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In 1871, the Town of Concord appropriated $1,000 and asked 21-year-old Dan French to design a monument for the west side of the North Bridge. French was showing promise as a sculptor, but he had yet to create a work of such importance. On April 18, 1873, French, working in his Boston studio, began “a figure of the Continental.” For inspiration, he studied the plaster casts of classical statuary, in particular the heroically posed Apollo Belvedere.
Concord’s Monument Committee approved French’s clay model, which was then cast in plaster and sent to the Ames Foundry in Chicopee, Massachusetts, to be cast in bronze from melted down Civil War cannon. The Minute Man was unveiled at the centennial celebration of April 19, 1875, with President Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson in attendance. When the flags draping the sculpture were removed, the crowd saw an energetic farmer-soldier inspired by the art of antiquity, yet relevant to the optimism of the restored Union.
Later in life, French recalled, “Perhaps as important a moment in my life was when the good people of Concord, Massachusetts, rashly voted to trust to an inexperienced sculptor a statue of a Minute Man to commemorate the opposition that the British regulars experienced at Concord Bridge. This action resulted in a statue that I think I can say without blushing is better than the citizens had a right to expect.”
Listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” which is carved into the granite base of Daniel Chester French’s Minute Man statue, sung by The Choir of First Parish in Concord; Elizabeth Norton, Director.
Read an essay about the Minute Man statue by Thayer Tolles, currently the Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Visit Minute Man National Historical Park to learn more about the Minute Man of 1775.
Background photo credit: Sara Lundberg
Photo credits: David Bohl