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 Laban Smith Beecher  (1805 - )

About: Laban Smith Beecher


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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Connecticut      Known for: wood carver-ship figureheads

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Laban Beecher apprenticed as a carver in Boston in the 1820s, likely to Isaac Fowle. One of Beecher's first works was an eagle with spread wings perched atop the Liberty Pole in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for more than 150 years. It is now in the town library.

In 1826, Beecher had his first listing as a carver in the Boston Directory. In 1834, he was commissioned by the United States Navy to carve a full-length figurehead of President Andrew Jackson for the rebuilt USS Constitution. It was Beecher's first figurehead commission for which he received $564.00. Shortly after its installation, an opponent of Jackson's sawed off its head. This act was the result of citizen anger at Jackson for his opposition to a central United States Bank and to Beecher for his memorializing of Jackson.  During the creation process, Beecher's safety had been at risk, and he was moved into a secure place in the Navy yard to complete the project.

By 1841, Beecher was also in the leather business and did not do much carving between then and 1854, when he commenced doing more figureheads. He also became involved in purchasing timber property in Sharon, Wisconsin, likely to provide masts for the United States Navy, and he traveled there in the 1840s. By 1870, he, an enterprising and successful man, was President of the City Mutual Insurance Company in Boston.

Jean Lipman, The Flowering of American Folk Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Online: The Captain Speaks: Figureheads and Billetheads, (Accessed 3/22/2013)

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