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Inside the USS Kearsage Monument

Monuments-R-Us

Kearsage_Memorial_SoldierAfter the bloody Civil War, memorials to the dead and wounded appeared by the hundreds across the nation. To capitalize on this trend, the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT streamlined their sales with new affordable products. Using a cheaper zinc alloy, promoted as "white bronze," the company offered prefabricated statues and monuments. The largest white bronze monument erected in New Hampshire, Portsmouth's “Sailors and Soldiers Monument” at Goodwin Park came right from the company catalog.

In fact, an exact sketch of our Civil War memorial was pictured on the company salesman’s business card. Statues of generic military figures like the “American soldier” were described in detail in the company’s 1882 advertising brochure.

Small town buyers could afford to purchase a single figure like those that still stand in South Berwick, York, Raymond, Plaistow and other nearby towns. The popular standing soldier statue alone, for example, cost only $450. For an additional $150, if the buyer could supply a photograph of a slain Civil War hero or loved one, the face and head could be recast in his likeness and attached to the prefabricated body. Larger cities with bigger budgets were encouraged to mix and match a variety of stock figures with plaques onto a central metal platform, which is what Portsmouth did.

 

The bigger the better

Politicians worry about their place in history and Mayor Marcellus Eldredge was no exception. By the late 1800s it was becoming an embarrassment that Portsmouth had no major memorial to its Civil War dead. Eldredge originally opted for the economy version of a single figure atop a pedestal, but he later expanded to a larger more costly monument.

Mayor Eldredge, the owner of a local brewery, promised the Portsmouth veterans’ group that, if they could raise a few thousand dollars by public conscription, he would personally pay for the other half of a new monument. Portsmouth met the challenge. The smallest recorded donation was a dime from a local schoolgirl. The largest was a $1,000 donation from Hon. Frank Jones, also a former city brewer and mayor.

The expanded version featured the figure of Lady Liberty (or "America" as she is sometimes called) atop a tall pedestal. There was also a sailor, a soldier at parade rest, stacked cannon balls, a parrot gun, crossed swords, the GAR badge, a list of all major Civil War battles, the city seal, the NH state badge, the US coat of arms, a relief bust of Lincoln and one of NH Governor Ichabod Goodwin. The finished statue originally stood 42-feet high.

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Kearsage_Memorial_Before_1955

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