The story behind Rhinebeck’s favorite statue “Doughboy” by Jack Conklin

 

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Many thanks to the Rhinebeck Historical Society.

For more information, visit rhinebeckhistoricalsociety.org on the web.

 

 

Allen Newman and the Rhinebeck “Doughboy”

By Jack Conklin – Native of Dutchess County, West Point grad 1956, Army pilot and paratrooper, retired business man, living in Rhinecliff overlooking the beautiful Hudson River.

Visitors and locals are likely familiar with the statue of the  imposing figure of a weary WW I veteran, standing 12 feet tall, at the entrance to the Municipal parking lot, but they  may not be aware of the fame of its sculptor, Allen G  Newman, and his ties to the local area.

Newman was a sought after artist in the early 19 hundreds and his works span the breath of our country, both East and West and North and South.

 In 1998, Alan Coon, of Rhinebeck, organized a committee to raise community interest in restoring the statue of a Word War I “Doughboy”. The statue was purchased by Uncle Dewitt S Gurnel, President of the Rhinebeck Historical Society, and presented to the town in 1973. It was originally located in front of the Rhinebeck Firehouse. The statue was in need of restoration and Alan wanted a more visible site. The “Doughboy” now stands prominently on 4 foot granite pedestal in front of the Village parking lot on East Market Street, complete with the inscription of names of Rhinebeck’s veterans of four wars

The sculpture has been referred to “as the most outstanding statue of a soldier in this century”. The sculptor was Mr. Allen George Newman, an accomplished artist with a long list of achievements and many works located in the Hudson Valley. He could be considered a “local” as he had a residence in Marbletown in Ulster County

I had the privilege to be a member of Alan’s committee and the privilege to meet Mr. Newman’s son and learn more about his father’s accomplishments. The details of Allen Newman’s life and works, enumerated here, are the result of information from that meeting and from the files of the Coryat Casting Company. Newman was indeed a talented and successful artist.

My parents were retired and living in Deerfield Beach, Florida when I mentioned the work of the “Doughboy” committee. My father told me that he had met Newman’s son Thomas, and discussed the Rhinebeck “Doughboy” project. The result was a visit to Florida and an introduction to Thomas Allan Newman. We had a long a conversation about his father. He was eager to tell his family history and a little about his father’s works. I still have some notes and papers from that meeting. Both my father and Thomas have passed away

According to Thomas, the Newman family history begins with an ancestor, a Robert Newman, hanging a lantern in the belfry of the tower of Old North Church for Paul Revere on his historic ride. A few generations later find the family in New York where Allen George Newman’s grandfather founded the Newman and Capron Brass, Iron, Silver and Bronze Foundry. It later became the Sargent Lock Company and its successors are still in business today. One hundred years from that historic ride, Allen George Newman was born on August 28, 1875 at 103 West 48th Street in New York City. The family business was successful and Newman’s father maintained several residences, in addition to New York, in Tarrytown, and a summer place in Garrison.

Allen grew up around the family foundry business, finished High School and attended City College. His talent was noticed by J.Q.A Ward, a brother-in -law, who was said, at the time, to be the “Dean of American Sculptors”. Ward encouraged his talent and took him into his studio as an apprentice. At the time Ward was working on the statue of General Sheridan on horseback, erected in front of the New York State Capitol in Albany, and his young apprentice assisted him with the project.

Allen transferred from City College to Columbia’s Academy of Design, and committed to making sculpture his life’s work. He won the coveted “Prix de Rome” prize for three years of study at the Academy in Rome but turned it down to get marry Florence Allan, a childhood acquaintance. By 1900 Newman was head of jewelry design for Tiffany. In 1902, Allen accepted a professorship as Art Instructor at the University of St Louis, but had to refuse the assignment when his father died very suddenly. He stayed in New York to look after his mother and then opened his own studio.

The “Doughboy” was not his first soldier tribute. His statue “The Hiker” is dedicated to the veterans of the Spanish American War. It was said to be his favorite, and the Spanish American War Veterans made Mr. Newman an honorary member, the second man to have that honor. The other being the president of the United States. The Hiker was unveiled in Providence, Rhode Island.

One of the first statues Mr. Newman created at “Bonnie Hall” was the figure of Justice for the dome of the Capitol building in Tallahassee, Florida. He used a large old barn, open to the rafters, for his studio. Newman used his black maid, draped with the flag, as the model for “Justice”

Allen Newman’s many works include a set of four statues for the Panama Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, “Women of the South” in Jacksonville, Florida, “Triumph of Peace” in Atlanta, Georgia, a monument to Joel Harris Chandler, the Uncle Remus creator, also in Atlanta

 

In 1914, he was commissioned to create a statue of the Civil War General Sterling Price. His son tells the story of how he selected a model for this assignment. Newman saw a man walking ahead of him on a New York street, who he felt had the bearing and figure to be a General. It turns out, that the man was a former Colonel who was the General’s aide through three campaigns in the Civil War and agreed to sit as a model. There was the rumor that this model had an alcohol problem, but Newman brought him to Marbletown and encouraged sobriety, General Price’s statue was successfully completed at “Bonnie Hall”. This alcoholic model story has been erroneously associated with the Rhinebeck “Doughboy”

 

The World War I “Doughboy” was completed in 1919 at Marbletown. Only three statues were cast. The first was commissioned by the city of Pittsburgh, PA, the second was installed in Cliffside, NJ and the third remained in the artist’s possession and was exhibited from coast to coast. His son, Thomas Allan Newman, sold it to a William Perry of Nyack, NY who, in turn, sold it to Dewitt Gurnell. Thomas provided DeWitt Gurnell with a handwritten letter confirming its provenance.

The nick-name, “Doughboy”, refers to the Infantry soldiers  of World War I, much as the World War II soldiers were  nick-named “GI’s”. There are several versions as to the source of the term, some suggesting it originated with the Red Cross “doughnut” ladies. The definition I subscribe to comes from the US Army. According to the Army’s Chief of  Infantry, the term originated in Texas, where soldiers were  training along the Rio Grande in preparation for WW I.  After training maneuvers with plenty of hiking, the soldiers were covered with the dusty, white adobe soil common to that area. They were called the “adobes”, and overtime the term became “doughboys”. The term was then applied to all American Expeditionary Soldiers. To this day the Chief of Infantry annually presents “The Doughboy Award” to recognize an individual for outstanding contribution to the United States Army Infantry. As an aside, my West Point classmate, 4 star General John W. Foss, was awarded the “Doughboy” prize in 2009

In 1993, Isabel Coryat, of the Coryat Casting Company, began her investigation of the “Doughboy” statue. She was a volunteer for the Smithsonian’s “Save Outdoor Sculpture” program with the objective of identifying important works of art throughout the United States. She spent a lot of effort tracking down the three copies of the statue, correcting errors in the Smithsonian’s records and making a case for its restoration. She recognized the artistic importance of Allen Newman’s work and worked to convince the local government of its importance. In Isabel’s, talk at the 1999 re dedication, she corrects many of the “myths” surrounding the “Doughboy” and summarized the sculptor’s many awards and accomplishments.

The likeness of a WW I soldier appeared in more than 150 places, as various sculptors used the Doughboy theme for their works. Ernest Moore Viquesney produced a work called the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” and reproduced hundreds of copies. The original Viquesney was dated 1921, several years after Newman’s success. Not all Doughboys are created equal!

Closer to home, Newman has several works in the Hudson Valley. A portrait of Chancellor McCracken at Vassar College hangs in the Chapel. At the United States Military Academy at West Point are two works, a bust of General Russell and in the Gymnasium a portrait of Lt Colonel Kohler. I well remember this portrait from my four years at West Point and the many visits to the Gym, His work has been exhibited at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Toledo Art Museum, National Sculptors Society, the Architectural  League, and the National Arts Club in New York City. His design of medals was on exhibit at the 1938-39 World’s Fair and is on permanent exhibition at the Numismatic Society at Broadway and 156th Street in New York. Honors for Mr. Allen Newman include membership in the prestigious National Academy and “Who’s Who in America”. Newman died in 1940. The “Doughboy” from World War 1 is his last tribute to the American soldier.

The Doughboy has a fine provenance and a rightful place in the reportage of an accomplished sculptor. Rhinebeck is honored to have this tribute to its veterans.