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| || SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT |
Academy Hill Park
Dedicated: October 3, 1889
Type: Zinc pedestal, shaft, and standard-bearer figure
Designer, fabricator, and supplier: Monumental Bronze Company
Height: 35', 5"
SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford, is significant historically because it is an expression of honor and respect paid by the Stratford community to those who fought in the Civil War. It was dedicated on the town's 250th anniversary.
At a meeting in June 1885 called for the purpose of discussing the possibility of a monument, the Stratford Veteran Association was formed. By the end of 1887 only $100 had been raised. Thereupon, the Citizens' Monument Association was organized, which, in association with the Veteran Association and a Company K group, was successful in soliciting donations totaling $3,700, the cost of the monument. Fund-raising, selection of design and location, and production of the monument all were accomplished within a four-year time span, a speedy schedule.
Simultaneously, the town and the Congregational Church coordinated plans for 250th anniversary celebration with dedication of the monument. October 3, 1889, was the day. Houses and stores were covered with flags and bunting. Excursion trains carried crowds, estimated at 15,000, into town. A splendid parade was headed by the Wheeler and Wilson Band from Bridgeport and the 4th Regiment, Connecticut National Guard. Invited guests rode in carriages. At noon cannon fired a 13-gun salute and church bells rang. There were many speeches. A collation (luncheon) was served under tents at a table 800' long. Events continued through the afternoon and evening, culminating with a grand fireworks display.
SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford, is significant artistically because it is an elaborate example of a standard-bearer design executed in cast zinc. The classical details of the trabeated dado and the trophies and embellished cove cornice of the shaft set the monument apart from most, as does the fact that the sword is drawn. But the material of cast zinc is the most unusual feature.
The monument was produced by Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut (see essay), a business founded by M.A. Richardson, who as a cemetery superintendent in Chautauqua County, New York, had observed the need for a new and better material for cemetery monuments. After several false starts, he determined on a zinc alloy and with capital provided by O.J. Willard in 1873 began operations in Trenton, New Jersey, which was not successful. Reorganizations followed, leading to transfer of the business to Bridgeport in 1874, under the name of Wilson, Parsons and Company. A stock company called Monumental Bronze Company was formed in 1879. Branches were established in Chicago (American White Bronze Company), Des Moines (Western White Bronze Company), New Orleans (New Orleans White Bronze Works), and St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada (St. Thomas White Bronze Monument Company).
White bronze monuments commonly are found in cemeteries. Larger memorials such as Civil War monuments in the material are far less numerous. The Civil War monument in Biddeford, Maine, 1887, is white bronze. Its design has similarities to Stratford's in that it is a standard-bearer on pedestal and the base has the same peaked gables, but the pedestal is shorter and the angles at which the sword and flag are held are more pronounced. A Confederate monument at Portsmouth, Virginia, is made of stone with cast-zinc figures.
The material has its limitations. It is better for monuments of the small size customary in cemeteries. The Stratford monument underwent a $100,000 repair and rehabilitation program in 1986-87 because it was showing signs of strain and was coming apart due to the weight of the metal. The metal has difficulty as a bearing member carrying its own weight, when the piece is of large size. The problem was addressed at Stratford by introducing an internal steel framework, but the northwest corner nonetheless has now opened up again.
Other zinc Civil War monuments produced by Monumental Bronze Company that exhibit similar structural problems are Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Goodwin Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, dedicated July 4, 1888, in which a seam has separated, and Soldiers Monument Antrim, New Hampshire, in which the crowning conventional soldier's figure leans backwards on his heels.
SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford, includes poetry in its lettering, again setting it apart from most. The quotations have not been identified. For another Connecticut Civil War monument with poetry, see CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, Derby.
SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford, is sited at the center of a 4.7-acre ell-shaped park in a residential neighborhood. It is in a prominent position with ample space on all sides, quite suitable for the large (35' high) monument. While the design of pedestal, shaft, and surmounting figure is derived from traditional sources, the material, cast zinc or "white bronze," is not. SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford, is the only known large-scale zinc Civil War monument in Connecticut (see also JOHN BENSON MARKER, Stratford). It is dedicated to all who fought in the Civil War.
The monument is surrounded by a low retaining wall or curb of concrete marked by granite spheres at each corner. The curb does not appear in a historic photograph, but the date that it was added is not known.
The plinth has a rock-faced finish with tooled borders, faithfully reproducing in zinc good stonecutting practice. The northwest corner of the plinth is opened up in a V-shaped void, about 3" wide at the bottom. The metal has separated not at the corner joint, but at the point where it was stressed and thinned out in the casting process. The interior steel skeleton is visible through the opening.
Surfaces of the base on which battle names are displayed are peaked, as low gables. Above, the dado is trabeated in the classical manner. Its flanking pilasters stand on fluted bases surmounted by a rosette band. Swags are under the foliated capitals, supporting plain architrave and frieze. A heavy dentil course defines the pediment's cornice, which returns and breaks out over the columns. The corners of the dado are rusticated. The lettering recorded below is on the front (west) and rear faces of the dado, the raised emblem of the Grand Army of the Republic on the south, and the Seal of the United States on the north. The south tablet with the G.A.R. emblem appears to be a separate raised piece, different from those on the other three sides, which are inset flush.
The base of the shaft displays a curved scotia shape with moldings above and below. The curved surface is embellished on each face with a raised badge, that of the 10th Corps on the front, Wilson's Cavalry Corps on the south, 2nd Corps on the east, and 19th Corps on the north. The shaft also is embellished with raised trophies in laurel wreaths, crossed muskets of the infantry on the front, crossed sabers of the cavalry on the south, crossed cannon of the artillery on the east, and capstan, anchor, and crossed capstan bars of the navy on the north. The corners of the shaft are recessed in two steps.
Drapery adorns the top corners of the shaft, joined in the center of each face by a wreath. The first course of the cornice is a band of stars. The cove of the crown molding features raised swags under small gablets. The base of the figure carries another band of stars. The figure is a standard-bearer, with his right foot forward, wearing belted knee-length coat, moustache, and kepi. He holds the colors with his left hand, as is customary, but with his right hand has drawn the sword. Usually, the right hand is on the handle, ready to draw. (See SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Branford, and SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Unionville in Farmington.)
Front (west) face of base, first word in segmental curve, raised caps:GETTYSBURG
Above, base of dado:NAMES OF COMRADES WHO WERE KILLED OR DIED OF WOUNDS OR DISEASE WHOSE REMAINS WERE LEFT IN THE SOUTHLAND / (3 columns of 7 names)
Above, tablet in face of dado:DEDICATED TO THE
THOSE WHO FOUGHT
AND SAVED THE UNION
"YET LOVED ONES HAVE FALLEN,
AND STILL WHERE THEY SLEEP,
A SORROWING NATION SHALL
AND SPRING'S BRIGHTEST FLOWERS
WITH GRATITUDE STREW
O'ER THOSE WHO ONCE CHERISHED
THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE"
Above, in pediment:1776
South face of base:LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN (segmental)
Above, in pediment:1861-5
East (rear) face of base:CHANCELLORSVILLE (segmental)
Above, tablet in face of dado:ERECTED BY THE
AND ITS FRIENDS
OCTOBER 3RD, 1889
"THE UNION MUST AND
SHALL BE PRESERVED"
Above, in tablet:1847
North face of base:FREDERICKSBURG (segmental)
Above, in pediment:1812
Connecticut Magazine 8(1903):797, il.
Lewis G. Knapp, In Pursuit of Paradise (The Stratford Historical Society; Phoenix Publishing, West Kennebunk, Maine, 1989), pp. 200-204.
Dennis Montagna, Cultural Resources Division, National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA, conversation, June 16, 1994.
Samuel Orcutt, A History of Bridgeport, v. 2 (Fairfield: Fairfield Historical Society; New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1887), pp. 813 and 814.
Barbara Rotundo, "Monumental Bronze: A Representative American Company," in Cemeteries and Grave Markers: Voices of American Culture, ed. Richard E. Meyer (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989), pp. 263-291.
David Ruell, No Stone Unturned: Saving Outdoor Sculpture! (Ashland, New Hampshire: New Hampshire SOS!, 1994), pp. 16-18.
Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of the Town of Stratford , October 3d, 1889 (1890), pp. 50, 133, and 134.
William Howard Wilcoxson, History of Stratford, Connecticut, 1639-1939 (Stratford: The Tercentenary Commission, 1939), p. 714, il.