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 Isaac Hathaway  (1872 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Kentucky/Alabama      Known for: sculpture, ceramics, illustration, art education

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Isaac Hathaway (1872-1967)

He was an African-American sculptor, ceramicist, illustrator, and teacher.

Isaac Scott Hathaway was from Lexington, KY one of three children born to the Reverend Hathaway and his wife.  His mother died when he was only age two.  Isaac and his two sisters, Fannie and Eva, were raised by their father.  Hathaway's childhood was packed with questions.  When he was nine, while visiting a museum containing busts of famous white Americans he asked his father where the bust of his hero, Frederick Douglass was.  His father replied that there were no trained Negro sculptors to mold prominent Negro people.  Young Hathaway responded, "I am going to model busts of Negroes and put them where people can see them."

Hathaway went on to Chandler College in Lexington, Kentucky and Pittsburg Normal College in Pittsburg, Kansas where he studied ceramics.  He also enrolled in the Art Department of the New England Conservatory of Music.  He also studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio; Ceramics at the State University of Kansas and in the College of Ceramics of the State University of New York at Alfred. Hathaway used his diversified education and art background as an elementary school teacher in Kentucky.  His education in the arts and his creative genius helped him in preparing visual plaster models for his classroom.

Soon his work gained notice, and many of his peers advised him to develop a company which could distribute "sculptural products on a national scale."  Hathaway’s company became known at first as the Afro Art Company, and later the Isaac Hathaway Art Company.  He did produce busts of many famous and prominent African-Americans for distribution to schools and elsewhere.  Among his works were: Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Richard Allen, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, George Washington Carver, and C.C. Spaulding and others.  He molded plaques and masks which could be hung on walls of colleges, churches, and business’.  Hathaway also sculptured in bronze metal upon request.

By 1915, Hathaway's talents had elevated him as among the first to introduce the art of ceramics into the college curricula in the United States.  He was the founding member of the Department of Ceramics at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he stayed from 1937-1947.  On August 7, 1946 President Harry S. Truman authorized a commission by the U.S. Mint of a fifty cent piece "to commemorate the life and perpetuate the ideas and teachings of Booker T. Washington.  Isaac Hathaway was chosen as the designer of the Booker T. Washington coin, thus becoming the first African-American to design a U.S. coin.  He was also chosen as the designer of the George Washington Carver commemorative fifty cent piece in 1951.

He once said that he believed "that the art of a people not only conveys their mental, spiritual, and civic growth to posterity, but convinces their contemporaries that they can best portray in crystallization their feelings, aspirations, and desires." Many visual artists who deserve recognition as worthy contributors to the arts have been ignored or either sparsely cited in many standard reference books and research bibliographies.  One of those neglected names was Isaac Scott Hathaway.  This exclusion was recently brought to light by Kendrick Moore, curator of the Isaac Scott Hathaway Collection, now a re

Source: Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum, Inc.

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