Albert Weinert and Bauman Belden
I was talking with ANS fellow Scott Miller recently and mentioned to him an article I was working on about Bauman Belden, who was the Society’s secretary and librarian before being named director in 1908, one of the ANS’s first paid positions. Scott referred to a bronze plaque depicting Belden hanging in our Sage room. What?! This was news to me, though I have sat underneath that portrait many times. In my defense, Belden’s name doesn’t appear on the plaque. But the artist’s name does: A. Weinert.
Albert Weinert (1863–1947) was a German-born sculptor who came to the United States in 1886. He produced a number of works in the round, including a sculpture of Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, for a courthouse in Maryland and a battle monument at Lake George, New York. But he also did some notable works in relief. His stuccos of Grecian women adorn the rotunda of the Librarian’s Room at the Library of Congress. After the Titanic went down he created a tablet memorializing the band that played as the ship sank. (This plaque has had quite a history of its own in recent years.)
I was delighted to discover a file of correspondence in the ANS Archives between him and Belden in 1913-1914. Weinert lived and worked in New York but was in San Francisco when he wrote the letters, preparing for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that would take place in 1915. “The work on the Fair-Grounds has first begun and we are modelling large pieces of sculpture in Plaster of Paris, in imitation of the travertino, the soft porous stone, used in the interior of the Pennsylvania station,” he wrote. “I am working with young men from different ateliers and studios from all over the states and it is fascinating to see the work grow” (July 26, 1913).
Belden and Weinert were on the friendliest terms, the two trading long, descriptive letters, with Weinert describing a flower-filled Golden Gate Park, a band playing and crowds milling about in the “sparkling sunny air,” and Belden telling of trout fishing in the Pennsylvania mountains (July 26, August 6, 1913). Weinert also mentions dining at San Francisco’s Bohemian Club with painters Childe Hassam and William de Leftwich Dodge. As far as he was concerned, “The Bohemian Club, Mount Tamalpais, and the Greek Theatre in Berkeley cannot be rivaled in the East” (February 28, 1922).
Among all this wonderful correspondence was an added bonus: a photograph. It is of two men posing with one of the sculptures Weinert exhibited at the fair, Primitive Man. It appears that Weinert is the one on the left. He would have been 50 years old.
With a little investigating, I found that, besides the plaque in the Sage room, we had a couple more Weinert items in the ANS collection: a smaller version of the Belden plaque, donated by Belden in 1914, and a bronze portrait of a young woman, unidentified in our catalog, but verified as being Helen Dodd in the American Journal of Numismatics (1913, v.47, pl.10).