State House Statues by Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Jr.
Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Jr. (1835-1910), was a prominent American sculptor in the nineteenth century. The son of a successful attorney, Mead grew up in Brattleboro and at the age of eighteen went to work as a studio assistant to the sculptor Henry...
Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Jr. (1835-1910), was a prominent American sculptor in the nineteenth century. The son of a successful attorney, Mead grew up in Brattleboro and at the age of eighteen went to work as a studio assistant to the sculptor Henry Kirke Brown of New York City. He first drew national attention when in 1856, on New Year's Eve, he and some friends surprised Brattleboro residents by creating an eight foot snow statue called "Snow Angel." The incident was reported in the national press and immortalized by James Russell Lowell in his poem "A Good Word for Winter."
While still a young man, Mead was chosen to design "Agriculture," a monumental female figure, to top the Vermont State House dome. As these letters show, Mead conferred with George Perkins Marsh, one of the three State House Commissioners, about the design and symbols for the figure. In sending Marsh three alternate sketches he wrote, "I wish you would inform me what you think will be the most proper design, for I should prize your opinion more than any ones else from your thorough experience in all pertaining to Art.
Responding to Marsh's suggestions, Mead produced a more finished drawing: "Your letter was received this morning and I have made a sketch, trying to introduce proper symbols of Agriculture. Also the scroll (or Laws)."
Johann Henkel, a German-born woodcarver living in Brattleboro, carved the original statue in pine. By 1938 "Agriculture", now badly decayed, was replaced by a copy.
In 1858 Mead also submitted a design for a statue of Ethan Allen to be placed at Allen's grave in the Green Mount Cemetery in Burlington. In a letter to John N. Pomeroy of Burlington, head of the Statuary Commission, Mead included a drawing of the figure representing Allen demanding the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga "in the name of the Continental Congress and the Great Jehovah." At the time, Burlington residents were unable to raise enough money to pay for the monument, but the Legislature appropriated the necessary funds in 1859 and it was installed on the State House portico in 1861. A replica of the original took its place in 1941.
In addition to his work at the Vermont State House, Mead is best known for the series of figures he designed for the Lincoln Memorial in Springfield, Illinois. A variation of his "Ethan Allen" is in Statuary Hall in the Capitol at Washington, D.C. In 1862 Mead emigrated to Florence, Italy where he became a permanent member of the American expatriate community.