The Council of War Group Statue by John Rogers (1868)
John Rogers (1829-1904) was a sculptor once very popular whose “Rogers Groups” were prized objects in many a Victorian parlor in ordinary homes across the country. He was extremely popular from c. 1863 to the early 1890′s.
Our Group, The Council of War, showing Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and General Grant. This was patented c. 1868 to 1878. It sold for $25.00 in 1878, and for $20.00 from 1882-1895. This was a high price at the time, and the Council of War was considered one of his most popular groups. There were at least 60 copies extant. There were three versions of this group, listed in the Wallace book as Group A, B and C. There is a slight difference in each. Our group which is signed and dated (1868) is type B. This was illustrated in the Roger’s catalogues for 1877, 1890, 1892 and 1894-95. There is a bronze mold for type A given to the New York Historical Society by Rogers daughter. No known molds have been found for types B and C.
Rogers statuettes were cast in from three to eight pieces, the pieces then put together and the joints seamed and removed. This was done by “finishers,”; in 1865 Rogers employed 3 men to cast and 8 to finish, for this work took time. Once cast the statuettes were dried and finally colored. After trying to color the plaster itself casting, Rogers finally painted his groupsa non-glossy paint to resist the weather. About 1864 he decided on a “clay color”, made from burnt umber and zinc oxcide which can be washed with soap and water.
The Epsom Library Rogers statue was painted green and restored to its original state in 1988.
Notes from: John Rogers, the People’s Sculptor, by David H. Wallace, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Conn., 1967. 326 pgs.
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Short Falls, N.H. September 12, 1942
To the Selectmen and the Library Trustees of the Town of Epsom, New Hampshire:
It is a pleasure to present to the Epsom Town Library a statuary group entitled “The Council of War” representing President Abraham Lincoln in consultation witht the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General U.S. Grant.
The base bears the date 1868 indicating its age. The name of the sculptor does not appear but experts who have examined it think it may be the work of John Rogers who was famous in that period for his small groups. Replicas of this statuary exist but I have never seen or heard of one.
This piece belonged to my father and stood in our home in my boyhood.
My father, Charles Augustus Towle, was born in Epsom in the house now occupied my Mrs. Herbert Colby and lived here until his graduation from Dartmouth College. He served in the Civil War in Compant D 15th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers with other men from Epsom whose children and grandchildren now live here and use this library.
If he were here today, I am sure my father would be as pleased as I am to have you accept this gift from the treasured heirlooms of his home.
Very Sincerely, Ralph E. Towle