They stand prominently
in nearly every American community, including this one,
these statues honoring soldiers who fought in foreign
wars. But many passerby simply ignore them as part of
T. Perry Wesley,
retired editor of the Evening World in Spencer, Ind.,
wants to remind people of the importance of these
statues, especially of a World War I doughboy created by
E. M. Viquesney, a Spencer native.
It turns out that
Emmitsburg has one of these doughboys, one of 110 that
Mr. Wesley has managed to locate around the nation in a
40-year quest to find all the statues. He's still
looking for more. One source, an old newsletter on the
statues, says "several hundred' exist.
the popular name for a WWI foot soldier, stands at the
end of West Main Street in its own little grassy park
about 10 feet square. Other than a refurbishing the town
gave it a decade ago, the statue gets in the limelight
only on Memorial Day when a wreath is placed at its
But Its six-foot
concrete pedestal and seven-foot figure makes it a good
place to climb, acknowledged 10-year-old Elizabeth King,
who lives down the street. Asked if she knew the purpose
of the statue, she responded, "It's for those who
were in Vietnam, or some war."
Mr. Wesley, a began his
personal mission to compile information on the statue
and its creator in 1950, two years after he moved to the
town that now has 2,700 residents and is 55 miles
southwest of Indianapolis. He took a real personal
interest in the project, because of his admiration for
the man and his work. "It took me a year or so to
become aware of the statue on the courthouse lawn here,
but when I did, I noticed It was perfect in detail and
rather unusual in design," Mr. Wesley said
The statue mimics the
detail on the uniform from the gas mask down to the
hobnails in the boots. It took two years for the
sculptor to be completed.
Called the Spirit of
the American Doughboy, the statue was copyrighted in
1920 and again in 1934. It sold for $1,000 from the
Sencer factory, plus the base. Bases ranged from simple
mounds of dirt to granite or marble.
As near as Mr. Wesley
can determine, all the statues were erected between 1920
and the late I930's. The first statue, however, was not
in Spencer. The town didn't buy the creation of its
native son until 1927.
"Contrary to most
statues that are cast in (solid) bronze, it's like the
Statue of Liberty in that it was created out of
sheets," Mr. Wesley said. Sheets of bronze, in a
copper base, formed the figure.
Joseph Boyle, who
published an article about the Emmitsburg statue In
1981, said, "There's one in practically every small
The statue stands on
the lawn of the Emmit House, once a hotel that
frequently hosted Maryland governors, but now an
apartment house. It was erected in 1927.
The Emmitsburg monument
was in its heydey before World War II. Since then,
monuments at the town's American Legion have gotten
considerably more attention, Mr. Boyle said.
Mr. Boyle wasn't quite
accurate in his statement that there's a doughboy statue
similar to Emmitsburg's in every small town. The only
other town in Maryland with a Viquesney doughboy that
Mr. Wesley has been able to document is in Crisfield, on
the Eastern Shore. Nearby communities that Mr. Wesley
documented as having Viquesney statues are Chambersburg,
Pa.. and Hillsville, Va.
With statue after
statue produced at Viquesney's factory near spencer, Mr.
Wesley thought some documentation ought to be made on
how many statues were Produce, and where they are.
Viquesney who lived
from l876 to 1946, was not much of a Businessman despite
his prolific creativity, Mr. Wesley said. He left no
records of his statues and sculptures, which included a
World War II Soldier and a Civil War Confederate soldier
and smaller figures.
"There seemed to
be no recorded Information about the man and his, works,
and this was a situation that needed some kind of
reference work Mr. Wesley said.
Mr. Wesley moved to the
small Indiana town two years after Viquesney died. Once
he began his quest to locate all Viquesney doughboy
statues, he realized he undertook a task that required
checking and rechecking information supplied by faint
pictures and handwritten reports. Earlier this summer,
he hit Upon an idea that may be his most successful tool
at locating the statues. He wrote a letter to Hozne and
Away, a magazine for the American Automobile
Association, and the magazine published a postcard he
sent in of the Spencer statue. Readers all over the
United States have sent him photos, postcards and
written accounts of would-be Viquesney statues.
He's not sure how he
came about the Emmitsburg information, other than that
it surfaced since the AAA magazine was published.
"I get so many of these, you know," be said.
But the town Librarian, Katie Warthen, remembered a man
from Pennsylvania who recently asked for in. formation
on Emmitsburg's statue.
The doughboy is walking
between tree stumps, left boot firmly on the ground,
right toe touching the ground, and the rest of the boot
upraised in a marching pose. The right arm is raised,
holding a hand grenade, and the left hand clutches a
rifle with bayonet pointed horizontally.
Other doughboy statues
are missing the tree stumps, and often have the right
foot in the air, held aloft by a bar. Letters come to
Mr. Wesley detailing these statues, and if there is no
photo, or an unclear photo, he’ll write to the town
hall to document the statues existence. At the time of
this article, he's gotten 191 cards and letters from 24
"It's just turned
out to be a monumental undertaking, and I don't mean to
pun," Mr. Wesley said. The local Chamber of
Commerce is helping him answer the letters, and he
hasn't been able to personally answer all
correspondence. To keep letter writers from being
miffed, he's personally responding to all who've
included specific information.
His letterhead is
adorned by a miniature replica of the doughboy, with
"Spencer, Ind., Home of the Famed Doughboy
Statue," printed underneath. He's documented
Viquesney statues in nearly 30 states, including
California, Washington, Florida and Maine, "from
coast to coast and border to border," as he puts
Mr. Wesley has stories
of people dedicated to getting information to him. There
is the man who lived 150 miles from his former hometown
of Muskogee, Okla., and who offered to drive there just
to photograph the statue. The folks in Marion, Ohio,
were so excited about their statue, the focal point of a
memorial park, that more than a dozen photos found their
way into Mr. Wesley's scrapbook.
The sculptor, Ernest
Moore Viquesney, was born in Spencer to French immigrant
parents. Also sculptors, his parents settled in Spencer
because the area's limestone gave them material for
their stonecarving. He lived all his life in Spencer,
minus a couple of years spent in Americus, Ga., making a
Confederate soldier statue.
In Spencer, he
supervised factory productions of his various sculpture
molds. He published a newsletter about the statue that
said several hundred of his memorials had been erected.
"I do not urge the building of War Memorials to
perpetuate WAR but to impress on American Youth the
desirability of PEACE."
Viquesney carved busts of famous people of his day,
including Knute Rockne and Charles Lindbergh, and
figurines. One of his biggest sellers was an Imp-O-Luck,
a tiny leprechaun that adorned pendants, rings, Pi-Zs
and other trinkets,
"He was quite a
promoted and an extremely gifted creator," Mr.
Wesley said. Most of his profits went back into his
creations, and when he died, there was little money
Of all the works he
created, his most famous work was the doughboy, Mr.
Wesley said. "This is one of the most seen single
pieces of outdoor statuary in the nation."
Emmitsburg's World War I Honor Roll
Henry T. Huff's: The Real Doughboys
Ed Houcks': Remembering Some of Emmitsburg's Honored Veterans
Learn more about E. M. Viquesney and the history of his doughboy statue
Read the obituary of a man who posed for a non-Viquesney Doughboy statue