The Creation of the First Great Revolutionary War Monument, Bunker Hill

The official report of the design committee, signed by renowned artist Gilbert Stuart, Daniel Webster, Washington Allston, and George Ticknor

Purchase $18,000

The only autograph of Gilbert Stuart relating to art we have found ever reaching the market.  His autograph in any form is rare. A search of public records shows just one in the past half century (1988) and 4 in the last century.

After the Battles at Lexington and Concord in April...

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The Creation of the First Great Revolutionary War Monument, Bunker Hill

The official report of the design committee, signed by renowned artist Gilbert Stuart, Daniel Webster, Washington Allston, and George Ticknor

The only autograph of Gilbert Stuart relating to art we have found ever reaching the market.  His autograph in any form is rare. A search of public records shows just one in the past half century (1988) and 4 in the last century.

After the Battles at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the victorious Continental militiamen followed the retreating British army towards Boston. As the British sought protective cover inside the city, the colonists began to construct fortifications surrounding Boston to the north, west, and south. The Royal Navy, unmolested by any significant colonial naval force, supported the British army in the city from the east. To support their defenses, the British sought to place a force on the Charlestown peninsula across Boston Harbor to the north, as yet unoccupied by early June. On June 13th, the leaders of the colonial forces learned that the British were planning to send troops into Charlestown. In response, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of Col. William Prescott quickly occupied Bunker Hill on the north end of the peninsula and Breed’s Hill closer to Boston. By the morning of the 16th, they had constructed a strong redoubt on Breed’s Hill and other entrenchments across the peninsula. The next day, the British army under General William Howe, supported by Royal Navy warships, attacked the colonial defenses. The British troops moved up Breeds Hill in perfect battle formations. Prescott, allegedly encouraged his men “not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Two assaults on the colonial positions were repulsed with significant British casualties; the third and final attack carried the position after the defenders ran out of ammunition. The colonists retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, leaving the British in control of Charlestown but still besieged in Boston. The battle was a tactical victory for the British, but it proved to be a sobering experience, involving more than twice the casualties than the Americans had incurred, including many officers. The battle had demonstrated that inexperienced Continental militia could stand up to regular British army troops in battle, at a time when the British were considered to have the finest army in the world.

This battle was the first great confrontation of the war.

In the early 1820s, a great revival of interest in the war and appreciation of its heroes led a small group to aim to create the first great war monument. They focused on Bunker Hill. In 1822, William Tudor, a writer and scholar, whose father had been Judge Advocate during the Revolution, noticed that some of the battle land had come up for sale and impressed on friends the importance of securing it for posterity. They enlisted the support of the young Daniel Webster and the even younger Edward Everett, among others. The Bunker Hill monument association was formed. And in 1824, it was businessman and future congressman Abbott Lawrence who first suggested they enlist the Marquis de Lafayette, then newly arrived on his celebrated return to the United States, and to invite him to lay the cornerstone during that trip.

But what would the monument look like? The task then turned to the design and creation of the monument. A committee of prominent men and artists was named, including Webster, famed artist Gilbert Stuart whose portrait of George Washington is legendary, Washington Allston, George Ticknor, and Loammi Baldwin, a pioneering civil engineer in the United States, considered at the time first in prominence. This was a dream team of talent. Besides Stuart, one of America’s foremost portrait artists, Allston, another prominent artist of his day, would shape future American landscape painting by its dramatic portrayals of mood.

A search for design was publicized. Solomon Willard was chosen as architect.

The Bunker Hill Monument Association wanted a specific monumental form to communicate the eternal message of heroism, and they turned to classical and Egyptian sources for inspiration. Since the directors of the Monument Association wanted to build something bigger and more grandiose than any other monument in the country to show their own proper patriotism, they considereed the language of symbolic architecture carefully.

Designs were solicited from around the state and country, varying in form and size. A 100 dollar prize was awarded to the author of the design that was chosen. Among these designs was one created by Horatio Greenough, the first American to make sculpture his profession and to gain international recognition thereby.

This is the actual Report of the Artists Committee, signed by Webster and Gilbert Stuart, among others, charged with passing their work on to an architect and builder, after having considered the shape and style of the monument.

Autograph letter signed, April 25, 1825, signed by George Ticknor, Gilbert Stuart, Daniel Webster, and W. Allston. “The Committee to whom were referred the plans and designs, &c., of different artists for a Monument on Bunker Hill, beg leave further to report: That the number of designs, plans, and models is very considerable, and that several of them show much talent and great architectural skill. The Committee, however, feeling more and more persuaded that a column is not properly a monumental structure such as the purposes of the Bunker Hill Association require, have been obliged, from this consideration, to reject a large proportion of the plans and designs submitted to them. Setting these aside, therefore, they recommend that the premium of one hundred dollars be awarded to Mr. Horatio Greenough for the model and section of an obelisk ; and this model and all the remaining plans and designs are herewith presented to the Directors for their further consideration. The Committee, however, do not wish to be understood as advising that the Monument on Bunker Hill be erected precisely according to the model and plan of Mr. Greenough.”

This combination of signatures is unique. The document has been newly discovered and has never before been offered publicly for sale.

Setting aside the obvious importance of the piece, Gilbert Stuart’s autograph is very rare. A search of records shows just one having reached the public sale marketplace in the past half century (1988) and 4 in the last century. This is our first in all these decades.

The building of this monument required the first ever railroad built in the United States, constructed for the purpose of supplying the building of the obelisk.

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