An American Story for Sunday: Cyrus Dallin’s Betrayal

dallin-appeal-to-the-great-spiritI was talking about how in the seventh grade I used to go by myself to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It had something in there that to me was a marvel. So I would walk over from Boston Latin School on some days after class and go in there because of it.

One person having breakfast with me said you previously told me that you went there to see the Indian on the horse outside the museum shown here known formally as The Appeal to the Great Spirit. I agreed that I did tell her about that but it was not what made me visit the museum. I explained how I told her that when I rode on the MTA’s Huntington/Arborway Line from Park Street out to the school every day I anxiously looked forward to seeing that statue. I would gaze at it in wonder thinking it the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Another person at our breakfast table, PP, told of her involvement with the statue. Her father lived a long distance from Boston.  He came there on occasion to do business. Whenever he returned he’d say: “Well, I visited the museum.” He never went inside. He, like me, was in awe of the statue and would go there just to look at it.

But PP’s story did not end there.

She knew all about the artist who created it. His name was Cyrus Dallin. As a young boy back in Utah the neighbors noted his talent for sculpturing. Funds were raised for him to go east to improve his art. He came to Boston to study under T. H. (Truman Howe) Bartlett an instructor in architecture at M.I.T. Bartlett was well-known, had had his work exhibited in Paris, and associated with the Boston Brahmins who ran the city.

He would work under Bartlett for a couple of years. He then got itchy. He left and set up his own shop.

He was only 19-years-old when he learned that Boston planned to honor Paul Revere with a statue. A competition was held to see who could submit the most worthy depiction of the city’s hero. The City was to pay $5,000 and an additional $20,000 would to be raised by public subscription and given to the artist who created the best sculpture. Dallin submitted an entry into the competition.

The proposed works of the artists were submitted to the select committee of judges. They did not know the identity of any of the artists. They unanimously picked the one they thought was best. That was the one by Dallin. When it was learned that it was by such a young boy who on top of that was from a Mormon family in Utah many in Boston were dismayed.

dallin-moroni(As an aside, Dallin created the sculpture of the Angel Moroni which is on top of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and other Mormon places of worship such as the temple off of Route 2 in Arlington, MA)

Despite that Dallin might still have received the commission but there was one person who conducted a bitter campaign against him. The reason for that was that his son had submitted an entry which was not selected. That person was Dallin’s teacher T.H. Bartlett. Dallin would later say that T.H, had flown into a jealous rage. He worked successfully to undermine Dallin. Unable to stand the heat in the kitchen the judges announced that they would hold a second competition.

The conditions were the same as before. Again Dallin’s statue was the winner. Bartlett’s jealously was again inflamed. He used his influence to cause another great commotion conjuring up all sorts of reasons to deprive young Dallin of his victory.

dallin-paul-revereThe judges uncertain as to what to do and unwilling to go up against one of their own put everything on hold. It was not until 55 years later that the City of Boston finally followed through and commissioned the statue of Paul Revere that now stands in the North End. Dallin received a relatively small compensation for his work or his wait.

As noted, Dallin also did the statue of the Indian outside the museum. That statue won a gold medal in Paris and had been purchased by the City of Boston to be placed in one of its parks. When it arrived for whatever reason the City no longer wanted it. It gave it to the museum to be placed inside. Here again there was a problem. Some objected to having such a savage within the walls of the museum. Ah, the Boston Brahmins strike again.

Fortunately their apparent fear that the Indian might jump down off his horse and roam freely through the museum doing dastardly things made them decide to put it outside the museum. That made it so that ordinary people like my friend’s father and I could gaze upon it in admiration.

Later PP’s husband knowing of her fondness for the statue called the museum to see if they had a replica of it. They did. It was 18″ high. He was told it cost “thirty-seven fifty.”

Delighted he made time to go to the museum shop to purchase it not wanting to pay the shipping costs. Smiling he approached the counter with the two twenty-dollar bills in his pocket only to learn the $37.50 was $3750.00.” He studiously examined it and suggested it did not meet his expectations and quickly fled.

dallin-hutchinsonDallin also sculptured the statue of Anne Hutchinson outside the State House in Boston.  He said that was done as a representation of pioneer women of whom his mother was one.

Cyrus Dallin would settle down in Arlington, MA. He lived there for the remainder of his life. He died there in 1944 at age 76. The Dallin museum is located there. I’ll have more on Dallin in another post but for now Happy Sunday.



13 thoughts on “An American Story for Sunday: Cyrus Dallin’s Betrayal

  1. Can they make the fence any higher at the park Louisburg Square? (My Aunt Marge actually lived there in a basement apartment–she had seven Brahmin landlords and when a fight was brewing the smart money was on Margie Moore.)

  2. Brahmins, Brahmins-can’t get away from them. Bill C had great story about the Globe Taylors concerning another vote that didn’t go their way.

    Weld/Silber election, Taylor tells the editorial board that he would abide by their decision on whom the paper would support. Board meets, supports Silber. Taylor nullifies (“Don’t you idiots know Weld is my cousin? We’ll support Weld. I have to do everything around here.”
    Marty Nolan skedaddled soon thereafter. Some say Taylor caught him going to Mass.

  3. Nice one, Matt. Cyrus Dallin was a National treasure and is completely unknown to most people.
    His Massasoit also stands high in Plymouth, MA overlooking the town and ocean.
    For those interested, the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum in Arlington, MA has replicas of his statues, mostly in plaster. The museum is open Fri-Sun, 12-4 PM, and they give tours, it’s worth a visit.

  4. Why do the stories of the statue design competitions remind me of Electoral College issues with some?

  5. Back in the 50s we were taught that a horse statue with legs raised in the air was said to signify that the rider was killed in battle. Although this is a common belief among some equestrians and artisans alike, this designation is not universally applied. At some historic sites across the United States and in other countries, horses with both legs raised are found with riders who were not killed in battle.

    Some views maintain that a horse statue with one leg raised is associated with a rider who was injured but did not die in battle. Others views contend that this is symbolic of a rider who was not only injured in battle but died at a later time from those injuries. A horse with all four feet on the ground is said to represent a rider that was neither killed nor injured in battle but who died away from the battlefield of something unrelated to war or battle.

    A significant number of horse statues in Washington, D.C. and in London, England, do not follow these alleged protocols regarding leg location on a horse statue. The U.S. and the U.K. are the two countries in which the contentions about horse leg statue positions are most prevalent.

    Compare the Revere statue and Washington in the Garden, neither wounded or died in battle.

    When I first went to the Copley Plaza around that time, there were notices of what the building had once been. Even Matt won’t remember this:

    1. Henry:

      Enjoyed the reference. I never knew the museum was there but well knew about the hotel which replaced it. My fondest memories of Copley Square involve going to the library as a young student and studying in the large hall on the second floor and admiring the lions as I went up the wide stairway and looking up at the barrel vaulted ceiling that seemed to reach to the heavens. My memory is that circling the upper wall were the names of great people from the past and I would stare at them in wonderment. I wondered if I remembered that correctly and had to check. I looked at pictures of the room, Bates Hall, and none seemed to show them. Finally I found this: “The frieze that runs around the room, between the piers, at the elevation of the pier capitals is engraved with the names of men known for achievements through history in
      literature, philosophy, art and science: Laplace, Buonarotti, Plato, Kant, Moliere, Titian,
      Leonardo, Leibnitz, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Confucius, Socrates, Homer, Aristotle,
      Euclid, Herodotus, Bacon, Milton, Luther, Moses, Raphael, Dante, Cuvier, Linnaeus,
      Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Beethoven, Humboldt, Gutenberg, Goethe.

      But you are right, I did not recall seeing the museum when it was there.

  6. Yes, a great artist. I remember being surprised to find his Massasoit outside the state capital in Salt Lake City, when I visited.

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