by a statue of a local minute man. This statue is by famed sculptor Daniel Chester French, who was renowned for his historical and allegorical works. It seems this was the work that first established his reputation. He later went on to create the Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial, among other things. I haven't covered any other work by French here, but he did create a famous memorial to Martin Millmore, who was the sculptor behind the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Boston Common. Curiously, French also created a small sculpture of Mrs. O'Leary's cow, the poor creature blamed for starting the great Chicago Fire.

There's a similar monument a few miles east at the Battle Green in Lexington, and apparently the two statues are often confused. A 1998 Concord Magazine article helpfully explains the differences: The Concord Minute Man is wearing a hat, and holds a plow in one hand and a musket in the other. They didn't actually plow and shoot at the same time in real life; this is just an 1875 way of pointing out the Minute Men were farmers. The 19th Century art world loved that sort of thing. Anyway, the Lexington statue is not wearing a hat, and not engaging in agriculture, and the base once featured a trough for horses, and technically the guys fighting in Lexington were the local militia and not Minute Men at all, strictly speaking. So now you know.

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