Calder Statues Conservation Project
Six 9-foot-tall statues designed by Alexander Stirling Calder live in the exterior garden of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. It is believed that these are the only sculptures ever cast in terra cotta by the artist, the second of three generations of influential Calder sculptors.
The Presbyterian Historical Society has successfully raised funds for the conservation of the Calder statues and is currently gathering support for the second phase of the project, which will include the reinstallation of the conserved statues onto new bases, design and placement of interactive signage that links to web-based information about the statues and their designer, and improvements to the two statue display niches.
Please help this effort to save and share notable works of public art in Philadelphia. Give online using the button below; mail a check made payable to the Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19147; or contact Deana Stuart at 215-928-3865. Designated donations directly benefit this project.
The six statues were originally commissioned in 1895 and placed on the Witherspoon Building at the corner of Walnut and Juniper Streets by the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work. In 1966, the statues were relocated to the Historical Society's new building in Society Hill. As detailed below, each sculpture represents a significant figure from the early history of American Presbyterianism.
Known as the “Fighting Parson,” James Caldwell became a pivotal figure during the Revolutionary War—what some historians have dubbed “The Presbyterian Rebellion.” When Continental troops ran out of gun wadding at the Battle of Springfield, Caldwell passed out Watts Psalm books, exhorting the troops to “Put Watts into them, boys!” The killing of Caldwell’s wife by British forces swayed many in New Jersey to support the Patriot cause.
A native of Scotland, John Witherspoon sailed to America in 1768 to become president of the College of New Jersey—today’s Princeton University. A strong supporter of Enlightenment ideals, he viewed the growing centralization of British government in the American colonies as a threat to individual liberties. While a delegate to the Continental Congress, he was one of twelve Presbyterians to sign the Declaration of Independence, and the only active member of the clergy.
Champions of Religious Freedom
Francis Makemie served as the first moderator of the first presbytery in America, which met in Philadelphia in 1706. The native of Ireland is also remembered as an early crusader for religious freedom. When the British magistrate Lord Cornbury arrested him in New York for preaching without a license, Makemie invoked the British Tolerance Act of 1689 in his defense. After Makemie’s acquittal, the New York legislature enacted legislation preventing such persecution in the future.
Samuel Davies overcame tuberculosis and his outsider status as a Presbyterian minister in predominantly Anglican Virginia to promote religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. A leading figure during the first Great Awakening, Davies preached in favor of educating all of God’s children, insisting that persons of faith must be able to hear and read the word of God. Davis was one of the first ordained ministers to preach directly to slaves and the first American-born hymnist.
The “Father of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania,” John McMillan was a circuit riding preacher who established mission churches along the frontier. In 1780 he founded The Log School in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, the first educational institution west of the Alleghenies. McMillan’s efforts on behalf of an educated citizenry saw him play key roles in the founding of other schools, including Washington-Jefferson College and Pittsburgh Academy—today’s University of Pittsburgh.
A medical doctor, Marcus Whitman traveled with his wife Narcissa to Oregon Country in 1835 and there started a school that taught Cayuse Indians to read and write their native language. A later cross-continental trip saw Whitman lead one of the first wagon trains along the Oregon Trail. Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, is named for the Whitmans, who were killed in an Indian massacre after a measles epidemic decimated the local Cayuse population.