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 William Rush

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William Rush

  • Birth 4 Jul 1756 Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Death 17 Jan 1833 Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Burial Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Plot Section E, Lot 11
  • Memorial ID 916

Sculptor. He is considered to be the first major American sculptor. He trained in his profession on carving wooden ships' figureheads, including four of the original six frigates of the US Navy, the USS "United States" ("Genius of the United States" 1796), USS "Constellation" ("Nature" 1797), USS "Chesapeake" ("Revolution" 1799), and USS "Congress" ("Goddess of Wisdom" 1799). He designed the figurehead for a fifth original frigate, USS "Constitution" ("Hercules" 1796), carved by John Skillin, and possibly a sixth, USS "President" ("George Washington" 1800), carved by his apprentice Daniel N. Train. Additionally, he carved figureheads for the US Navy frigates USS "John Adams" ("John Adams" 1799), USS "Philadelphia" ("Hercules" 1799), and USS "Potomac" ("Captain John Smith" 1822), along with the gun-ships USS "Franklin" ("Benjamin Franklin" 1815), USS "Columbus" ("Christopher Columbus" 1819), USS "North Carolina" ("Sir Walter Raleigh" 1820) and USS "Pennsylvania" ("Hercules" 1824 to 1837, attributed to him or his son John Rush). He was one of the first sculptors in the US to create an outdoor public sculpture. His twin figures, "Comedy" and "Tragedy" (1808) were originally installed in niches on the façade of Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theater and his "Water Nymph and Bittern" (1809) was created as a fountain sculpture for the Center Square Waterworks, which stood at what is now the site of the Philadelphia City Hall. In 1810, he carved a life-sized statue of the "Crucifixion" for St Augustine's Church which was destroyed in 1844 when the church was burned during Philadelphia's anti-Catholic riots. His life-sized statue "George Washington" (1815), which was originally exhibited at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is now at the Second Bank of the United States. He carved a self-portrait bust in 1822 at the age of 66 that is housed in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which he and his friend and fellow artist Charles Wilson Peale helped to establish in 1805. His sculpture "Wisdom and Justice" (1824) adorned a triumphal arch that was erected in front of Independence Hall for the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette. Additionally, he carved a portrait bust of Lafayette during his 8-day visit. He carved the allegorical figures "The Schuylkill Chained" and "The Waterworks" in 1825 which were installed on top of pavilions along the Schuylkill River. Both of these pieces now reside at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with the majority of other carvings that he made during his lifetime. Other collections of his works are exhibited at the Philadelphia Masonic Temple, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, the Independence Seaport Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the American Revolution Center. All but one of his earlier wooden figurehead ship carvings for US Navy vessels have either been lost or destroyed.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 916
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Rush (4 Jul 1756–17 Jan 1833), Find A Grave Memorial no. 916, citing Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .