The Easel Monument: A Relic from the Civil War

A long time client of The Center, Greg knew just where to bring this 1896 lithograph when he received it from his uncle. And as with most every piece that Greg brings in for conservation, this print has an interesting story to tell about both his family’s history, and the history of the Midwest. A relic from the Civil War, The Easel Monument lithograph tells the story of brothers in arms, an effort to immortalize their bond, and of course, some necessary conservation to preserve it for the future.

Upon arrival at The Center, the need for conservation for this lithograph was readily evident. A large section of the upper right corner was missing and exhibited related fractures and tears. Creases running the width of the sheet were also noted throughout the bottom quarter of the calendered paper. Although the loss was rather large, it fortunately did not disrupt the printed image. Other conditions noted by our paper conservator were the significant discoloration on the verso and small losses through the printed image. Fortunately, both of these issues were not visually disturbing to the overall piece. 

The Easel Monument before treatment - recto.

  The Easel Monument before treatment - verso.

The Easel Monument before treatment - verso.

Due to the size of the loss in the upper right corner of the print, The Center’s paper conservators determined that the loss and fractures throughout the paper would be best stabilized by mounting the lithograph to a secondary support of a sympathetic tone. To unify the tone of the new support with the original printed image, the areas of loss were then compensated with sympathetic media, not eliminating but greatly reducing the visual distraction of the areas of loss. 

The Easel Monument post treatment.

Knowing that Greg collects pieces of significance to his family and regional heritage, there was surely more to know about this unusual image. While The Easel Monument is a lithographic print, the work also includes handwritten elements at the center of the monument: “This item was presented by my maternal great-great grandfather, Charles Hamilton Raven, to his wife Mary and family... on September 15, 1896.” Greg’s researched showed that Charles Raven served in the Union Army during the Civil War, having enlisted on August 7, 1862 in Ceresco, Michigan. But how this lithograph and Raven’s service connect deems a little more explanation. 

The Easel Monument was the creation of the G.A.R.: the Grand Army of the Republic. The G.A.R. was founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois as a fraternal organization to create a space for veterans of the Civil War to maintain friendships and memories of their service. The Easel Monument was their plan for a National monument, “dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies in acknowledgement of the good work accomplished by these organizations toward keeping alive the flame of patriotism which brought victory to the Union Army during that memorable struggle for the preservation of our Union.”

Charles Hamilton Raven, Greg's great-great grandfather. 

In order to build the monument, the group decided to fund the project by selling lithographs so that “each contributor to The Easel Monument Project gets value received for his money in the way of a beautiful work of art and history combined.” Greg’s lithograph had been passed down through his mother’s family since 1896, and after gifting a photograph of Charles Raven (pictured above) to his uncle, Greg’s uncle repaid him in-kind with The Easel Monument lithograph, inscribed to Charles Raven.

If by now you are curious about where The Easel Monument is located, you can stop wondering. “The monument was never built. The money raised disappeared after a period of time,” shares Greg. “Some of the salesman of J. Worth Carnahan’s Easel Monument project were misrepresenting themselves as pension agents. As a result they were charged and convicted; however, Mr. Carnahan was not. I have not found any reports as to what happened to the money.” Although the funds never did fulfill their purpose of building the monument, we know what at least one lithograph, Greg’s, remains for the purpose it was intended by the G.A.R. - as “a Souvenir which will be retained in the family as an heirloom, and one which will have a tendency to awaken an interest, along the line of patriotism, in the minds of the rising and future generations.”

 

References:
Carnahan, J. Worth. (1897) Manual of the Civil War and Key to the Grand Army of the Republicand Kindred Societies. Chicago: The Easel Monument Association. 1897. Print. 

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