|George Washington bronze, 1909.|
In 1885, they made their first large non-ecclesiastical bronze sculpture for a Civil War memorial at Gettysburg, a statue called The Skirmisher. The sculptor, Frederick Kohlhagen, had approached Gorham to see if they were interested in casting it. Prior to that point, most large scale bronze casting had been done in Europe, but Gorham's completion of the project was the beginning of a hugely successful large scale bronze casting business.
Today there are over 700 Gorham bronze items listed in the Smithsonian Archives inventory of American sculpture. One of the best-known pieces is a 1909 bronze of George Washington that has a place of honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
|The Independent Man, 1899.|
Some of the finest work done by Gorham in bronze were the doors, railings, etc. that enhanced many American public buildings in the first years of the 20th century. In Providence, the company carried out bronze commissions at the Union Trust Building, the First Baptist Church, the Fleet Library at RISD, the Mathewson Street Methodist Church, and the Old Stone Bank.
The Old Stone Bank had started out as the Providence Institution for Savings, but earned its moniker after its flagship stone building was constructed in 1854. In 1896-1898 a major expansion was done on the bank, doubling its size and adding an impressive dome.
|Closeup of Old Stone door with RI anchor, 1898.|
The doors would stay open during banking hours, and entrance to the bank was through a marble vestibule with mahogany doors.
Besides its new dome and new doors, the bank was also equipped with the latest technology. The same Providence Journal article states: "The bank is equipped with a telephone closet with its long distance telephone, and also has an internal system by which the Treasurer, sitting at his desk, can talk not only through the telephone exchange to persons outside, but also to clerks within the bank and to the Providence National Bank."
(to be continued)
Illustration Credits and References
Photo of George Washington bronze by CharmaineZoe found on FlickRiver.
Photo of Independent Man by Trent Maynard, found on the State Capitols website.
Photo of Old Stone Bank door by the author.
Providence Sunday Journal, March 6, 1898.
An exhaustive history of Gorham can be found in the book Gorham Silver by Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. (Revised edition published 1997 by Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, San Francisco.)