Artist Unknown

Amusement Park at Walden [187- or 188-]

Oil on canvas

Purchased from the William M. Prichard Fund, 1954

Walden Pond is Concord’s best-known landscape feature, familiar to countless readers of Thoreau’s Walden, or, Life in the Woods (first published in 1854). Thoreau’s book imbued the pond with a spiritual quality that still draws a steady stream of pilgrims in addition to the swimmers, fishermen, and picknickers inevitably drawn to any clean body of water.

The shores of Walden have not always presented an idyllic face. Even in the nineteenth century, the pond was appreciated as much for its recreational possibilities as for its natural beauty. In his Concord Historic, Literary, and Picturesque (a revised, expanded version of his 1880 Concord Guide Book), Bartlett wrote of Walden as “a pellucid basin of the purest water nestling among low hills. Its rare and lovely beauty attracted alike the poet, philosopher, and naturalist.” A few pages later, however, he described in detail the picnic, swimming, and athletic areas created at Walden after the Fitchburg Railroad purchased land on the side of the pond nearest the railroad track, in 1866.

The railroad brought in sand to make a beach suitable for bathing. Bathhouses were built, a path made around the pond, and swings, see-saws, merry-go-rounds, and pavilions installed. Footpaths were cut through the woods, and fields for football and baseball as well as a racetrack added. Boats took visitors out onto the pond. A wooden footbridge—visible to the left in this painting—allowed people to cross the tracks without danger.

Lake Walden was a convenient day trip from Boston and a popular destination for thousands. Needless to say, some who remembered Walden in Thoreau’s time were disturbed by the crowds of pleasure-seekers who visited the amusement park.

Federal inlaid library table, probably Maryland, 1810-1825

Mahogany, with green leather inset top; some yellow pine

From the bequest of Samuel Hoar, 1904

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar—a son of Squire Sam Hoar—was a lawyer, judge, Massachusetts senator, Attorney General of the United States in the cabinet of President Ulysses S. Grant, and a representative in the United States Congress. He was also president of the Concord Free Public Library Corporation from 1873 until 1894, and a generous donor of books, manuscripts, and artwork.

In 1873, Judge Hoar bought this table—said to have been used by successive presidents and cabinets from Madison to Grant—at an auction of White House furniture. He left it to his son Samuel, who used it in his Boston law office and bequeathed it to the Concord Free Public Library at his death in 1904.

Stacy Tolman (1860-1935)

The Hemlocks

Oil on canvas

Commissioned by the Library Corporation, 1896

George Bradford Bartlett wrote of the Leaning Hemlocks on the Assabet: “Ascending the Assabet, on the left bank are the old hemlocks of which Hawthorne speaks in the ‘Mosses from an Old Manse,’ and of which every poet, philosopher, and story-teller of Concord has delighted to sing the praise. Before the Lowell Railroad destroyed many of these trees, one could row in eight minutes from the bridge near the village into the grand solitude of the forest.”

The Middlesex Central Railroad came to Concord in 1873 and was extended to the newly constructed Massachusetts Reformatory in 1879. Although Concord residents tried to prevent the destruction of the ancient, massive trees, many hemlocks were sacrificed to progress.

Born in Concord in 1860, artist Stacy Tolman grew up here. He studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and in Paris. Returning from abroad, he opened a studio in Concord with sculptor E. C. Potter, later one in Boston with W. H. C. Bicknell. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became chief instructor in portrait and figure painting at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Neoclassical carved mantel from the old Senate Chamber in the United States Capitol, ca. 1815


Presented by David Emerson and Ellen Emerson Cotton from the estate and in accordance with the instructions of Amelia Forbes Emerson, 1986

In 1859, the Senate Chamber in the United States Capitol was relocated and its old quarters became home to the Supreme Court. The justices subsequently opted to install heat-efficient stoves in their headquarters. This mantel—one of four formerly located in the Senate Chamber—was taken from Washington after the Civil War by John Shepard Keyes of Concord.

John Shepard Keyes was, over the course of his life, a lawyer, a Massachusetts state senator, sheriff of Middlesex County, a United States marshal, district court judge, and a powerful man in Concord politics and life. In 1874, his daughter Annie Shepard Keyes married Edward Waldo Emerson, son of Ralph Waldo and Lidian Emerson.

In 1863, Keyes bought the Elisha Jones house on Monument Street—the so-called “Bullet Hole House”—in his wife’s name. He brought the Senate Chamber mantel to this historic Concord home. The mantel was later installed in the Estabrook Road residence of his grandson Raymond Emerson and Raymond’s wife Amelia. In 1989, it was placed in the Trustees’ Room of the Concord Free Public Library.

David Scott (1806-1849)

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1848

Oil on panel

Presented by Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, Elizabeth Hoar, and Reuben N. Rice, 1873

Ralph Waldo Emerson was active in the intellectual life of Concord through its lyceum and its libraries. Not long after he took up residence in the town in the 1830s, he became involved with the Concord Social Library, the proprietary library that preceded the municipally-funded Concord Town Library here. Emerson was a member of the Town Library Committee and of the Library Committee for its successor institution, the Concord Free Public Library. When the Concord Free Public Library opened in 1873, he spoke at its dedication. Because he was so closely associated with the early history of this library, major examples of Emerson iconography are prominently displayed here.

This almost life-size oil portrait of Emerson was painted by Scottish engraver and artist David Scott in Edinburgh in 1848, during Emerson’s second trip abroad. It was presented to the library in 1873 by Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (a lawyer, judge, and—briefly—Attorney General of the United States, and a good friend of Emerson’s), by the judge’s sister Elizabeth (the fiancée of Emerson’s brother Charles, who died in 1836, after which she remained an intimate of the Emerson family), and by Reuben N. Rice. Hoar, Rice, and Emerson were all involved with the Concord Free Public Library and were all members of the Social Circle in Concord. Hoar and Emerson were also members of the Saturday Club in Boston.

Emerson already had a serious following in Britain when he met painter David Scott at a dinner party. Scott, who knew Emerson through his writings, leaned more heavily toward classical and epic subjects than toward portraiture, but he very much wanted to paint Emerson. Emerson sat several times for the artist, whom he described as “a sort of Bronson Alcott with easel and brushes, a sincere great man, grave, silent, contemplative, and plain.”

As a sitter, Emerson was not what Scott expected. He found his subject’s appearance “severe, and dry, and hard” and thought he was “guarded and cold” at times. It was in conversation, Scott discovered, that the personality of the man came through. When conversing, Scott found Emerson simple, direct, kind, and truthful. Accordingly, he painted Emerson in action, in the lecture stance, in the act of communication. He captured a recognized trait of Emerson the public speaker—the clenching of one hand into a fist. He also employed symbolism, suggesting Emerson’s transcendental optimism through the rainbow in the upper left corner.

David Scott died in 1849, the year after he painted his portrait of Emerson. The piece has been continuously displayed in the Concord Free Public Library since its donation in 1873.

William James Stillman (1828-1901)

The Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks 1858

Oil on canvas

The Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks by William James Stillman is one of the best-known works of art in the Concord Free Public Library collection. The painting shows a visit by the so-called “Adirondack Club” to the Adirondack wilderness in 1858. The Adirondack Club was an offshoot of the Saturday Club—a Boston club to which Emerson, Hawthorne, Lowell, Agassiz, and other major nineteenth-century century literary and intellectual figures belonged. The trip was organized by William James Stillman.

Stillman was a talented man of wide-ranging interests and occupations. In addition to being an artist, he was, at different times in his life, a journalist, a writer on art, current events, and other subjects, a diplomat (he was the United States Consul in Crete and in Rome), and a photographer. He founded The Crayon, a journal of the graphic arts, and through this periodical got to know a lot of the writers and thinkers of his time.

Stillman studied with Frederic Church, an American landscape painter of the Hudson River School, which was characterized by a focus on landscape and nature, and by luminous, visionary atmospheric effects. In its expression of the majesty of nature, it was parallel to literary romanticism as it took shape in transcendentalism. Stillman also studied art in London, where he met Turner, Ruskin, and the pre-Raphaelite painters, who influenced him deeply. Most productive as an artist during the 1850s, he gave up painting around 1860.

The artist was also an outdoorsman. In 1858, he persuaded some of his friends in the Saturday Club to make a camping expedition to Follansbee Pond in the Adirondacks. Those who went in 1858 were: Emerson; James Russell Lowell; Louis Agassiz; Dr. Estes Howe; Prof. Jeffries Wyman; John Holmes; Judge Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar; Horatio Woodman; Dr. Amos Binney; Stillman, who led the expedition; and a number of local Adirondack guides.

There are several levels on which this painting can be viewed. On one level, it provides a record of an actual event—a camping trip to the Adirondacks. On another level, it’s an expression of what the artist felt was important about the trip.

The human figures in the painting are arranged in three groups. To the left, there’s a cluster around Agassiz, the scientific naturalist, who’s dissecting a fish. To the right, a group of marksmen is involved in target practice, under Stillman’s direction. And in the middle of the painting is Ralph Waldo Emerson, all by himself.

Even though Emerson’s figure does not dominate, it is central. If you read Stillman’s own written accounts of the trip and about the painting, it’s clear that for him Emerson was the most important member of the party. Of all the campers, he wrote the most, and the most intensely, about Emerson. In the painting, Emerson stands out as a lone, visionary observer, soaking up what he sees around him, the “transparent eyeball” in contrast to his busy fellow campers, who are preoccupied with the concrete reality of nature. Emerson responds to the forest in a deeper, more spiritual, more transcendental way than the other campers.

Daniel Chester French (1850-1931)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, unveiled 1914

Marble statue of seated figure

By subscription

Daniel Chester French’s marble statue of the seated Emerson dominates the library lobby. This piece was sculpted many years after Emerson’s death, and was unveiled in 1914. Unlike French’s 1879 bust from life, it’s clearly intended as public art. It doesn’t project the intimate feeling of the bust—the sense that the subject is about to speak to the viewer.

The seated Emerson is designed to be viewed from a distance. The subject’s gaze is not focused on the viewer. He looks thoughtful and kindly and serene, even oracular, but less real, less personal, and less lively than the bust. He’s more idealized, more a personification of the transcendental philosopher, than the bust is.

The statue shows a middle-aged Emerson, at the prime of his powers, sitting in a chair, wearing his favorite dressing gown. There is formal symbolism in the pine branches on the side. The pine is a symbol of nature’s majesty and mystery in Emerson’s writings. French is using the branch to suggest specifics of Emerson’s philosophy.

The seated Emerson was commissioned by a Concord committee appointed at town meeting in 1896 to erect a memorial statue to Emerson at some suitable public place in town. The committee was not authorized to spend town money, however—all the funds had to be raised through private donation. The fund-raising turned out to be a slow process. French didn’t really start work on the piece until after 1910. It was unveiled in May of 1914.

Daniel Chester French (1850-1931)

Ralph Waldo Emerson carved 1883/1884, from original model, 1879

Marble bust

“ . . . gift from one hundred and thirty-five contributors, including Mr. French himself, who was the largest contributor . . . ”—Report of the Trustees of the Free Public Library, 1883/84.

Daniel Chester French was one of America’s major public artists. He’s known in Concord first and foremost as the sculptor of the Minute Man Statue at the North Bridge. Nationally, he is best known for his seated Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

He was born in 1850 in Exeter, N.H., the son of Henry Flagg French, who was a lawyer, a judge, and later, Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury. The Frenches moved to Cambridge when Dan was six. During the 1860s, they moved to Sudbury Road in Concord. French’s talent was first noticed by his stepmother, who was impressed by little figures that he carved out of turnips and pieces of wood. She encouraged him to think about developing his skills as a sculptor.

In 1868, May Alcott, who had heard through the grapevine of French’s talent, visited him. She was impressed by his ability, and took an active interest in teaching and encouraging him. She gave him her modeling clay and tools, and advice on how to use them. French learned quickly. He studied with William Morris Hunt and with William Rimmer in Boston and worked in the studio of John Quincy Adams Ward in New York. His earliest subjects were his family and friends, who sat for portrait busts.

In 1873, preparations were underway for Concord’s upcoming 1875 celebration of the centennial of the Concord Fight. Although he had little experience, French was encouraged by those close to him to submit a model for a proposed commemorative statue to be erected at the North Bridge. The result was his first big commission as an artist. His statue of the Minute Man was unveiled on April 19, 1875, the day before French’s twenty-fifth birthday.

French wasn’t in Concord when the Minute Man was unveiled—he was in Florence. By the time he returned to America in 1876, he was well on his way to becoming a major public sculptor. He set up a studio first in Washington, then resettled in Concord in 1878, building a studio next to his family’s home in 1879.

This bust of Emerson was created relatively early in French’s career. French was eager to do a bust of Emerson, who was a friend of his family and a relative by marriage and who had been influential in helping French get the commission for the Minute Man. He began work on the bust in March of 1879. It was first modeled in clay. Later, plaster casts were made from the clay model, and two marble carvings.

French came daily to Bush (as Emerson’s house was known), took about a month to do the modeling, and had it done by the end of April. One of the first plaster casts from the master mold was presented to Ralph Waldo Emerson on July 26, 1879. Emerson thought it a good likeness. He is reported to have said when he first saw it, “Dan, that’s the face I shave.”

Probably after Emerson’s death in 1882, French had a marble version carved in Italy. It was given to Harvard in 1883. In 1884, this second marble carving (slightly different from the first) was given to the Concord Free Public Library.

By 1886, there were bronze copies of the bust for sale as well. The piece was one of French’s dependable money-makers.

The bust from life presents an Emerson of many facets—dignity; thoughtfulness and intelligence; humanity; confidence and strength; Yankee shrewdness; and vitality. The piece conveys a sense that the subject is about to speak. The viewer would not know from the bust itself how difficult all of this was for French to capture. During the 1870s, Emerson had been declining both mentally and physically. By the time he sat for French, he was only three years away from his death, and a shadow of what he had been.

French himself later wrote about how hard it was to get past the failings of the elderly Emerson and to capture his personality and intellectual vigor. James Elliot Cabot included French’s words on the subject in his biography of Emerson. French referred to Emerson’s “almost child-like mobility that admitted of an infinite variety of expression, and made possible that wonderful ‘lighting-up’ of the face, so often spoken of by those who knew him. It was the attempt to catch that glorifying expression that made me despair of my bust. At the time I made it, as you know, Mr. Emerson had failed somewhat, and it was only now and then that I could see, even for an instant, the expression that I sought.”

This bust captured Emerson as he had been, not as he was. In that sense, it was an idealization.

Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts (1871-1927)

Church at Annisquam

Oil on canvas (glazed)

Presented by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Knight Metcalf in memory of Miss Alice Metcalf, 1949

Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts—founder of the Concord Art Association—was born in Philadelphia and trained as an artist in Europe. Around 1900, she settled into a house on Estabrook Road in Concord with her companion Grace Keyes. A few years later, the Misses Roberts and Keyes began to summer at Annisquam, on Cape Ann. Roberts was inspired by the Cape Ann landscape, which she captured on canvas. Drenched in light and color, her bold Gloucester-area work was widely admired and exhibited in museums and galleries around the country.

Edwin Dalton Marchant

Abraham Lincoln, oil painting on canvas (an 1863 copy by the artist from his original portrait painted earlier in 1863).

From the CFPL Art Collection (the gift of Rose Standish Whiting, 1899, from the collection of her father William Whiting).

In December of 1862, the newly-formed Union League of Philadelphia commissioned artist Edwin Dalton Marchant to paint a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. Between January and May of 1863, Lincoln sat for Marchant in the White House. The artist depicted the president with pen in hand, the signed Emancipation Proclamation on a table next to him. A statue of the goddess Liberty appears in the upper right hand corner, her foot on a broken chain.

In May 1863, Marchant was commissioned by William Whiting to paint a copy of his portrait of Lincoln. A lawyer who had been born and raised in Concord (he both attended and for a time taught at the old Concord Academy), Whiting was a special councilor and solicitor for the War Department during the Civil War. Lincoln had been influenced by Whiting’s The War Powers of the President and Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason, and Slavery (1862), which supported the president’s authority to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Washington Allston (1779-1843)

Romantic Landscape [between 1801 and 1803]

Oil on canvas

Gift of Rose Standish Whiting, from the collection of William Whiting, 1899

Allston’s early Romantic Landscape came to the Library from the estate of William Whiting, Jr. This painting was exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1853, while in Whiting’s possession. Born in Concord in 1813, William Whiting, Jr. was a prominent Boston lawyer. A member of Harvard College Class of 1833, he taught in Plymouth and Concord (at the Academy) before graduating from Harvard Law School (1838). He was made solicitor for the United States War Department in 1862. Elected to Congress in 1872, he died in Boston in 1873, before beginning his term of office.

Washington Allston—Romantic painter of landscapes, portraits, and historical, allegorical, and religious subjects—was born in South Carolina in 1779. He graduated from Harvard in 1800, sailed to London in 1801, studied at the Royal Academy under Benjamin West, then traveled to Paris, Switzerland, and Italy. He spent four years in Italy, where he met and grew close to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Washington Irving. He returned to America in 1808 and married Ann Channing, sister of liberal minister William Ellery Channing.

Allston exerted a powerful influence over the Transcendentalists’ concepts of art and aesthetics. Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, and many of their contemporaries wrote about him as one of the most important artists of his time.

Edward Emerson Simmons (1852-1931)

Criticism, 1885

Oil on canvas

From the bequest of Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, 1895

Artist Edward Emerson Simmons inherited a distinguished Concord lineage from his mother, a daughter of Samuel Ripley and the learned Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley and a granddaughter of long-time First Parish minister Ezra Ripley. In 1848, Edward’s father built a house on Monument Street, next to the Old Manse, the Ripley family home. His children were as comfortable with their grandmother in the Manse as they were in their own house. Despite his family’s limited financial resources, Edward had a happy childhood, details of which he recorded in his autobiography, From Seven to Seventy.

Edward Simmons graduated from Harvard in 1874, headed west, and returned to New England in 1877. On the advice of sculptor and art teacher William Rimmer, he studied painting at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1878, he sailed for France to study at the Académie Julian. From 1881 to 1886, he lived and painted in Concarneau, a fishing village and artist colony in Brittany. Criticism, a product of his Concarneau period, depicts an old fisherman mending his nets, taking time from his task to comment on a painting brought to him by a young boy.

In 1886, Simmons moved to Cornwall, England. He returned to America in 1891 to design a stained glass window for Harvard’s Memorial Hall. He then accepted an invitation to paint a ceiling mural for the Arts and Manufactures Building of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He so enjoyed this project that he subsequently shifted his focus to decorative work, continuing easel work even as he rode the wave of his success as a muralist. He belonged to a group of American impressionists (including Frank W. Benson, Childe Hassam, and Willard Metcalf) who styled themselves “The Ten.”

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Thoreau and Miss Mary Emerson, one of twelve paintings to illustrate the book Men of Concord (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)

Oil on panel

Purchased from the Samuel Hoar Fund, 1947

Thoreau, Journal, November 13, 1851: “Just spent a couple of hours (eight to ten) with Miss Mary Emerson at Holbrook’s. The wittiest and most vivacious woman that I know, certainly that woman among my acquaintance whom it is most profitable to meet, the least frivolous, who will most surely provoke to good conversation and the expression of what is in you. She is singular, among women at least, in being really and perseveringly interested to know what thinkers think. She relates herself surely to the intellectual where she goes. It is perhaps her greatest praise and peculiarity that she, more surely than any other woman, gives her companion occasion to utter his best thought. In spite of her own biases, she can entertain a large thought with hospitality, and is not prevented by any intellectuality in it, as women commonly are. In short, she is a genius, as woman seldom is, reminding you less often of her sex than any woman whom I know.”

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

The Carpenters Repairing Hubbard’s Bridge, one of twelve paintings to illustrate the book Men of Concord (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)

Oil on panel

Presented by Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Henry Wheeler in memory of Caleb Kendall Wheeler, 1947

Thoreau, Journal, August 17, 1851: “All men’s employments, all trades and professions, in some of their aspects are attractive . . . When I saw the carpenters the other day repairing Hubbard’s Bridge, their bench on the new planking they had laid over the water in sun and air, with no railing yet to obstruct the view, I was almost ready to resolve that I would be a carpenter and work on bridges, to secure a pleasant place to work. One of the men had a fish-line cast round a sleeper, which he looked at from time to time.”

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Johnny and His Woodchuck-Skin Cap, one of twelve paintings to illustrate the book Men of Concord (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)

Oil on panel

Purchased from the Samuel Hoar Fund, 1947

Thoreau, Journal, February 28, 1860: “Passed a very little boy in the street to-day, who had on a home-made cap of a woodchuck-skin, which his father or elder brother had killed and cured, and his mother or elder sister had fashioned into a nice warm cap. I was interested by the sight of it, it suggested so much of family history, adventure with the chuck, story told about it, not without exaggeration, the human parents’ care of their young these hard times. Johnny was promised many times, and now the work has been completed,—a perfect little idyl, as they say . . . The little fellow wore it innocently enough, not knowing what he had on, forsooth, going about his small business pit-a-pat; and his black eyes sparkled beneath it when I remarked on its warmth, even as the woodchuck’s might have done. Such should be the history of every piece of clothing that we wear.”

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Fishing Through the Ice, one of twelve paintings to illustrate the book Men of Concord (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)

Oil on panel

Deposited in memory of Emilie Norton Thomas by her family, 2003

Thoreau, Journal, February 8, 1856: “Edward and Isaac Garfield were fishing there, and Puffer came along, and afterward Lewis Miner with his gun. He cannot get near the partridges on account of the cracklings of the crust. I saw the last two approaching with my glass.

The fishermen agree in saying that the pickerel have generally been eating, and are full, when they bite. Puffer thinks they eat a good deal, but seldom. Some think it best to cut the holes the day before, because the noise frightens them; and the crackling of the crust to-day was thought to frighten them. E. Garfield says that his Uncle Daniel was once scaling a pickerel, where he pricked his finger against the horn of a pout which the pickerel had swallowed. He himself killed a pickerel with a paddle, in the act of swallowing a large perch. Puffer had taken a striped snake out of one.

They send to Lowell for their bait, and fishermen send thither from far and wide, so that there is not a sufficient supply for them. I. Garfield once caught an eel there with his pickerel bait, through the ice; also speared a trout that weighed three and a half pounds, he says, off Well Meadow.”

N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

The Muskrat-Hunters, Goodwin and Haynes, one of twelve paintings to illustrate the book Men of Concord (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)

Oil on panel

Deposited in memory of Emilie Norton Thomas by her family, 2003

Thoreau, Journal, May 6, 1854: “Remembering my voyage of May 1st, and Goodwin and Haynes hunting, you might have passed up and down the river three or four miles and yet not have seen one muskrat, yet they killed six at least. One in stern paddling slowly along, while the other sat with his gun ready cocked and the dog erect in the prow, all eyes constantly scanning the surface amid the button-bushes and willows, for the rats are not easy to distinguish from a bunch of dried grass or a stick. Suddenly one is seen resting on his perch, and crack goes the gun, and over the dog instantly goes to fetch him. These men represent a class which probably always exists, even in the most civilized community, and allies it to the most savage.”

Frank Edwin Elwell (1858-1922)

Louisa May Alcott, 1891 (cast in bronze 1967/68 by the Roman Bronze Works, Corona, New York).

Bronze bust from original plaster (also in CFPL collection).

Bronze cast arranged by the Library Corporation through the gift of Mrs. Alcott Farrar Elwell, 1966.

Sculptor Frank Edwin Elwell was born in Concord in 1858. Orphaned at the age of four, he was raised by his grandparents. He learned his first lessons in working with metal from his grandfather, Elisha Jones Farrar, a blacksmith.

The Alcott sisters observed and encouraged Elwell’s early creative development. Author Louisa May Alcott provided emotional support and guidance after the death of the boy’s grandfather, and fictionalized the young man in her writing. Artist May Alcott instructed him in drawing during the 1870s. He went on to study at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and became an award-winning sculptor. In 1891, he sculpted the plaster original of the bust of Louisa May Alcott from which this bronze version was later made.

In the late 1960s, the widow of one of the sculptor’s children arranged to have two bronze casts made—one for the Concord Free Public Library, one for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. They were produced at the Roman Bronze Works in Corona, New York.