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May/June 2014

In the Pennsylvania Foyer of Memorial Continental Hall, 10 niches sit just below the ceiling, each one home to a sculpted bust of a Revolutionary figure. A Handbook of Memorial Continental Hall published in 1912 identified the busts and the donors who funded them.

The central niche over the three doors which lead into the DAR Library contains the bust of General George Washington, given by the Washington State Society. On Washington’s right hand is General George Clinton, given by the New York City Chapter. Clinton served as “George Washington’s best hope to keep the British from seizing the Hudson River and cutting off New England,” the handbook notes. He served as governor of New York from 1777–1795 and as vice president under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

General John Stark, donated by the New Hampshire State Organization, occupies the niche on Washington’s left. On December 25, 1776, Stark retreated to New Jersey with Gen. Washington. He then commanded the New Hampshire Regiment in the successful attack on Trenton and continued serving until November 3, 1783. Following his retirement he lived in Manchester, N.H., until age 94, making him the last surviving American Revolutionary War general.

On the opposite wall, the central niche above the three front entrance doors is occupied by John Hancock, given by the John Hancock Chapter of Boston. John Adams is on the north side and on the south side is General Edward Hand, given by the Kansas State Society. Born in Ireland, he served as surgeon to the Royal Irish Regiment. He resigned his commission in 1774 and entered the Continental Army in 1775. He was adjutant general at the Battle of Yorktown. In 1785 he was elected a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He also was a member of the Continental Congress in 1784 and 1785.

Over the archway on the north side of the lobby sits Colonel Isaac Shelby, given by the Kentucky State Society. He played a pivotal role in the British defeat at the Battle of King’s Mountain and served as the first and fifth governor of Kentucky. Next to him is a bust of Nathan Hale.

Over the archway on the south side rests Ethan Allen, the gift of the Vermont chapters, and James Edward Oglethorpe, presented by the Georgia chapters, is to the east. Known as the father of Georgia, Oglethorpe returned to England in 1743 and, after serving in the military and in Parliament, he retired to Essex. When General Thomas Gage returned from America in 1775, Oglethorpe was offered the general command of the British troops, which he declined.

The bust of Washington was modeled after one made by French Sculptor Houdon. Attilio Piccirilli was the sculptor of Hancock, Adams, Shelby and Ethan Allen. Clinton, Stark, Hale and Oglethorpe were sculpted by Augustus Lukeman, and Preston Powers sculpted Edward Hand. 

Busts of 10 Revolutionary era figures ring the Pennsylvania Foyer.