“Busts of the Mercantile” Wednesday: Harriet Beecher Stowe

img_0623.JPGUntil 2003, the bust collection didn’t include any women. It was embarrassing. There used to be a painting of a nineteenth century actress, but that had been gone for years. It’s not as though this were one of those hidebound places like the Literary Club where women can’t even look in the windows. Women got full suffrage here decades before the rest of the country got the message. So I don’t think there was any board resolution along the lines of “The collection shall be reserved exclusively to bald men eating their hearts out over the presidency.” It was mostly a case of building the collection by standing around and waiting to see what showed up free.

The bust of Harriet Beecher Stowe was not free. A long time member of the Library, Maggie Leon, came in one afternoon with an agreeably large check she had received as settlement of an insurance claim which she was donating to the Library. When it was proposed that the check be the first gift in a fund for a tradition busting rendering of Cincinnati’s most important literary figure, she was agreeable. Purses opened quickly after that initial gift, allowing the Library to commission a portrait in fine grained Indiana limestone of the author of Uncle Tom’s cabin. Walter Driesbach, longtime sculpture instructor at the Cincinnati Art Academy took on the job, rendering the little woman who started the big war (Lincoln’s remark) in a sort of monumental deco style that matches absolutely nothing else and looks absolutely perfect. The bust rests on a plinth made for the Library by past president and wood wizard J. L. Wellinghoff.

So proud was the association of the new work that the directors organized a festival of events around the day of its dedication. Those events led to the annual Harriet Beecher Stowe Lecture delivered each year on Mrs. Stowe’s birthday, June 14th.

-Nemo Wolfe

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Published in: on January 18, 2007 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] collect pictures of our HBS lecturers with our HBS portrait bust. This year we remembered at the last minute that we had planned to crown the bust with a laurel […]

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