clay and plaster statue groups made by John Rogers
(1829-1904) from 1859 until 1892 were so appealing in late
Victorian America that "scarcely a family of reasonable
means and taste did not possess one."
Rogers portrayed ordinary, everyday, urban and rural
people doing ordinary, everyday things. Through his
Rogers Groups he offered an unrivaled transcript of the
manners, sports, amusements, social customs, domestic interests,
costumes, and even modes of furnishing of the period.
John Rogers made statues of Civil War soldiers, family
groups, literary topics, theater scenes and historical
figures. His statues ranged from eight to forty-six
Rogers was born in Salem, Massachusetts
on October 30, 1829, a descendent of the original
settlers of the colony. He gave early evidence of
artistic interests and even as a young child, showed
a taste and talent for drawing. However, it was the
feeling of his parents that an artist’s
life was little better than a vagabond, and in 1845,
at the age of sixteen, after what was considered a
good education in the town schools, he was placed
in a dry-goods store in Boston, with the intention
of learning the business. However,
John Rogers felt certain he was not suited for this
line of work, and in 1848 he entered a machine shop
in Manchester, New Hampshire to learn the trade. During
this period, John Rogers devoted himself to his art
with enthusiasm and his attention was first drawn
to sculpture, in particular. John
Rogers began to model in clay in his leisure hours.
In 1856 John Rogers sought work in Hannibal, Missouri,
and in 1858 he visited Europe to continue his formal
education in sculpting. On his return in 1859 he went
to Chicago, where he modeled, for a charity event, "The
Checker Players," a
group in clay, which attracted much attention. This
event marked the beginning of an unusual career.
1860 and 1893 John Rogers sculpted approximately 85 different patented
groups of statuary. During that period, some 25 workman
in his New York factory turned out thousands of plaster castings
of his works. Of some subjects executed by John Rogers,
on a few copies were cast and sold. Of other John
Rogers Groups, thousands were sold. In John Rogers'
30 year career, the artist sold over a million dollars of
sculpture, a lot of money for art in those days. It is estimated that
a total of 80,000 – 100,000 casting of his groups were
produced during John Rogers’ lifetime. By the
1880s, it seemed that families who did not have a John Rogers
Group were not conforming to the times. Even Abraham Lincoln
had a John
Rogers statuary were moderately priced, averaging $14.00
a piece. Roger's sculptures became a nationwide vogue,
and were seen in virtually every art and bookstore window.
The appearance of a new John Rogers was a major event
covered by reporters from the nation's newspapers.
Rogers’ sculpture of "The
Slave Auction," which
was exhibited in New York in 1860, brought him to the
notice of the general public. This was the forerunner
of the well-known war series of Civil War statuettes
which included, among others, the "Picket
Guard" (1862), "One
more Shot" (1864), "Union
Refugees” (1864), "Taking
the Oath and drawing Rations" (1866), "Wounded
Scout" (1864), and "Council
of War" (1868).
Rogers’ works on social subjects, most of which
were sculpted following the Civil War, were also very
popular. Among the most commonly found John Rogers Groups
today are "Coming
to the Parson" (1870), " We
Boys" (1872), "The
Favored Scholar" (1873), "Going
for the Cows" (1873) and "Checkers
up at the Farm" (1875).
Rogers also sculpted several statues illustrating passages
from literature, including a series of three groups illustrating
Washington Irving's "Rip
Van Winkle" (1871)
as well as "Why
don't You speak for Yourself ?" (1885)
from Irving’s "Miles Standish." In
addition, John Rogers’ frequently used subjects from
Shakespeare, including “The
from “As You Like It", "Is
it so nominated in the Bond?" (1880) from “The Merchant of Venice," "Ha!
I like Not That" (1882) from "Othello, and
Rogers was also commissioned to execute a number of monumental
sculptures, including the sculpture of General John F.
Reynolds (1881-1883), which stands before the Philadelphia
City Hall, and in 1887 he exhibited "Ichabod Crane
and the Headless Horseman," a huge bronze group.
1971 book on John Rogers was recently
republished, and we have a few extra copies, if you would
like to acquire one. The book chronicles each John
Rogers Group with a photograph, size, patent or design
date, and pertinent anecdotes. It’s useful today
as a reference for interpreting life in Victorian America
collectors will covet the pictures, personal letters,
advertising, and social commentary presented in the text.
family and I have been active buyers of John Rogers Groups
for over forty years. If you have a John Rogers
statue that you are interested in selling, we would be
pleased to hear from you. If you have a John Rogers
statue and would just like to “talk Rogers” also
feel free to give us a call or send us an email.
click here for a picture
of every John Rogers Group of Statuary that Rogers published. Find
your statue, and let’s
hear from you!