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pierson.jpg

Abraham Pierson, 1874
Launt Thompson (1833-1894; M.A.H. 1874)
Location: Old Campus

Civic pride inspired towns across the nation to build Civil War memorials in the 1870s, making large-scale public sculpture a permanent feature in the American landscape. Yale joined this trend in 1874 with a bronze statue honoring Abraham Pierson (1641/5-1707), the college’s first rector (or president) from 1701 to 1707. Lacking a likeness of Pierson, Irish-born sculptor Launt Thompson used portraits of the rector’s descendants to compose an idealized face. The Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth may have posed for the work, lending it all the dignity and force that made Booth’s portrayals of Hamlet famous on the stages of New York and London. Gift of Charles Morgan to Yale University, 1874