Grant Monument, Lincoln Park, Chicago - JTLynch Photo
This is an excerpt of a speech I recently made to the Chicopee Historical Society about sculptor and bronze foundryman Melzar Mosman. I’m currently working on a book about this 19th century craftsman, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has more information. Please either leave a comment, or send me an email at: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com.
One of the most famous founders of bronze statuary in the United States, Melzar Mosman, unique among foundrymen, was a sculptor as well.
These views are from 19th century postcards and show a different world in which the bronze statues are not yet corroded to green, and in which they are showcases in city parks and village greens. At the time they were more than memorials to fallen soldiers; they were art. Art for the community, and paid for by towns, and social and civic groups, and sometimes individuals to show their community pride.
We have the statute of General Ulysses S. Grant in Brooklyn, sculpted by William Ordway Partridge, a noted artist in his day, and cast by Melzar Mosman. This was done in 1895 in his shop called Chicopee Bronze Works in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Here is the Civil War monument Middletown, Connecticut, done in 1874, sculpted by Melzar and founded by him while Mosman was still working at the Ames Manufacturing Company.
The Ames Company, which we discussed in this previous post, is noted of course for its enormous contribution to the Mexican War and to the Civil War producing swords and armaments, light and heavy artillery. But in 1853, Ames is credited with being the first foundry in the United States to cast bronze statuary. Ames had been producing bronze cannon since the 1830s, and in the politically turbulent years of the mid-19th century, cannon took precedence over statues.
Melzar was the grandson of Silas Mosman, also called Deacon Silas, who came from Rhode Island in 1829 to find work for himself and his sons in the burgeoning factory town of Chicopee. His son, Silas, Jr. would come to superintendent the Ames foundry and became noted as a skilled caster in bronze of statuary. The highlight of his career was being asked to cast in bronze the ornamental doors to the Senate wing of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., desgined by Thomas Crawford.
Melzar was born in 1843, and when he graduated from Chicopee High School, he went to work at the Ames Manufacturing Company under the supervision of his father in the foundry. In 1862 he quit to join the Union Army.
Melzar was a private attached to Company D and served at New Bern, North Carolina. His unit clashed with the enemy in skirmishes in the Goldsboro, Kinston areas. His unit was sent to Baltimore, and Harper’s Ferry, and helped in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee when the Confederates retreated from Gettysburg. Later that month, July of 1863, Mosman’s unit was sent home and mustered out. Melzar went back to the foundry at the Ames Company and made more cannon.
After the war in 1867, he went to Europe, as most young artists and craftsmen did, to study. He went to Italy and France, worked in foundries and learned the art of casting bronze statuary. He also learned to speak Italian and French.
The Minuteman, Concord, Mass. JT Lynch Photo
He returned to the Ames foundry to work alongside his father on statuary. In 1874, they produced “The Minuteman” statue of Concord, Massachusetts. The sculptor was Daniel Chester French. Melzar gradually took over the Ames foundry from his father, and Silas, Jr. died in 1883, having retired in 1880. At the time of his death, Melzar was his only surviving child, and Melzar was destined to completely crawl out from underneath his father’s famous shadow, not only as the most sought-after foundryman in the United States, but as a sculptor in his own right.
Here is one of Melzar’s most prestigious projects, the equestrian statue of General Ulysses S. Grant in Lincoln Park, Chicago. It was dedicated in 1891. The sculptor was Louis T. Rebisso. A year after his father’s death, Melzar left the Ames Company and started his own business called Chicopee Bronze Works.
Here the Puritan Statue sculpted by Augustus St. Gaudens, one of the most famous of 19th sculptors. It was placed originally at Sterns square in 1887, then moved to its present position on State Street by the library in 1901. Mosman was once reported to have said that St. Gaudens wasa ‘Crank. He came here to see the castings we made for him, and if he did not like them, went at them with a hammer.”
The Puritan, JT Lynch photoHere is the Westfield Civil War statue, just off the common, May 1871. Melzar sculpted this. In the newspaper account of the unveiling, he was referred to as the “modest young artist.”
Westfield, Mass., Civil War monument, JT Lynch photo
Here is General Walter Harriman in Warner, New Hampshire, 1903, which Melzar both sculpted and founded at Chicopee Bronze Works.
Gen. Harriman, NH, JT Lynch photo
Bridgeport, Connecticut. This magnificent statue is 54-feet high, and looks something like a tiered wedding cake. It was a gift by circus showman P.T. Barnum. Placed here in August 1876, Melzar is the sculptor of the bronze figures which were cast at the Ames Company. The classical roman mythical figure of a woman representing peace, and the realistic modern-day figures of the men representing soldiers and sailors. The entire monument ranges from Rennaissance Revival to Baroque in style. You’ll note an empty space in the arch on the lower level. There had been another figure of a woman there, but that statue was vandalized in 1969. Only last year, a young sculptor named Emily Bedard was hired to replace the figure, based on old photographs.
Bridgeport, CT, JT Lynch photo
Melzar lived long enough to create memorials for the fallen of two more wards. The Spanish-American War statue in Springfield from 1906.
Spanish-American War, Springfield, Mass., JT Lynch photoThe last war he commemorated was World War I, the Peace Statue in his hometown of Chicopee, which was dedicated in May 1921. It represents the classic female figure with shield and laurel wreath. A replica of the city seal is around her waist. Melzar donated his time for this statue.
When his wife died in 1923, and his daughter married and moved away, Melzar took a trip around the world. For the most part, he was content to keep his business in Chicopee where he lived, were he sang tenor in the choir at the Third Congregational Church. When he died in 1926, he was one of 6 Civil War vets left in the city.
Mosman grave, Chicopee, Mass., JT Lynch photoHe was granted, at his request, a military funeral, with taps played at the gravesite by a Chicopee Boy Scout. Ironically, his headstone is only a small, simple brownstone slab with his initials, identical to the ones of several family members together at the Grape Street Cemetery. The monuments he created for others were his true memorial.