the Concord MagazineSeptember '98

The Concord and Lexington Minuteman Statues

By Deborah Bier, editor and publisher of this magazine.

the concord minuteman From a reader:
"Now, I know the "rude bridge" is in Concord, but isn't the Minuteman Statue in Lexington?"

At the observatory atop the Prudential Tower, Boston:
Image of the Lexington Minuteman Statue accompanied by a long paragraph about Daniel Chester French making the Concord Minuteman Statue...a sentance at the end about another statue in Lexington.

Obviously, there is confusion between the Concord and Lexington Minuteman Statues. Yet, to residents of each of these towns, they are very clearly different and each has its own separate history. But not many of us know how and why they differ, and the answers might be surprising.

Make no mistake about it: there are two statues, one in Concord at the North Bridge and another in Lexington in the center of town at Battle Green Square. The statues are NOT replicas of one another. There are historically important reasons for the differences, too.
Completed in 1874, the Concord Minuteman Statue (pictured here) was sculpted by Daniel Chester French (left). Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn says

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world."
Note the plow in French's sculpture: it's a dead give-away that the DC Frenchguy is a farmer. And with that musket in his hand, he sure looks embattled. He also has a hat, where Lexington's is bare-headed. Plow, hat, Concord. Bet you can memorize that in....well, about a minute.

On the other hand, the Lexington statue has no plow and no hat; he only has a musket. It also had a horse-watering feature when it was built -- a considerate and practical gesture, considering it's center-of-town location. According to Mark Nichipor, an interpretative ranger at Minuteman National Historical park, history tells us he is a soldier, not a farmer. In fact (and here's the surprising part): Lexington is not known to have had ANY minutemen on hand on the 18th of April, 1775. According to testimony given by Lexington troop commander John Parker just after that date, he called his men militia, never minutemen. This statue's subject is a MILITIA member. Nonetheless, locally, he is referred to as "The Lexington Minuteman," a misnomer. This statue was errected in 1900, and was sculpted by Massachusetts artist Henry Hudson Kitson.

Let's look a little closer at the Concord Minuteman statue and its history. According to Concord historian Roland Wells Robbins in his charming and lively booklet The Story of the Minute Man (1967, The Country Press, Inc, New London, NH), French - Concord's own local boy - had never done a life-sized statue before, much less one in bronze. He was just a young man -- 22, to be exact -- and had only been studying sculpture for three years. But he was persuaded to apply to be statue's creator, the idea of a sculptor search having been finally approved at the 1872 Concord Town Meeting after years of debate, disagreement and partisianship.

ApolloHe won the commission and sculpted the model from 1873 to 1874. His intent was to portray Captian Isaac Davis of Acton, who was killed at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775. No portrait of Davis was known, so French used several models. These included pictures of Davis' relatives and men who were said to resemble him in some way. Also, he used Apollo Belvidere (right) from the Boston Athenaeum, his own nude body posing before a mirror, and a variety of local men dressed for the part.

The statue was cast in bronze at the Ames Foundry in Chicopee, MA. The funding for this casting is a miracle of accounting and frugality, with Robbins providing us with the details. The cost to cast the 1280 pound sculpture was to be $1,583.62. Ten pieces of condemned cannon said to be captured in the battle of Louisburg was somehow given to this project. It was sold to the foundry at twenty-two cents to the pound for what was used for the statue, and twenty cents for each pound left over. In the end, a refund of $7.89 was given the town. The bronze from the cannon was melted down and poured for the casting.

Part of why the image of the Concord Minuteman is so well-known around the world is that it has been reproduced countless times. Its use as an identifying and rallying symbol for war bonds during WWII has also helped made it an American icon and symbol.


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