Benjamin “Paul” Akers

Benjamin “Paul” Akers

Westbrook, Cumberland County, Maine, USA
Death 21 May 1861 (aged 35)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, USA
Plot Sec-A Lot-630 Grv-2
Memorial ID 63823565 · View Source
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Sculptor, born in Saccarappa, now part of Westbrook, Maine, the eldest of a large and indigent family of rural Maine. He received the "Commemorative Silver Medal" at the 1854 Exhibition and Fair of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association. The award was for his bas relief of "Peace" (Maine Historical Society). "He is known for his portrait busts and medallions and most specifically for one sculpture, the Dead Pearl Diver, about an ideal youth drowned at sea. With elaborate carving of the fish net drapery, it brought Akers fame and success" (The Artist Bluebook). His playmates called him Paul, referring to the Apostle, "due to the serious cast of his mind," and this name he preferred. As a young man he worked in his father's wood-turning mill, inventing fancy patterns and turning beautiful toys. He wrote on art for the Atlantic Monthly and contributed to The Crayon, a short-lived art magazine of the mid-nineteenth century. He spent the winter of 1849 in Boston learning the processes of plaster casting from the sculptor Joseph Carew. When in Portland he got his clay from the pottery of Jeremiah Dodge and Son near Deering's Oaks, this was the pottery celebrated in Longfellow's poem, "Keramos." A weathervane in the form of a rooster was his first work in sculpture. Some of his early works includ: a relief entitled Charlotte Corday, later renamed Lady Jane Grey; the Head of the Saviour mentioned by Neal; portrait medallions of his brother, mother, father, and one entitled The Village Doctor, a portrait of Dr. Jonathan Swett who had befriended him and loaned him books to read and a place to work in Hollis. On June 12, 1851, he arrived at the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Cambridge to sculpt a bust of Longfellow. On June 12, 1851, from the poet's Journal: "Mr. Akers of Portland arrived. He is to pass a week or so with me and make my bust; a young man of superior talent and high ideas of his art." Subsequent entries in the Journal indicate the progress of the bust. Monday, June 23, 1851: "Mr. Akers gets on well with the bust. It promises to be a very good one, though I have hardly given him an hour. He is the easiest artist in the world, hardly asking a regular sitting." And, Wednesday, June 25, 1851: "The bust is finished in the clay and is pronounced excellent. He received a second commission from Mrs. Longfellow's uncle, the wealthy Bostonian, Samuel Appleton. Again from Longfellow's. Journal, Thursday, July 22, 1851: "Went to Boston to see Uncle Sam's bust by Paul Akers. Quite grand and striking, and finely done. Very few people look so at eighty-five.." Mr. Appleton further commissioned Akers, to make replicas in relief of two figures by Michelangel, Morning and Evening from the Medici Tombs in Florence, this was the first of his three trips to Europe. During 1853 he devoted himself to an ideal piece, Benjamin in Egypt, the figure illustrated an episode from Genesis 44: 12. The statue was exhibited at the Exposition in the Crystal Palace in New York, the statue was destroyed later in a fire at the Customs House in Portland. On a trip to Washington, DC, Akers took the likeness of President Pierce; did a bust of Linn Boyd from Kentucky, Speaker of the House at the time; the bust of John McLean, Justice of the Supreme Court, which was moved from the Capitol to the Supreme Court Building in 1935; and, a bust of Edward Everett, now belongs to the Maine Historical Society. When he returned to Maine in the Summer of 1858, he met Mrs. Elizabeth Anne Chase Taylor, a young mother, journalist, and poet. In August 1860 they were married in Hollis. Their only child, Gertrude, died in infancy. In 1859, his sculpture of the Dead Pearl Diver (1858) first went on display at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine. He died while in Philadelphia, of tuberculosis.

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  • Created by: Dj Bonner
  • Added: 6 Jan 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 63823565
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Benjamin “Paul” Akers (10 Jul 1825–21 May 1861), Find a Grave Memorial no. 63823565, citing Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by Dj Bonner (contributor 47269119) .