Daniel Chester French

"The John Harvard Monument"

John Harvard, the primary benefactor who established the famous university which bears his name, was a Puritan minister (c. 1630). Samuel James Bridge, a longtime supporter of Harvard University, proposed to Harvard's board of trustees that he commission a statue of Harvard's founder; this was to be Daniel Chester French's second commissioned statue.

French had several problems to solve in making the Harvard statue. There were no photogrpahs or portraits of John Harvard, hence French had to create a physique of a man which was completely unknown. The little bit of information which was known about John Harvard, "he was reverent, god-like and a lover of learning," certainly gave French wide latitude. For the head, French created a bust of Sherman Hoar of Concord, a descendent of Puritans himself, and used it as a model for Harvard's likeness. French also had to decide what kind of clothing a Puritain clergyman of the early 17th century might wear. A copy of "Felts Customs of New England" was to provide French with guidance.

French worked on the sculpture from 1883-84 and it was set upon its pedestal, by C. Howard Walker, and dedicated on October 15, 1884. The statue was originally located adjacent to Memorial Hall at Harvard University (the building which also contains the Sanders Theatre). In 1920, French expressed discontent with the location of the statue in a letter to Harvard President Lowell. In 1923, the statue was moved in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard where it stands today.

The John Harvard Monument is the only statue in Harvard Yard and as such is a convenient meeting place for students and visitors to Harvard. John Harvards left foot bears the witness of tens of thousands of visitors who have rubbed their hand on it, presumably for good luck.

All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo in November, 2002.

A view of the John Harvard statue from its left, approaching University Hall in Harvard Yard.

A closer view from the left of the Harvard statue on its pedestal.

A left side view of French's John Harvard statue. John Harvard's right hand is resting upon an open Bible. Harvard University was founded as a Christian college; its well known motto, "Veritas" ("Truth") has been shortened from its original motto, "Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia" ("Truth for Christ and his Church"). The original motto can still be seen on several gates to Harvard Yard as well as in Harvard's Memorial Hall and Sanders Theatre. Click HERE for a higher resolution (380k)image of this photo.

A front view of the Harvard monument. The pedestal is engraved with the words, "John Harvard."

A closeup of the left foot of John Harvard, showing wear from tens of thousands of visitors who have rubbed the foot, presumably for good luck.

A view from the right.

A view of the back of the Harvard monument, showing the detail of the chair.

A closeup of the books which sit under Harvard's chair.

Detail of the head of John Harvard, modeled after a bust of Sherman Hoar. Note the thin moustache French has given to John Harvard.

A parting view of the John Harvard monument in situ in Harvard Yard at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachuestts.

Return to the Daniel Chester French: Sculptures In Situ page.

Unless otherwise noted, all text and graphics on this website [yeodoug.com] are ©1996-2013 by Douglas Yeo.
All rights reserved.