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  • Mikah Meyer

The Man Behind the Mold

Unit #44 / 413 - Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Quick! Think of three famous sculptures or statues!




What'd you come up with?

I'll share my three:

1. Mount Rushmore

2. Lincoln Memorial

3. The Statue of Liberty

Now, tell me who created each of yours.


How often do we stare at statues, sculptures, and monuments to important people, but have no idea who made them?

That's the goal of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in western New Hampshire: to share about the man behind the mold.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1848 and immigrating to the U.S. at six months due to the potato famine, Augustus Saint-Gaudens became one of America's most respected sculptors.

His most famous works include his first commissioned public monument to Civil War Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (see picture above), a monument to General Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of African American Volunteers, and the standing Liberty created for the 1904 $20 coin and still used for gold bullion coins today.

One of Saint-Gaudens' many coin designs. He was the first American sculptor to design fully any American coins.

The Historic Site in his summer residence of Cornish, New Hampshire, serves dual purposes. Appropriately, it displays the studios in which Saint-Gaudens crafted many of his works, particularly when he became ill with cancer and the summer residence became a permanent retreat from New York City.

But the Historic Site is also a place to celebrate Saint-Gaudens' catalogue of pieces. Strolling the beautiful grounds of this estate that once played host to a community of artists, visitors can spot re-castings of a number of Saint-Gaudens' most famous works, along with partake in free tours describing each piece's significance.

Chief among these is the Shaw Memorial, cast for Saint-Gaudens' estate as the final version he envisioned, not the one that graces the Boston Commons. As my Ranger tour-guide explained, this casting includes a number of changes Saint-Gaudens would have liked in the original.

Despite its update, it still includes the incredible detail of the original, such as full-figured men behind the horse (unseen except for only the most perfect of angles), and of particular interest to me, a perspective to make it appear as if there were more men than the sculpting space allowed.

Leaving this national park and preparing to write my blog about the experience, it was a good reminder to pay attention to the entirety of art. Just as this blog shows pictures of me touring this site, readers miss Andy taking the photos and providing them for this final product.

So too do we often gaze upon a statue of a great American, and forget the great American who made it.

Saint-Gaudens Highlight (You Can Do)!

1. Ranger-guided Tour of the Grounds

This free, hour long tour takes you around the majority of the grounds and to all the major sculptures. The information presented through the Ranger adds detail necessary to fully appreciate the caliber of Saint-Gaudens' works.

Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations. What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

Maine to Massachusetts

-Appalachian National Scenic Trail

-Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument *New NPS site added 1 week ago*

-Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

-Acadia National Park

-Adams National Historical Park

-Boston African American National Historic Site

-Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

-Boston National Historical Park

-Cape Cod National Seashore

-Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site

-John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

-Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site

-Lowell National Historical Park Minute Man National Historical Park

-New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

-Salem Maritime National Historic Site

-Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

-Springfield Armory National Historic Site

The journey thus far:

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