Maurice Reidy

Figure 1. Reidy monument. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Maurice Reidy died far too young (why, at my age, come to think of it! Far, far, too young), at 58 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. by his beloved wife, Catharine. His monument is quite interesting for the epigram below the anagraphic details. The latter run thus:

DIED APRIL 16 1888

Figure 2. Reidy monument. Detail: inscription. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The epigram is an imagined conversation, written, it seems to me clear, by Catharine. First Maurice speaks; then his children reply, not to him, but to the reader (figure 2):

1 Farewell, my wife dear, farewell,
2 Adieu, farewell to thee,
3 And you my dear children all
4 Farewell, farewell to you.
5 Our father is gone and we are left
6 The loss of him to mourn,
7 But may we hope to meet with him
8 With Christ before God’s throne.

The punctuation is kind of dicey (I may not have transcribed everything correctly, to boot). I think that ‘God’s’ in verse 8 is carved ‘God,s’, for example.

The meter of this poem is iambic, a mixture of trimeters (verses 2, 4, 6, 8) and a tetrameter (verse 7). An anapest has been substituted for the middle iamb in trimeters in verses 1 and 3; and in verse 5, an anapest substitutes for the second iamb of a tetrameter. There are no syncopations or other adjustments of rhythm.

The verses of the husband are reasonably regular: trimeter, trimeter with central anapest, trimeter, trimeter with central anapest. The notional verses of the children have iambic trimeters in the even verses, but the odd verses are the tetrameter with anapest in position 2, followed by an iambic tetrameter. Schematically:

1 u- uu- u-
2 u- u- u-
3 u- uu- u-
4 u- u- u-

5 u- uu- u- u-
6 u- u- u-
7 u- u- u- u-
8 u- u- u-

Here u is an unstressed syllable, – stressed.

It’s vernacular but not bad, and Catharine could blame the youth of the children for the irregularities in their odd-numbered verses! At the end of the inscription she takes credit for erecting his monument:


A Hollywood angel

No, not one of Charlie’s but the figure of an angel in Hollywood Cemetery (figure 1).

Figure 1. Rueger monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

William Rueger died in 1936, his wife Dorothea (Vocke) in 1909. In this case it was the husband who was left to commemorate his wife, and to judge by the neoclassical style of Julius C. Loester’s angel, Rueger commissioned it soon after her death. Loester seems to me a good artist of the second rank; I find the symmetry of the composition pleasing, and I like the asymmetrical touches in the treatment of the drapery over the upper torso; but the unfurled banner, the treatment of the hair, and the unenthusiastic sculpting of the female form under the drapery make this sculpture a little dry for me.

Figure 2. Rueger monument from rear. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Angel figures rarely have their wings so spread. Sometimes they do, but more often the wings are tucked in closer to the body to aid the sculpture (or image) in fitting better into whatever frame the artist imagines. In this case, the frame is (in part) the horizontal line offered by the top of the slab behind the angel (figures 1, 2), and so spreading the wings agrees with this spatial arrangement.

A female abstract figure in juxtaposition with architecture is something we commonly see in landmark works from the neoclassical period. Hermon MacNeil’s Standing Liberty (of 1916, figure 2a), emerging from a waist-high wall, is a prominent example. In the Rueger monument, a cornice has been added in front to the top of the slab on either side of the figure. These serve to symmetrically frame it (and give weight to the parts of the slab notionally supporting the wings), about the way the gap in MacNeil’s wall frames his Liberty. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney similarly adopted a symmetrical pose, spreading the arms of her female figure wide, in her Founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution (figure 2b), while Augustus Saint-Gaudens placed his sitting Grief (figure 2c) in front of a slab in Rock Creek Cemetery (here I show the replica in the Smithsonian). See also addendum 1, below.

Figure 2a. Hermon MacNeil, Standing Liberty quarter dollar obverse. Photo: John Baumgart. CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 2b. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, The Founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1929. Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid. CC-BY-SA 4.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 2c. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Clover Adams monument. Smithsonian American Art Museum, inv. 1970.11. Photo: author.

Looking now to figure 3, we see Loester’s solution to a problem I wonder about in my spare time: the attachment of wings to a human torso. It’s ridiculous to hold an artist to some sort of standard in depicting a mythological figure—how do those snakes grow out of Medusa’s head, even in theory? And if a human figure did have wings, they would be in place of arms, as in birds. But even ignoring that, a heavy human body would require vast muscles coming around the torso and a really strong ribcage to support them, in addition to substantial muscles attaching the wing to the spine in back. If you argue that angels are etherial beings made specially by God, fair enough, but why wings then? They can more efficiently float on their own power (God can make them function any way He wills, after all). And how many of them can dance on the head of a pin? In any event, the official position adopted here is that angels, whatever they may be in reality, are depicted anthropomorphically out of artistic convenience and anthropocentrism. As the Greek philosopher said, if horses had gods they’d look like horses, etc.

Figure 3. Rueger monument, joining of wings to figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Loester draws a veil over all this by having the wings emerge from specially made slits in the angel’s gown. However, the draping of this section doesn’t seem to indicate he thought the angel would need much muscle to fly!

Well, enough of that. Let’s turn around to the front and have a look at the torso, banner, and the pose (figure 4).

Figure 4. Rueger monument. view of torso of figure and banner. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The angel is depicted at rest, having landed. The wings are extended for visual purposes as discussed above, but presumably if we try to explain it we would say she’s putting on a display to intimidate her viewers. Her weight is on her left leg, the right thrown slightly forward. There is no wind, and her peplos falls slack to the ground. Because it has been cinched below the breasts, it does fall loosely against the lower torso and right leg, lightly expressing their shapes. The feet are planted flat, and wear sandals. The peplos is open on the right side: see the draping edge below the final ‘t’ in the word ‘that’ on the banner.

There is an inherent contradiction in the depiction of the drapery as being sheer enough to even lightly suggest the contours of the lower torso and legs, yet heavy enough to maintain big folds around the arms, over the breasts, and where it falls off the right shoulder. I put it down to conservatism in the artist who wants to play with the female form like everybody else but doesn’t want to épater les bourgeois with too revealing a figure. An artist of the first rank would say ‘who cares’ and do what he or she wanted; but Loester was far enough down the pecking order to need repeat business, I guess.

Figure 5. Rueger monument, view of left side with sleeve. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

If I am not much mistaken we see (in figure 5) the seam where the left wing has been attached to a stump emerging from the torso, just outside of the line of the arm. See how the patina is beginning to form in it along a line an inch or two out from the shoulder and arm? In figure 3 you can see a nice straight line where the right wing attaches to the rear of the statue.

Figure 6. Rueger monument, view of feet of figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

I always take a photo of the feet (figure 6), since the best artists carry through their attentive work even to the least parts of their figures. About all I can say here is that this angel (or the model who posed for the feet) didn’t have hammer toes.

Figure 7. Rueger monument, view of head and upper torso of figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The face (figure 7) is pleasant, if somewhat squarer than the norm, perhaps due to a bit of jowl crunching because she’s looking down. She has a thickish nose and bee-sting lips. (Don’t look up ‘bee-sting lips’ on Google: you won’t like what you find.) The eyes are expressionless and appear to me to look slightly down from the face. They are not deep set, and the brows arch high over them. There is a (to me) ugly little line on the forehead where the cap of hair was welded to the head. The neck seems longer than natural and there is a tiara on top of the head (which sports a bun in back). The overall effect is to heighten the figure in order to set off the widely splayed horizontals of the wings and the banner.

The banner is notionally a ribbon with the words “THEY THAT LIE HERE REST IN PEACE” with the quotation marks in the original. I suppose the quotation marks are meant to indicate that the assertion comes not from the angel but from where what is willed must be. If the wings defy reality, the catenary of the banner does not, and the figure’s right leg could be seen to push out against the ribbon slightly to keep its face visible and message legible.

The wings (figures 8, 9) offer a nice opportunity to see how the artist applied layer after layer of clay to his model, like shingles, to give the feathered look. He incised the barbs into the feathers. Once you see his hand at work you can see how he has incised striations all the way down the gown to give it a crepe-y look, and how he has incised the Greek key pattern on the left shoulder of the peplos and applied clay and mashed it down to give texture to the drapery over the upper torso. All this is neither good nor bad, just an indication of Loester’s working habits.

Figure 10. Rueger monument, artist’s signature. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The final incised addition I saw on the bronze was Loester’s signature, “Julius C. Loester sc[alpsit],” “Julius C. Loester sculpted [it].”

I feel guilty about tarring Loester with being second rate, even though I think it’s true. But if we compare it with just about anything that’s been put in a cemetery in the U.S. since about 1960, the modern work comes off very, very poorly.

Partly the craftsmanship died out during the depression (and was in decline in the 1920s), partly styles changed, and partly the culture changed to where the modestly successful burgher preferred a short upright slab monument if they were not compelled by cemetery rules to be buried with nothing more than a flat plaque that facilitates mowing.

By contrast, the Rueger monument is an example of the gen-you-wine pieces of art that made outdoor galleries out of so many U.S. gilded-age cemeteries. The mixed desire to enrich the civic environment together with some fairly strenuous social competition left an incomparable cultural legacy we can still enjoy today.


Figure 11. George Julian Zolnay, monument to Margaret Howell Davis Hayes, 1911. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

George Julian Zolnay sculpted a 1911 monument for the grave of Jefferson Davis’s daughter Margaret in Hollywood Cemetery (figure 11). The figure, which has excellent toes, by the way, is backed by a roughly waist high wall in the form of an open book. Otherwise the principles of symmetry have been carried through more thoroughly than in the Rueger monument (figure 1). Now that I look at it carefully, It’s not clear to me how Zolnay imagined her clothing to have been arranged and fastened, except that there’s a big fold in front with a hem that rises in a big S curve. It could be that the clothing scheme is irrational, with its internal logic sacrificed to some desire on Zolnay’s part to get the drapery the way he wanted it. The book has a nice tooled-leather cover inscribed PAX, or ‘peace,’ fitting for a statue dedicated during the great years of reconciliation. However that may be, it does form another comparandum for the schema of the Rueger monument.

Addendum 2.

John O. Peters, in his carefully researched book, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (2010), gives the useful datum which I had not seen, that the bronze was cast by the Roman Bronze Works, and dates the figure to “ca. 1930.” He had access to cemetery and other historical records, and he gives precise dates where he can, as for the angel on the Cabell monument, which he dates to 1927. His careful use of “ca.” seems to me to indicate that his records fell short and he was estimating on the basis of the dates of death on the stone. The Rueger angel, however, comes from a different world from 1930: she is rightfully compared to figures between 1900 and 1920 on the basis of Loester’s treatment of the pose and drapery. Have a look at the two (figures 12, 13):

The framing elements are different, and the poses are quite different, so anything coming directly from these is irrelevant to what I’m trying to show. Rather, the day of the chiffon-y crepe-y drapery is over by 1927, and the Greek facial features and hair style is gone. I do not pretend that this comparison constitutes definitive proof, but I believe if you were to carry the comparison to further examples, you’d see that there is a sea change between the Rueger figure and figures from “ca. 1930.” In fact, have a look at Vanderbilt’s monument in figure 2b: the drapery is likewise far removed from the neoclassical standard.

Whatever your heart desires

Figure 1. Alexander Alexander monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 1 shows the monument of Mr. Alexander Alexander (1928-2009) in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. Its stylized half-columns at each side and the fret pattern along the base of the monument allude to Greek architecture, and one assumes that someone named Alexander Alexander was of Greek descent.

I thought the subscript was Ancient Greek for a moment:

[Whatever your heart wishes]

But the ΣΑΣ, which I thought might be some dialectal form, shows it’s actually got to be Modern Greek. If we tamped this into Ancient Greek I think we might write οὗτινος δή ποτε ἡ καρδία σου ἐπιθυμεῖ.

Anyway, it’s a rare pleasure to find Greek, ancient or modern, on a tombstone!


The Woodmen of the World, an insurance company, boasted for many years of their policy of providing tombstones for deceased employees. These are common enough, but I thought it might be worth documenting the interesting variety I saw in the Albemarle region of North Carolina.

Figure 1. Charles E. Boswood monument, 1895. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 2. Charles D. Weymouth monument, 1900. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 3. F.W. Andrews monument, 1902. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 4. Frederick Davis monument, 1917. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 5. Samuel Henderson monument, 1918. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 6. George W. Horton monument, 1938. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 7. Eugene H. Peel monument, 1939. Manteo Cemetery, Manteo, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 8. Peterson monument, undated. Manteo Cemetery, Manteo, N.C. Photo: author.

Spears, logs, vines, and tassles: cast-iron precinct rails in Elizabeth City

Episcopal Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C. (est. 1828), offers a study in mid-nineteenth century cast-iron precinct rails for cemetery plots. Figure 1 shows the Grandy plot, which is very old-school and conservative.

Figure 1. Grandy plot. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The rail is economical in its use of iron, and the spear points are thoughtfully guarded by ornamental loops. You can see the gate in the background on the right. You may not have noticed the footnote to the inscription to the oddly named Lesceles Grandy (figure 2). She died in the terrible Windsor Hotel fire in NYC of 17 March 1899. From the Washington Evening Times casualty list:

“Miss LESCELES GRANDY, thirty-five years old, of Washington, D. C., died at the East Fifty-first Street police station.”

“Sixteen surely dead and many missing,” Evening Times, 18 March 1899.

What the Washington, D.C. Evening Times saw fit to print about her life can be read in an excerpt at the bottom of this post.


Figure 2. Lesceles Grandy monument. Detail: inscriptional footnote. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Bumping complexity up a notch is the Knox precinct, whose rail has posts in the image of stripped tree trunks, a common symbol of death borrowed from the rustic sphere (figure 3).

Figure 3. Knox precinct rail. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The corners are rather larger stumps which were assembled out of more than one piece: the tops fit into the hollow casting of the lower part, as in the rear right post in figure 3.

See, too, how all of the lesser posts are identical and have been affixed to the iron bars of the rail in an identical orientation, highlighting the artifice. Second, you can see the rail of the precinct behind the Knox one which had a delicate repeating lyre pattern in the iron with a sort of fleur-de-lis above each. And lastly, you can see how in this hurricane plagued low country little concrete vaults or heavy ledger stones are very common to keep water from surfacing coffins.

Figure 4. William Knox headstone. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

This headstone, to an unfortunate child who died at only 3 months, offers me the tentative name Knox for this precinct and its tentative mid-nineteenth century date. There’s a much later Appleby monument in the precinct, but that will have nothing to do with the rail. Three things to admire about little William’s monument: the variety of fonts, in best mid-nineteenth century style; the cutter’s hand; and the fine constellation of willow, broken rose, and table tomb in the lunette atop.

Figure 5. Knox precinct repair. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The precinct rail is now in dire condition, but a good faith effort was made at some point to repair it with rebar (figure 5). It’s also possible to see the top of the end post snuggled into the lower portion about a hand’s width above the top rebar rail. I offer two more views so you can get a feel for the structure, and what remains of it (figures 6, 7).

The Saunders family likewise erected a precinct rail constructed out of prefabricated identical elements with a natural theme. In fact, it’s meant to be a hedge or perhaps more likely, vines on a short trellis (figure 8).

Figure 8. Saunders precinct. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The main posts are meant to be stakes holding the hedge up (figure 9):

Figure 9. Saunders precinct. Detail top of post. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

If you look closely at the top of one of the posts in figure 9, you can see that it’s been cast in the form of a wooden post that’s been lopped short with axe strokes. In figures 10 and 11 you can see the post with adjacent vine panels, and the hollow inside portion of the cast panels, respectively.

You know me well enough by now that you’re expecting the best for last, and you’re right: the astonishing Lawrence precinct (figure 12).

Figure 12. Lawrence precinct. SW corner. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Those are tassles (in iron, of course) hanging from cruciform plates cast with the ‘all-seeing eye’ on them (figure 13). It is nothing short of astounding to me to see the famous Victorian taste for rich, overstuffed, velveted interiors brought in this way to the outdoors. It’s just great. And the all-seeing eye is a fabulous touch. I also admit that the chains hang in a pleasingly symmetrical way with nice catenaries between the tassles.

Figure 13. Lawrence precinct. Detail: tassle with all-seeing eye. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The most legible monument in this be-tassled precinct is a ledger stone to two family daughters, Sarah (1835-1844) and Ann (1838-1848), who died at ages nine and ten, respectively. This happened in the 1840s, and I tentatively date the precinct border to this period.

Figure 14. Sarah and Anne Lawrence ledger stone monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

A final image (figure 15) shows a portion of the chain with two tassles that has fallen to the ground and lies in magnificent decay among the dying late-November grass and fallen leaves.

Figure 15. Lawrence precinct. Detail: fallen tassles. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Here is the potted biography of Lesceles Grandy from the Evening Times of 18 March, 1899.

Miss Lesceles Grandy, who died in New York last night as a result of injuries sustained in the Windsor Hotel fire, was well known in the social circles of Washington, having for the past twelve years made her home in this city. She was a daughter of Judge Grandy, a prominent jurist of North Carolina, and was a sister of Harrison Grandy, who recently graduated from the Columbian University Law School. Miss Grandy was born In Elizabeth City, N. C., about thirty-two years ago, where she made her home until the death of her father. She was educated in the best schools of this country and a [illegible word] completed her education in Paris. At the death of her father. Miss Grandy came into possession of a large fortune, which she invested in Washington real estate. Her home was at 1023 Connecticut Avenue, and was for years known as one of the most hospitable homes in Washington. Miss Grandy was devoted to travel and spent almost every summer in Europe. Her home was filled with old world curiosities and her collection of bric-a-brac is considered one of the finest in this city. Although not a society woman Miss Grandy numbered among her friends some of the best known residents of the District and was prominently identified with several women’s clubs. Her afternoon teas were famous as the rendezvous of women conspicuous in literary, artistic and social circles. When a Times reporter visited the late home of the deceased today, it was found to be in charge of servants who had not heard of her sad death. One of her friends stated that Miss Grandy left Washington for New York Saturday purely on a pleasure trip and had intended to return next Wednesday. “Miss Grandy was an utterly charming woman,” said she, “and her death is a great shock to her large circle of friends in this city.” Her mother had only recently returned to North Carolina after having been with her daughter in this city during the winter season. Harrison Grandy, a brother of the deceased, had lived with his sister until a few weeks ago, when he left for his home in Elizabeth City to engage in the practice of law. No detailed information has been received by any of Miss Grandy’s friends in Washington regarding her sad death, and It is not yet known what disposition will be made of the body. 

The Evening Times, page 1. 18 March 1899. (Washington, D.C.)


Figure 1. Millicent Sanders monument. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

“Thy trials ended, thy rest is won,” deposes the monument of Millicent Sanders in the fine New Hollywood Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C. But after death she had one final trial: the cutter here has marked her down as the “wief” of J.F. Sanders, an unaccountable blunder that makes one wonder who, if anyone, inspected this stone.

You might think ol’ J.F. accepted the defective stone for a cut rate, right? Except how could the monument company ever have wanted to let him take this stone, and erect it, with its astounding blunder, in a highly visible public space? For on the first base there is the inscription “E City marble wk’s,” itself parading an error masquerading as a Saxon genitive, that allows the viewer to trace the blunder back to its source.

My wief Christina spotted this stone during our walk-through of the cemetery, so credit to her, but I laughed out loud at the sheer ineptness of publicly erecting a defective monument with your company’s name on it!

From cradle to . . . cradle

The splendid Episcopal Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C., is a must-see for any taphoholics visiting the Outer Banks. Here I focus on a variant of a common grave type which I’ve never seen before—I almost walked past without looking twice.

Figure 1. Emma Hinton monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

At first sight we’re dealing with a typical grave of a dead infant or child (figure 1); the decapitated lamb atop the headstone and the small size of the grave assures us of that. The stone bears several regular bits of iconography: inverted torches on each side to signify life snuffed out; flowers trailing like garlands from the scallop shell above the center of the inscribed tablet. The details of the bundled rods of the torches and the flowers are quite nice.

Figure 2. Emma Hinton monument. Detail: inscription. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

In memory of
infant daughter of
James W. & Susan S.
born Feb 19, 1856,
died July 26, 1858,
aged 2 yrs 5 mos.
& 7 days

The inscription bears out the clue to the inhabitant’s tender age provided by the lamb. The little plot has a sculpted marble border on the long sides and a foot stone terminating the space. Like so many graves in this cemetery, the Hinton one has suffered from the elements and the vandal hand of man, and the border is all askew. What did finally catch my eye were the curiously scalloped shapes of the borders and footstone. When I imagined how the plot must have looked when it was fresh, it hit me that the grave had been imagined here as a cradle. The scalloped forms are the carved wooden sides of the cradle, and it makes sense then that the scallops are taller by the head than by the foot.

Figure 3. Victorian rocking cradle. Photo: Northeast Auctions. I do not possess rights to this photograph but rely on a fair use justification in a critical discussion.
Figure 4. Vintage rocking cradle. Photo: I do not possess rights to this photograph but rely on a fair use justification in a critical discussion.

A quick search online turns up vintage cradles that mostly have straight sides. I have borrowed two images (figures 3, 4) to illustrate what I mean about more complicated shapes. No cradle I saw online closely matches the Hinton grave, but then, the latter was assembled by a stonecutter, not a carpenter, and needed do no more than evoke a cradle for sentimental purposes and provide a small garden plot.

Figure 5. Unknown child’s grave. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The specialness of the Hinton grave can be seen by contrasting it with figure 5, another, less elaborate cradle-grave a few feet away. I could not find any indication of who inhabits the grave (the headstone appears to be blank, and the grave is not part of a family ensemble), but its size appears to guarantee that we are dealing with a child. Here, rectilinear blocks serve as bases for the head- and footstone; the former is a plain slab with rounded corners, the latter a pediment-shaped stone which once apparently bore an urn, now broken off and sitting inside the little plot. The sides of the cradle are simple undulating shapes that you might find in any gardening store today.

The purpose of the type was to offer scope for plantings; the family could commune with the dead during trips to the cemetery to tend the plantings. The supergroup to which our two graves belong is called “cradle-grave.” A 2017 Hidden City article discusses the type while featuring urban Philadelphia gardeners who adopt and tend such cradle graves in Woodlands Cemetery. As far as I can see, the Woodlands cases (and one sees them often enough elsewhere) are generic: the “cradle” shape emerges from a desire to have a small segregated plot for planting right over the grave, whereas the Hinton grave appears to have started with the conceit that the monument was a cradle which was then suitable for planting. There are several examples of these generic cradle-graves in Episcopal Cemetery beyond the anonymous one in figure 5. Four of them, now overgrown, bear plaques stating that the garden was tended by the ladies of Episcopal Cemetery: so the Hintons will have had models to follow. And Episcopal furnishes another clear example in the cradle-grave of the later (and older) C. R. Grandy (1869-1909: figure 6).

Figure 6. Grandy monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The Emma Hinton grave is the first example I have yet seen of a cradle-grave for a child which intentionally, I think, crosses the ground from a gardening plot that resembles a cradle, to a cradle that also serves as a gardening plot.

For further reading, see this post at the A Grave Interest blog, which shows some further examples of (I think) adult cradle-graves. In addition to being another article on the topic, this post in the Laurel Hill Cemetery Blog also offers in its first illustration a good specimen of an ornately bordered cradle-grave.

John Christopher Thomas

Figure 1. Thomas monument. Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

Non quomodo mundus dat ego do vobis, declares the marker of John Christopher Thomas, who lived but 15 days in 1930: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” A fitting sentiment for parents trying to make sense out of their bereavement for a lost infant.

The extended passage, for which the snippet on the little marker stands, is from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The Liscum monument

The period from about 1890 to about 1920 was the golden age of American public art. A lot of this is owed to the neoclassical style which then reached its peak.

Arlington’s Emerson Hamilton Liscum monument, which is in Arlington National Cemetery and dates to approximately 1900, is a fine example of neoclassical restrained elegance, and nowhere is this plainer than in the inscription on the rear of the monument (figures 2, 3). Should you wish to know more about Liscum than this inscription offers, see the program for the dedication of a 1911 monument to him in Burlington, VT, here.

Figure 3. Liscum monument. Detail: inscription. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

The original inscription ran down to and included the birthdate of Liscum’s wife May, to whom we evidently owe this monument. The date of her death, in 1933, was carved by a different hand, as you can see from the different spacing and height of the letters. The serifed letters, deep enough to cast a shadow, are reminiscent of the finest Roman examples. See the tall ‘T’s in lines 2, 3, 4, and 8: a fussy attempt at kerning to achieve a very even spacing of the letters. Yet the cutter only does it when two adjacent letters can be squeezed under the “roof” of the T. See how the cutter avoids the ‘tall T’ at the beginning or end of a word or when two ‘T’s fall together: the point was to achieve symmetry. The T in Hamilton (line 1) is not tall presumably because the cutter wanted to cut the name with a solemn regularity.

Figure 4. Liscum monument. Detail: female figure. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

The monument was unfortunately written up sloppily by an intern of the Smithsonian in 1995. Contrary to what the intern implies, apart from the multi-piece base the figure and stele behind it are monolithic. The sculpted figure emerges from a rough-hewn niche in the face of the slab, as figure 5, an oblique view of the female figure, makes clear. The intern seemingly worked from a poor or truncated frontal photograph, failing to read the surname ‘Liscum’ on the base’s front (figure 1) and recording the monument as being of a certain ‘Emerson Hamilton.’ Had the intern seen the inscription on the rear of the monument, such a mistake could have been avoided. This is why autopsy is so important in writing about art, and a second rule is: always look at the monument closely and photograph it from all sides. It’s like double-tapping.

Figure 5. Liscum monument showing connection between figure and background. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

The figure is standing still in a contrapposto pose with its weight on the unseen right leg (figure 4). The left leg is thrown a bit forward and is exposed to view (figure 7). The left hand loosely bears a palm frond, while the right grasps the handle of a round shield. The upper torso is averted slightly to the right, whereas the head is averted left so that it looks directly out from the plane of the background. The head bears a helmet; the eyes are expressionless, and the mouth is turned down slightly at the corners. The exposed left foot wears a strapped boot.

The drapery is nicely, if conservatively, handled. The strap (a belt? a baldric?) that runs down under the figure’s right breast to a point at the left hip behind the palm frond holds down the cloth of the peplos which is gathered at the hip on the right and creates five small pinched folds above it. The peplos has been cinched below the breasts, and the cloth is depicted as copious and light enough in weight to sustain its poofs by its own internal stiffness rather than falling heavily or slackly because of gravity. This is, of course, mannered and, I think, in defiance of nature, as you can also see in Saint-Gaudens’ Amor Caritas (figure 6).

The Saint-Gaudens figure exhibits two traits of neoclassical art: sheer, flowing voluminous garments with many crepe-like folds and a delight in revealing or suggesting the female form through this drapery. These are not universal traits: you’ll find plenty of examples of female figures quite chastely covered up. You will likewise find fascinated explorations of the male nude. Those, however, will not help us interpret the Liscum figure.

So, gathering some comparisons, I would point to a few very obvious examples drawn from near-contemporary neoclassical paintings which illustrate the lightness and sheerness of the fabric that I think the Liscum sculptor had in mind. Paintings show this more clearly than stone sculpture because the painter can express the diaphanous nature of cloth by painting the body underneath; the sculptor can only reveal a figure under clothes by having it stride forward, or imagining some sort of breeze in order to have the sheer cloth pressed against the flesh and thus expose its contours. Whether drapery is opaque or diaphanous is anyone’s guess in stone, although that guess can be fairly obvious, as in the almost certainly diaphanous drapery in figure 2 of this post. It’s amazing how many neoclassical stone (or bronze) dames walk into a headwind or tailwind (contrast figures 8 and 13).

Looking at these examples, see, for example, the figure on the left in Leighton’s Winding the Skein (1878: figure 7) and his Flaming June (1895: figure 8); Godward’s Idleness (1900: figure 9); and Alma Tadema’s The Etruscan Vase Painters (1871: figure 10) and A Coign of Vantage (1895: figure 11).

Have a look, too, at how the drapery is secured to the body. Amor Caritas (figure 6) is bound in a typical classical way with crossed straps running from the neck in an X pattern under the breasts. One can also see that clearly in Leighton’s Winding the Skein (figure 7). The artist eats his cake and has it, too, for conservative viewers are invited to see the loose voluminous folds and gathers of cloth as effectively covering the chest; yet the cross-banded presentation emphasizes the female shape of the chest precisely by separating and defining two masses.

Figure 12. Liscum monument. Detail: leg of female figure. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Photo: author.

A comparison with Amor Caritas (figure 6) and Weinman’s splendid Walking Liberty (figure 13) shows that the Liscum artist made different decisions at a number of points. When I first saw the Liscum figure I was at a loss as to whether it portrays a male or female. Of course, close observation shows the figure has breasts (figure 5), and there are a bunch of other signs, such as the clothing, showing it is female. Still, the pose, the musculature of the arms, neck, and booted leg, and something about the face—beetle-browed with muscular lips and cheeks—all strike me as deliberately chosen masculine signs as I contrast them with the ‘girly girls’ of neoclassical art. Again, the figure is standing still and the drapery falls lankly, meaning that it does not very much reveal the female form.

Figure 13. Adolph Weinman, Walking Liberty half dollar obverse. Photo: Brandon Grossardt. CC-BY-SA-3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

The Walking Liberty half dollar, designed in 1916, postdates the Liscum figure by about fifteen years. Yet we see the same voluminous peplos in sheer material. But where the cloth in figures 4 and 6 hangs comparatively limply, Weinman’s Liberty—clearly labeled as such on the coin—has her peplos billowing in the tailwind and due to her walking stride. It is not bound by straps as in the other two figures. Like the Liscum figure, she wears a pectoral over her upper chest: see that her striped dress emerges from under it. Those stripes on the dress are notionally a continuation of the stripes of the flag, and the dress flowing in the breeze evokes and echoes the flapping of the flag (or vice versa).

Weinman’s Liberty lacks the Liscum helmet, shield, and boots. And although Weinman brings out some of the curves of the female form, especially in the lower half of the figure, he has not exposed her leg as the Liscum artist has. We can, however, find a comparandum in Hermon MacNeil’s Standing Liberty, also designed in 1916 (figure 14).

Figure 14. Hermon MacNeil, Standing Liberty quarter dollar obverse. Photo: John Baumgart. CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

MacNeil’s figure, in frontal view, is to my eye not as successful as Weinman’s, nor even as much as the Liscum artist’s: there’s something askew with the legs. But leaving aside this and other considerations, MacNeil has done a good job of articulating the peplos, which bares a leg. Look well above the knee on the bared leg: you see cloth coming together like an inverted V. The cloth is pinned at the vertex, and it is pinned again—the pin this time visible as a little dot—just a bit above. The cloth pulls apart between the pins exposing a silver sliver of flesh. That’s how these classical dresses work: the one side (here, the figure’s left) has solid cloth, while the top and right are optionally pinned at intervals. On the quarter, the figure, who is striding forward, has her leg bared because she is moving toward us: it’s pulled through the unpinned gap in the cloth. The Liscum figure has thrust her leg forward and the hand holding the frond keeps the peplos open. The MacNeil figure also shows us a female personification with a shield.

Another Liberty wears a fine peplos pinned on the left and cinched below the breasts on the obverse of Saint-Gaudens’ double eagle of 1907 (figure 15).

Figure 15. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, twenty-dollar coin, 1907. Photo: Jaclyn Nash. National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.

The figure is posed, not walking toward us. A stiff wind comes from the figure’s front and left. It lacks a pectoral, though the voluminous, sheer peplos, pinned on the left, exhibits a carefully described series of arcs in the upper torso which we also see in the Liscum figure and his Amor Caritas. It is not clear to me whether the left leg on the coin is exposed or covered by sheer fabric that expresses the leg’s outline. I think I see the sandal Liberty is wearing on that side, and it would be consonant with the physics of a draping, sheer peplos in the wind to have the leg exposed. The ‘S’-shaped and even more elaborate curves described by the bottom hem of the peplos are very, very nice,

You’ll have noticed that I’ve found comparanda for the garment, the pectoral, the shield, and the exposed leg in personifications of Liberty. The Liscum figure need not be one, however; these attributes fit any number of these personifications, of which there are a large number in neoclassical art: Memory (figure 16), Meditation (figure 17), Grief (figure 18), Death, Victory (both figure 19), Liberality (figure 20), and so on.

Still, I think a reasonably good case could be made for Liberty, for Columbia, i.e., the personification of America, or Victory. Of the three, I guess I prefer Columbia. She, our country, stands present at the grave of a brave fallen son in our pre-eminent national cemetery. She looks mighty bummed out about it. The masculine turn of the Liscum figure, along with the armaments connects her to war. But Liberty is just about as likely; there is an “Armed Freedom” atop the U.S. Capitol replete with shield and helmet (and sword, to boot). She totes a laurel wreath instead of a palm frond, but these two are to my mind interchangeable and often appear together, as in figure 19; see the discussion in my post on Phidippides which connects these symbols specifically to the American Christian funerary realm. The military accoutrements and palm suggest victory, but it is too common for artists to have appropriated the symbols of victory to other personifications to give their mere presence much weight. Put another way, I feel more comfortable identifying the personification on the basis of the story I think the monument tells rather than the mechanical presence of attributes.

Figure 21. Thomas Crawford, Armed Freedom. U.S. Capitol Building. Photo: Architect of the Capitol. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve linked more than once to the valuable discussions of Bob Speel, working out of the U.K. He focuses on Victorian and Edwardian sculpture in that country, and in particular he has assembled an illustrated dictionary of personifications. Among the figures in his ‘V for Victory’ page is the following illustration (figure 22). I wrote to him a couple of weeks ago to discover where this figure is and who was the artist, but he has been too busy to respond to me yet.

Figure 22. Personification of Victory in the U.K. Photo: unknown; published by Bob Speel.

The photograph appears to be vintage, the monument in the style of the others discussed here and I think necessarily dating to that same time frame. I take it to be out of copyright, and the photograph as well because of the lapse of time.

This figure exhibits the same somewhat masculine physique as the Liscum figure, and wears a laurel crown and holds laurels of victory aloft. Her sword is sheathed and its belt is wrapped around it: the victory won, it is not needed for now. If I read the image correctly, the peplos is cinched below the breasts and again at the waist. The fabric has been pulled out under the waist cinch to make an articulation of the fabric at mid-torso. Like the Liscum figure, it wears a pectoral, and also similarly the artist has barely suggested the form of the hips, belly and upper thighs under the lank cloth. The artist has treated the bottom hem of the garment in a stylized way, reducing it to a series of symmetrical abstract curves surrounding a central omega (Ω) form. Below those folds the feet are visible, wearing sandals. The cape with its (aegis?) clasp at the neck is very interesting. The most arresting part of the image is the face with its look of hauteur.

The Liscum monument is among the artistically finest in Arlington, yet it goes largely unsung in the literature and unremarked by tourists in a rush to see the Kennedy graves. It has a pathetic stub of an entry in the Pedia of Wiki which is basically a placeholder referring to the atrocious Smithsonian writeup. Find a Grave has some nice photos but little else of value. The monument’s right there in Section E. Div. Site 843: next time you’re there, have a look: it’s worth a detour from the dead presidents and medal of honor winners.

The Baker obelisk

Loudon Park Cemetery has endless surprises. One of them was a monument I caught out of the corner of my eye—it had more text, and in visibly different formats, than the normal monument with bare anagraphic details. The carving, especially on side 1, is actually quite beautiful. Here, I transcribe the sides beneath each photograph, reserving a few comments to the end.


Figure 1. William Baker monument, side 1. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

Born in 1747 near the Blue Ridge Mountains
Died in Baltimore December 30th 1816
aged 69 years.

In him were united all those virtues which charac
terise the Kind Husband, the affectionate Parent,
the Good Citizen, and Real Christian.
He was a pattern of Integrity, Industry, Economy,
Morality, and a warm supporter of all Institutions
having for their object the glory of God and the
Happiness of Mankind.

  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest
from their labors.”

Keep safe O tomb! thy precious sacred trust,
Till life divine awake his sleeping dust.

And also To the Memory of
Relict of William Baker, who was born in
Fredericktown, Maryland October 28th, 1757.
Died December 3rd 1841, aged 85 years.

The God of Abrah’m praise
At whose supreme command,
From earth I rise and seek the joys
At His right hand.


Figure 2. William Baker monument, side 2. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

Eldest child of WILLIAM and ANNA BAKER
was born in Baltimore on the 11th of September 1781.
Died at “Friendsbury” on the 10th March 1865
in the 86th year of his age.

Inheriting the character of his father the testimony
given of him may be truly recorded [. . . . . . . .]
As a husband, a parent, a christian and a citizen [he]
fulfilled the law of duty and loving kindness.
In his intercourse with the world he pursued the
straight path of rectitude, evincing a strong sens[e]
of justice, yet ever tempered by mercy.
Respected and honored by those who knew him full
of years, he sank gently and gradually into death
giving testimony that Jesus was with him to the end.

“So fades a summer cloud away
So sinks the gale when storms are o’er
So gently shuts the eye of day
So dies a wave along the shore.”

Born in Liverpool, England, June 19th, 1784.
Died at “Friendsbury” on the 18th May 1868
in the 84th year of her age.

“Her Children rise up and call her blessed.”


Figure 3. William Baker monument, side 3. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

Born in Caernavon, North Wales, January 30th 1751.
Died at “Friendsbury” June 4th 1811, aged 60 years.
A Man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.

Wife of RICHARD JONES, born in Milnthorpe
Westmoreland, England, November 9th 1749.
Died at “Friendsbury” June 7th 1806, aged 57 years.
—— —— ——

Born on 19th January 1810.
Died at “Friendsbury” October 10th 1855, aged 45 years.

Died November 10th 1845, aged 30 years.

Died at “Friendsbury” September 5th 1847,
aged 22 months.

Father, Mother, Child! They are not here, for God took
them to himself to dwell with Christ in glory.
Many years have passed since their bodies were laid
in the tomb, but their memories are not buried in
its dust and ashes. This model pair lived not for themselves
but to do good unto others. In the midst of their use
fulness on earth, they were called to a higher life in
heaven leaving behind them an enduring testimony
that they had not lived in vain.

“Faithful unto death.”


Figure 4. William Baker monument, side 4. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

1839 — 1926


The poem on side 2 (figure 2) is the second stanza of Anna Laetitia Barbauld‘s The Death of the Virtuous. Here is the whole thing, on pages 315-316 the first volume of her Works of 1825. We’ve encountered her in these posts before.

Sweet is the scene when Virtue dies!— 
When sinks a righteous soul to rest, 
How mildly beam the closing eyes, 
How gently heaves the’ expiring breast! 

So fades a summer cloud away; 
So sinks the gale when storms are o’er; 
So gently shuts the eye of day; 
So dies a wave along the shore. 

Triumphant smiles the victor brow, 
Fanned by some angel’s purple wing;— 
Where is, O Grave! thy victory now? 
And where, insidious Death! thy sting?

Farewell, conflicting joys and fears,
Where light and shade alternate dwell;
How bright the’ unchanging morn appears!
Farewell, inconstant world, Farewell!

Its duty done,—as sinks the clay,
Light from its load the spirit flies;
While heaven and earth combine to say,
“Sweet is the scene when Virtue dies!”

There are a lot of people marked on this obelisk. Let’s see if we can sort them out. Richard Jones (1751-1811) immigrated to the U.S. from Carnarvonshire, Wales, in 1781, at the age of 30. He had married Anne Thompson (1749-1806) in Liverpool en route. He settled in Fells Point in Baltimore, now a hive of scum and villainy (I mean drinking joints) but ornamented by him with places of worship. His prosperous religiosity was passed down through the family. There he founded an urban estate called “Friendsbury.” Thus the two people on the top of side 3.

Jones’s contemporary, William Baker (1747-1816), was born near the present site of Reading Pennsylvania. When he was six, he and and unnamed sister were the sole survivors of an “indian massacre” and he was relocated to Philadelphia and thence, at age 12, to Baltimore. He married his wife Anna (1757-1841) there. He became a prominent businessman. Thus the two people on side 1.

William (I) and Anna produced William (II) (1781-1865). William II was a judge on the orphans’ court in Baltimore, and married Jones’s daughter Jane (1784-1868). From this point, everyone lives at Friendsbury. They had about a billion children who lived long enough to be cited in biographical literature. These included four sons, William (III) George Baker, Richard Jones Baker, Henry J. Baker, and Charles J. Baker. There are also mentioned five daughters, a “Mrs. Dr. Graves” and four others, unnamed. Thus the principals on side 2.

William (III) (1810-1855) had a “delicate constitution,” as they say, dying young. He was evidently quite intellectually apt, especially in mathematics; he turned to law, and ultimately became a member of the Maryland legislature. Like his forebears, he was a great philanthropist, though interestingly he is said at one point “not to be a professing Christian.” Was he an agnostic or atheist? A deist? That would make him interesting indeed, but the biographies I read dance around this question because they evidently thought it unseemly. Well. He married Margaretta Armstrong (1815-1845), and they produced the luckless William (IV) Armstrong (1845-1847). The dates indicate that the wife died during or soon after childbirth; and William (IV) followed her 22 months later. Thus the lower three persons on side 3.

Henry M. Graves (1839-1926) is perhaps the “Dr. Graves” to whom on of William (II)’s daughters was married. William (III), born in 1810, was the first of at least 9 children; were she the last child of the nine, she could not have been born before about 1820, and assuming (as I fear we must) miscarriages and infant mortality, she might well have been born around 1830, or even later. So it is entirely possible Henry M. Graves was “Dr. Graves.” However, if my counting is off, and William (III) was merely the first son, and not the first child, I suppose that Henry could be the son of a Dr. and Mrs. Graves if the latter had been born before or a very little after William (III).

The chief source of bibliographical information is George Washington Howard’s The Monumental City: Its Past History and Present Resources (Baltimore 1873); there is a biographical sketch of William (III) in the Magazine of Western History, May-October 1889, pages 169-172. A vignette of him lies between pages 168 and 169. This biographical data seems dependent upon Howard, however.