Ellen Rankin Copp

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Ellen Rankin Copp
Ellen Houser Rankin

(1853-08-04)August 4, 1853
Atlanta, Illinois
DiedAugust 8, 1901(1901-08-08) (aged 48)
EducationArt Institute of Chicago
Known forSculpture
W. H. Copp (m. 1874)
Ellen Rankin Copp and her son Hugh, in an 1893 publication

Ellen Rankin Copp (August 4, 1853 – August 8, 1901), also called Ellen or Helen Houser Rankin, was an American sculptor. Her works were featured at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Early life[edit]

Helen or Ellen Houser Rankin[2] was born in Atlanta, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Andrew Campbell Rankin and Susanna Roush Houser Rankin. Her father was a medical doctor who served as an army surgeon in the American Civil War. Her grandparents Jean Lowry Rankin and John Rankin were noted abolitionists and hosts on the Underground Railroad in Ohio. In 1888[1] Ellen began as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago in her thirties after some years teaching.[3] At the Art Institute she studied with Lorado Taft, as one of his student assistants dubbed "White Rabbits".[4][5]


In 1890 Ellen Rankin Copp won the first medal for sculpture awarded by the Art Institute of Chicago.[6] She created "Maternity" on commission for the Illinois Building, and "Pele" on commission for the Hawaii Building, both at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.[7] The 24-foot-tall statue of Pele was promoted as the "largest statue ever made by a woman."[8] Four more works by Copp were shown at the Exposition: a bronze relief portrait of Harriet Monroe, displayed in the Palace of Fine Arts; a bronze relief portrait of Bertha Palmer, in the Library of the Woman's Building; and two smaller works inside the Illinois Building..[9]

After the Exposition, Copp took her son to Europe, and pursued further art education in Munich; she showed her "Strength of Nations" sculpture there in 1895.[10]

Bust of Rev. John Rankin by Ellen Rankin Copp

Copp made portrait busts of prominent Chicagoans, and one of her grandfather Reverend Rankin, for the city of Ripley, Ohio. In 1896 she submitted an ambitious proposal for a war monument in Texas.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Helen Houser Rankin married William H. Copp in 1974.[6] They had five sons; four died in infancy. Ellen Rankin left William Copp behind when she took their son to Europe,[12] and began using her unmarried name. In 1897, Mr. Copp, angry and distraught about the separation and his own unemployment, attacked Ellen's parents and sister with a razor and a revolver. Her father's throat was cut, and Copp was shot and nearly lost a finger in the encounter, but there were no fatalities.[13]

Their surviving son Hugh Dearborn Copp (1878-1956), called Hugh Doak Rankin after his parents separated, also became an artist, best known as a science fiction illustrator.[14]

Ellen Rankin Copp died in 1901, aged 48 years; she was survived by her estranged husband and both of her parents.


  1. ^ a b Willard, Frances Elizabeth; Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice (1893). Woman of the Century. Moulton. p. 207.
  2. ^ "Mrs. Ellen Rankin Copp" Illinois Women Artists Project.
  3. ^ "Genius of Mother and Son" Columbian Exposition Illustrated (April 1893): 40.
  4. ^ Lida Rose McCabe, "Girls with Genius" Topeka State Journal (September 28, 1892): 4. via Newspapers.comopen access
  5. ^ Allen Stuart Weller, Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years (University of Illinois Press 2014): 78. ISBN 9780252096464
  6. ^ a b "Ellen Houser Rankin" National Cyclopedia of American Biography (J. T. White Company 1898): 286.
  7. ^ Columbian Guide Company, Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition (1893): 151.
  8. ^ "Catharine Cole's Columbian Correspondence" Times-Picayune (July 1, 1893): 3. via Newspapers.comopen access
  9. ^ Nichols, K. L. "Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  10. ^ Harriet Hayden Hayes, "Some Chicago Studios" National Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly 6(4)(July 1897): 351.
  11. ^ "For the Texan Heroes" Chicago Daily Tribune (October 25, 1896): 46. via Newspapers.comopen access
  12. ^ "Chicago Boy Abroad" Chicago Daily Tribune (December 16, 1894): 46. via Newspapers.comopen access
  13. ^ "To Slay a Family" Chicago Daily Tribune (June 29, 1897): 1. via Newspapers.comopen access
  14. ^ "Summary Bibliography: Hugh Rankin" Internet Science Fiction Database.

External links[edit]