Clark Mills (sculptor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Clark Mills
Born(1815-09-01)September 1, 1815
DiedJanuary 12, 1883(1883-01-12) (aged 67)
Known forSculpture
Notable work
Equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson (Washington, D.C.) (1853)
Equestrian statue of George Washington (Washington Circle) (1860)
Statue of Freedom (1863)

Clark Mills (September 1, 1815 – January 12, 1883) was an American sculptor, best known for four versions of an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, located in Washington, D.C. with replicas in Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Early years[edit]

Mills was born on September 1, 1815 near Syracuse, in Onondaga County, New York.[1]: 145 [2][3] When his father passed away he was sent to his uncle's but found that he was too harsh so he ran away.[2][3] He had very little formal education. Before he turned 22, he had worked as a "teamster, lumberjack, farmhand, carpenter, and millwright."[2][3] When he was quite young Mills was apprenticed to a millwright in New York.[1] When he was twenty years old, in 1835, he overwintered in New Orleans. In 1837, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina,[1]: 145  where he began to work as an ornamental plasterer.[2][3] In the 1840s, he developed a faster, easier method of making plaster life-masks, which he then used to make portrait busts.[3][1]: 145–6  E. Wayne Craven, author of the 1968 book Sculpture in America, wrote that "What he learned he acquired from the life-mask itself, and this established his style as one strongly dependent upon naturalism."[2]: 167 

His first stone carving was an 1845 bust of John C. Calhoun, who in 1845, was Charleston's "most distinguished citizen". The bust is in the Charleston's City Hall Museum; a bronze version was formerly in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.[3]

Clark Mills studio and foundries[edit]

Clark Mills had a number of studios and foundries. From 1837 to 1848, Mills had his first studio on Broad Street, Charleston, South Carolina, which was assigned the National Historic Landmark designation on December 21, 1965 by the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP).[3][2]

In 1849, in order to produce the Jackson equestrian statue, Mills built a temporary furnace and studio on the Ellipse at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, near LaFayette Square.[4][5]: 377 There is a statue of General Sherman there currently, south of the Treasury Building.[3] His equestrian statue of George Washington was also cast at this site.[5]

Mills purchased a parcel on the border of Maryland and the District of Columbia where is constructed his mansion and a large octagon-shaped studio and foundry on Bladensburg Road. It was at the Bladensburg foundry that the 1863 bronze Statue of Freedom was cast.[5]

Major works[edit]

Equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson[edit]

Equestrian statue Andrew Jackson, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

One of Mills' most well-known sculptures is the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, located in President's Park, also known as Lafayette Square, which is situated on the north portico side of the White House.

Mills presented a submission to a competition for the contract to produce the statue. Mills' sculpture depicted Major Jackson on a rearing horse, raising his hat to the troops he was reviewing at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.[3]

He won the competition to create the statue in 1848 and moved from Charleston to Washington, bringing with him the enslaved master craftsman, Philip Reid (c. 1820 – February 6, 1892), whom he had purchased in 1842. Along with other workers, Mills had eleven slaves working for him. Reid and the other enslaved workers were freed with the passage of the April 16, 1862 District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act which freed thousands of slaves in that District.[6]

James M. Goode, (1939-2019), Washington, D. C. historian, who published numerous books relating to Washington, D.C. history,[7] provided details behind the creation of the statue.[8] Goode described how Mills used his own horse, Olympus as a model for the horse Jackson was riding at the Battle of New Orleans—Duke. According to Goode, Mills taught Olympus to "rear up on its hind legs during the modeling process." Goode added that the public were "entranced" with Mill's statue in Washington. As a result, Mills cast three copies—that are now in "New Orleans (dedicated in 1856), Nashville (dedicated in 1880) and Jacksonville, Florida (dedicated 1987).[9] Goode wrote that the statue was noteworthy as it was the first bronze statue cast in America and the "first equestrian statue in the world to be balanced on the horse's hind legs."[9][8]

Goode also described the difficult casting process. Mills produced six castings of the statue of Andrew Jackson until the final one was completed, with ten pieces, six for Jackson and four for the horse.[4]: 377  In his casting, he was assisted by Reid. The casting was completed 1852.[8]

Mills unveiled the 15 ton bronze statue of Andrew Jackson on January 8, 1853, the 38th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans and according to one account by a reporter for the Washington Union, twenty thousand people attended in and around the park. President Franklin Pierce was in attendance and Senator Stephen A. Douglas delivered the keynote address.[3]

Jackson Square, New Orleans

Mills made castings of the statue that are now in New Orleans, Jacksonville, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee.[10]

Nashville, Tennessee

Equestrian statue of George Washington (Washington Circle) (1860)[edit]

George Washington (statue) in Washington Circle

Mills also captured a tense and crucial moment in the American Revolutionary War with the creation of an equestrian statue of Lt. Gen. George Washington in 1860. Congress commissioned this work in 1853 because of the tremendous popularity of Mills' equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson. The elaborate high pedestal that Mills originally designed, with three tiers of sculptured relief panels and smaller equestrian statues of Washington's generals, were never executed because of a lack of adequate funds.[11]

Statue of Freedom (1863)[edit]

Beginning in 1860, the Statue of Freedom, which sits atop the United States Capitol, was cast in five main sections by Mills with the assistance of Philip Reid.[12] The casting was undertaken at Mills' foundry on his estate on the border of Maryland and D.C.

Abraham Lincoln (1865)[edit]

In 1865 Mills made a life-cast of Abraham Lincoln's head. It is generally felt to be inferior in technical quality to the 1860 cast made by Leonard Volk, but has the advantage of showing Lincoln's entire skull, not just the face as does Volk's.[13]

Other works[edit]

Mills made 124 portrait busts. The Smithsonian has catalogued a series of life masks of native Americans, Mills made from 1875 to 1880.[3] Mills made sixty-four native Americans from various tribes who had been imprisoned in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida from 1875 onward in the aftermath of what was then-called the "American Indian Wars" in the west.[14] The collection was held in the name of Richard Henry Pratt, a Civil War veteran,[15]: 552  who supervised the prisoners at that time.[16] Mills also made life masks of forty-seven boys and girls at Hampton Roads, Hampton Normal and Educational Institute in Virginia in March 1879.[15]: 553, 673, 779 

Reviews of Mill's work[edit]

In his biography of Mills, historian James Dillon, which was largely based on Wayne Craven's 1968 Sculpture in America, Dillon cited Craven, "In truth, Mills was a greater engineer than he was a sculptor. He deserves a special place.....for several reasons, but none of them is based primarily on aesthetic grounds or on the value of any piece or work of art....As an engineer and technician he was unsurpassed in his time in the casting of bronze; and special consideration should be given to his equestrian monument to Jackson and the brilliant solution he devised...."[2]: 174 [3] Dillon described Mills as a "pioneer in the working of the metal".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Mills was married and had three sons. His second wife and stepdaughter cared for him in his old age.

In 1846, Mills purchased a large tract of land from G. M. Clavert, that was partially in the Maryland and partially in District of Columbia, which included Meadow Bank Spa Spring.[17]: 59, 64  The parcel included a natural springs, locally known as Upper Hickey, which had a flow abundant enough for the operation of the foundry Mills planned to construct.[17]: 59  This is where he built his large Bladensburg Road octagon-shaped foundry.[6]

When Mills moved to Washington from Charleston, South Carolina in 1848, he brought his slaves with him. By 1862, he had eleven slaves working for him—Lettie, Tilly, Tow, Ellick, Jackson, George, Emily, and Levi Howard, Rachel Thomas, Auw Rofs and Philip Reid.[17]: 59  They were freed under the 1862 District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act,[6] which entitled Mills to $5,200 in compensation.[17]: 59 

Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Mills was 72 years old when died on January 12, 1883.[17] He was interred at Glenwood Cemetery in Washington, D.C.[18]: 4 

The three sons challenged the will which gave almost all the estate to Mills' second wife and stepdaughter.[19] In 1884, Mills' estate was auctioned off in a public sale, and subdivided, largely because of the "acrimonious dispute" between his sons and his stepdaughter and second wife.[17]: 63  The brass foundry remained operational until 1903, long after Mill's death.[17]: 60 


In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Clark Mills was named in his honor.


  1. ^ a b c d Rutledge, Anna Wells (1949). Artists in the life of Charleston: through colony and state from restoration to reconstruction. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society ;.39, pt. 2. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Craven, Wayne (1968). Sculpture in America. Crowell. p. 722.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dillon, James (May 29, 1975). "National Historic Landmarks: The Clark Mills Studio, Stoney and Stoney Law Office". Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP). National Register of Historic Places Inventory. Washington, D.C. United States Department of the Interior, United States National Park Service.
  4. ^ a b Goode, James M. (1974). Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0-87474-138-6.
  5. ^ a b c "Clark Mills's Foundry". White House Historical Association (WHHA). nd. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "Philip Reid and the Statue of Freedom". United States Senate Historical Office (SHO). U.S. Senate: The Civil War: The Senate's Story. nd. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  7. ^ Barnes, Bart (January 7, 2020). "James Goode, historian of Washington statues and architecture, dies at 80". Washington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2020. Statues tell stories, especially in Washington, a statue-rich town. Whom we decide to commemorate, and how, reveals something about us as a society. And what you can’t tell from looking at the sculpture, Goode reveals in his book.
  8. ^ a b c Goode, James M. (2010). "Clark Mill's Statue of Andrew Jackson". White House History. White House Historical Association.
  9. ^ a b Kelly, John (August 3, 2010). "Naming Andrew Jackson's horse in Lafayette Square". p. B02. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  10. ^ (1) "Clark Mills. Bronze Sculpture, Andrew Jackson". Art in New Orleans. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
    (2) Cocke, Edward J. (1968). Monumental New Orleans. New Orleans: La Fayette Publishers. p. 5. OCLC 5574333.
    (3) Federal writers' project. Tennessee; Pappas, D. (1939). "Chapter II. City and Town: Nashville". Tennessee: a guide to the state, compiled and written by the Federal writers' project of the Work projects administration for the state of Tennessee. Sponsored by the Department of Conservation, Division of Information. New York: Viking Press. p. 190. ISBN 9780403021918. LCCN 72084508. OCLC 613647. Retrieved July 12, 2020 – via HathiTrust Digital Books.
  11. ^ Goode, James (2009). Washington Sculpture: A Cultural History of Outdoor Sculpture in the Nation's Capital. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 480. ISBN 9780801888106.
  12. ^ "The Capitol Story: Statue of Freedom: Clark Mills Sculptor". History of Congress and the Capitol. Archived from the original on August 31, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Clark Mills. Life Cast of Abraham Lincoln, 1865, Library of Congress
  14. ^ "Removing Classrooms from the Battlefield: Liberty, Paternalism, and the Redemptive Promise of Educational Choice", BYU Law Review, 2008, p. 377 Archived 2010-02-25 at WebCite
  15. ^ a b Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents (Report).
  16. ^ Fear-Segal, Jacqueline (2007). White Man's Club: Schools, Race, and the Struggle of Indian Acculturation. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 14. ISBN 978-0803220249.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Montague, Jeremiah (August 2017). The Subdivisions of Avalon Heights, Langdon, Montello, Woodridge, and Winthrop Heights Within Washington County, District of Columbia. Book Venture Publishing LLC. p. 668. ISBN 978-1946492166.
  18. ^ "The Funeral of Clark Mills". The Evening Star. January 15, 1883.
  19. ^ "Clark Mill's Estate" (PDF). The New York Times. January 27, 1883. Retrieved June 24, 2020.

Further reading[edit]