FRENCH, Daniel Chester
Born on April 20, 1850, in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Henry Flagg and Anne (Richardson) French, Daniel Chester French became one of America's most famous sculptors. A list of his accomplishments would occupy many pages. French was educated in public schools in New Hampshire in Exeter and in Massachusetts in Amherst, Cambridge, and Boston. In 1867 and 1868 he was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a teenager he was more interested in the study of birds than anything else.
At the suggestion of a younger sister of author Louisa May Alcott, French modeled several animal subjects in clay. His interest in sculpture grew, and he later studied the subject under John Q. A. Ward (New York City), Thomas Ball and Preston Powers (Florence, Italy, 1874-1876), and in Paris (1886-1887). For a time French maintained studios in Concord and Stockbridge, Massachusetts, but in 1887 he permanently relocated to New York City.
His best-known and one of his earliest works was the Minute Man statue commissioned in 1873, when French was 23 years old, by the citizens of Concord at a meeting presided over by Ralph Waldo Emerson; the statue was unveiled on April 19, 1875. Also well known is French's monumental figure that is enclosed by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
French was a founder of the Commission of Fine Arts and served as its chairman 1912-1915 including during the selection process of artists for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition coins. During his lifetime French received many awards and honors among which were honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard.
The artist was married in Washington, D.C., July 17, 1888, to his cousin, Mary Adams French, daughter of an official of the U.S. Treasury Department. The union produced one child, Margaret French (who married William Penn Cresson). Daniel Chester French died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on October 7, 1931. President Herbert Hoover gave a eulogy, stating: "He was recognized not only in this country but throughout the world as an artist of pre-eminent skill and power.... "
Commemorative credit: 1925 Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial half dollar (although French was not involved in the design of this coin, Chester Beach used French's Minute Man statue as the obverse motif).
Christian Gobrechtwas born in Hanover, York County, Pennsylvania on December 23, 1785, the 6th son of John Christopher Gobrecht (a minister in the German Reformed Church and a native of Angerstein, Germany, who came to Philadelphia in 1755) and Elizabeth (Sands) Gobrecht. Christian demonstrated an early talent for art and mechanics. In his youth he was apprenticed to a clockmaker in Manheim, Pennsylvania, after which he moved to Baltimore, where he engraved dials and other ornaments for timepieces and did other engraving work, much of it in association with William H. Freeman. Still later he became an engraver of type punches for newspapers and documents and also engraved plates for banknotes.
Sometime around the year 1811 Gobrecht moved to Philadelphia, where by 1816 he was at work as a banknote engraver with Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co. In 1817 he devised a medal-ruling machine which, by means of a pantograph, depicted the contours of a coin or medal as lines on a flat surface such as a copper engraving plate. The copper or other plate to be ruled was movable, and the item copied remained stationary. At least two versions of this machine were made, the first being able to copy only straight lines and the second with the capability of copying curved as well as straight lines.
On May 31, 1818, the artist took as his wife Mary Hamilton Hewes (the daughter of Thomas Hamilton and the widow of Daniel Hewes). The couple had two sons and two daughters.
Around 1820-1821, Christian Gobrecht invented and manufactured a parlor reed organ operated by keys and bellows, the first example of which was sold to a resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Another example made in 1832 was kept by Gobrecht himself (and at the turn of the 20th century was still owned by his descendants). Intrigued by the automata of Maelzel (whose mechanical chess player delighted the courts of Europe), Gobrecht created a talking doll and an improvement on the ancient camera lucida device.
By 1826 Gobrecht had furnished designs and die models as a private contractor to the Philadelphia Mint. During the 1820s and early 1830s he executed many commissions for the Mint and private clients including the seal of St. Peter's Church, the Massachusetts Mechanics Charitable Association award medal (which is encountered with some frequency today), the award medal for the New England Society for the Promotion of Manufactures and the Arts (interestingly, Gobrecht was the first recipient of this medal, which was engraved: "For the genius, taste and skill which he evinced in executing the dies therefor."), the Franklin Institute award medal, and a widely admired medal depicting Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
In 1836 he was appointed as assistant engraver on the Mint staff. Following the passing of Chief Engraver William Kneass on August 27, 1840, Gobrecht ascended to that post, a position he retained until his death in Philadelphia on July 23, 1844. Kneass had been ill late in his term, and much important work was done by Gobrecht during the last several years of Kneass' life including work on the Braided Hair or Coronet depiction of Miss Liberty used on gold coins beginning 1838-1840 and half cents and large cents circa 1839-1840.
Gobrecht is best known today for his designs for the Liberty Seated silver coinage, modeled after sketches by Thomas Sully. The story of his creation of the 1836 Liberty Seated pattern dollar, with C. GOBRECHT F. below the base of Miss Liberty, and with a flying eagle design (modeled after Peter, an eagle which was the Mint mascot), is particularly well known to numismatists today. The Liberty Seated device was used on silver coinage throughout the 19th century, remaining on several denominations until 1891, and became one of the most widely reproduced images in American history. His name is recalled by the title of The Gobrecht Journal, publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club.
Commemorative credit: The 1848 CAL. $2.50 utilized Gobrecht's Liberty Head design created in 1838 (first used on the $10 that year) and adopted in the quarter eagle series in 1840.