General Grant on Kelly Drive

general_grant-detHere’s a shot that John Capewell made just across the Delaware from his home town of Westville, New Jersey. This was shot in Philadelphia in Fairmount Park at Kelly Drive and Fountain Green Drive.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I am completely unfamiliar with this statue despite having lived in the City of Brotherly Love for years. I used to jog along Kelly Drive, and I never remember seeing it. Maybe I didn’t run far enough or was not paying enough attention. There’s also the fact that Philadelphia has a wealth of incredible sculptures, and I guess I didn’t notice the trees for the forest.

At first I had no idea who the man on the horse was and assumed that the statue was down in Virginia being that Capewell had traveled down there before. I did a search of equestrian statues in Virginia and came up dry. I switched to an image search of mounted figures in the US. Nothing. I then reached out to JerseyMan who has helped me out more than once, and he graciously replied:

This is a 1½-scale statue of Union General Ulysses S. Grant astride his horse. It is located in Fairmount Park along Kelly Drive at the intersection of Fountain Green Drive in front of the Fountain Green Arches. After expending the princely sum of $32,675, primarily raised from private funds, the Fairmount Park Art Association unveiled the statue on 27 April 1899 with President McKinley attending the event. Sculptor David Chester French modeled the Grant figure and artist Edward C. Potter sculpted the horse. Its gritty realism and lack of romanticism and glorification of a hero makes this public art a very special sculpture. Grant is depicted as a general commanding a battle during the Civil War from the back of his horse. While visiting the statue, you can discern the weariness on Grant’s face and in the slumped posture of his body. It is a well executed bronze statue, technically speaking, with incredible detail, and weighs five tons. The pedestal for the sculpture is fabricated of pale pink Jonesborough granite, designed by Frank Miles Day & Bro., Architects. Workmen installed the completed sculpture and pedestal in the autumn of 1897 and the art association planned the unveiling for 27 April 1898, but the agitated state of the nation after the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898 precluded any such ceremony. The art association planned for an unveiling on 27 October 1898, in conjunction with a Jubilee Committee military parade, but the length of the parade route did not permit such an event in Fairmount Park. So, the art association shifted the date yet again to 27 April 1899.

Thanks again, JerseyMan!!!

The statue still stands and recent images along with some information can be found HERE.

Below is the entire 5 inch by 7 inch glass negative as shot by John Capewell some time early in the twentieth century. Judging from the bare trees in the background it was probably the winter.


About The Capewell Glass Negative Collection

The Capewell Glass Negative Collection is a series of about 200 5-inch by 7-inch glass negatives shot early in the 20th Century by John Batt Capewell (1878-1951) of Westville, New Jersey. John passed the negatives down to his son Henry who left them in his wife’s possession upon his passing. Henry’s widow didn’t know what to do with them and didn’t particularly want them so she offered them to my Dad who couldn’t turn down anything. Ultimately I wound up with them and thought I would one day have photographic prints struck from them. That didn’t happen, but I came up with the digital workaround of placing the negatives on a lightbox and rephotographing them with a digital camera. The “processing” was then done on a computer with image editing software. They came out better than I thought they would so I thought I would show them off to the world on this site. Many of these pictures have not been seen in a century, and I’m proud to be presenting them today.

At first, I did not know who the people were in the photographs. I have a box of ephemera that accompanied the negatives and snagged a few clues from that as far as the Capewell name. I did some research on the internet and had a few false starts and wrong turns, but the readers of these posts have provided a remarkable amount of research and detail. I’m amazed at what people have turned up sifting through public records and such!

Last Week: Saturday in the Park


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