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Friday, June 20, 2014

Women Artists and the Civil War

Artists, Edith F. Sherman and Lily Tolpo, made significant contributions to two of the county's Civil War monumentsthe Soldiers and Sailors monument and Lincoln monument in Waukegan.

Edith Freeman Sherman
circa 1960
News-Sun photo
Edith F. Sherman (1876 – c. 1961), was a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute. Her instructor in the Sculpture Department was American sculptor, writer and educator, Lorado Taft. Sherman was commissioned to create four panels for the sides of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected on the courthouse square in 1899.

Edith's skill as a sculptor and her family's connection to the Civil War made her the perfect choice for the commission. Her grandfather was 1st Lt. Addison Partridge, and her uncle was Sgt. Major Charles Partridge both of Company C of the 96th Illinois Regiment. Additionally, uncle Charles was the regiment's historian and chairman of the monument association. (For more info, read my blog post on Addison Partridge).

Soldiers and Sailors Monument,
Waukegan courthouse square.
Dedicated August 1899
The panels Edith created represented dynamic images of the four aspects of military service during the Civil War—infantry, artillery, cavalry and navy. She gave up a summer trip to Europe to do the work, but the commission meant more to her than the vacation.

Ninety-six years later, Lily Tolpo was commissioned for another Civil War monument.

Lily Tolpo, circa 1960. 
Lily Tolpo (1917 - 2015) was the eldest of five children in a Chinese/Polish American family. She learned to play violin and performed as a Vaudeville musician from 1935-39, before becoming a professional artist and sculptor.

Tolpo was commissioned to do a pair of bronze bas relief plaques to complete a project started by her late husband, Carl Tolpo (1901 - 1976).

Lincoln monument by Carl Tolpo (1968),
bronze plaques by Lily Tolpo (1996).
Waukegan courthouse. 
In 1968, Lake County commissioned Carl Tolpo to make one of his famous Lincoln monuments. There were to be two plaques on the sides of the pedestal, but funds were not available to complete the project, and the monument remained unfinished for nearly three decades.

Lily Tolpo with clay model of one of the plaques,
illustrating Abraham Lincoln's visit to
Waukegan on April 2, 1860.
Northwestern Illinois Farmer photo.
In 1995, Lily was asked to finish the monument. According to Tolpo, she used her husband's concepts but rendered them "in another style more in keeping with the head [of the monument]." Her relief style captured "life-like reality and action."

Detail from clay model of plaque by Lily Tolpo.
Featured on the plaque are some of Waukegan's
most prominent men: (left to right) Mayor Elisha Ferry,
Samuel Greenleaf and Henry Blodgett. 
The scene represented on the plaque above depicts the evening of April 2, 1860 when Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Waukegan. The speech was interrupted by a fire at the Case Warehouse at the North Pier, and tradition has it that Lincoln helped the citizens of Waukegan put out the fire. Lincoln spent the night at the home of Mayor Elisha Ferry. The Ferry home still stands at the northwest corner of Julian and County Streets.

This year, the Lake County Discovery Museum received a donation from of the molds for Lily Tolpo's bronze plaques, and the model for Carl Tolpo's Lincoln monument.