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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Painting of Baron Von Steuben

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 11, 2008

For many years, library users at the Main Library have observed the huge oil paintings that have graced the wall over the mantles in the Reading Rooms.


People often comment what a nice painting of George Washington graces the South Room.


Not to cause historians too much grief, I know that paintings of our early American leaders do all look similar to us today, and that painting does resemble our First President.


But, the subject of the South Room painting is actually Baron Frederick William Von Steuben.


The painting was produced by Steubenville-native artist Eliphalet Frazer Andrews (1835-1915) and donated to the City in 1913 as part of the "Three Wars Celebration."


The event was spread over July 23-25, 1913 and honored the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.


The Morgan's Raid monuments, a plaque of the sinking of the Maine, and bronze cannons were all dedicated to these Three Wars.


The painting arrived in the city in June and was unveiled and placed at the decade-old public library.


Photos show the painting over the South Room mantle as early as the 1930s.


Artist Eliphalet Andrews studied in Paris and Berlin, and for a time had a studio on S. 4th Street near the site of the Main Library building.


He later moved to Washington, D.C., and served as Director of the Corcoran School of Art from 1887-1902.


He was best at portraits, and decided to present a portrait of Baron Von Steuben to his native City.


The Stanton Monument Association had unveiled the statue of Edwin M. Stanton in the Court House lawn in 1911, and he felt it suitable to present a portrait of Steuben to the city.


The Steuben portrait was based on the portrait done by Ralph Earle of Steuben in 1786.


Andrews added his own interpretation to his work of 1911.


Steuben is standing three-quarters size, with his right hand resting on the hilt of a sword, in a uniform of blue and buff.


He is wearing the "Order of Fidelity" on his neck, and the badge of the "Order of the Cincinnati" on his left.


Lace and cuffs add to his dress, with the Hudson River and West Point hills in the background.


Following Andrew's death, his widow provided the library with six more paintings to grace the walls of the library.


Looking at the various available portraits of Steuben, all portray a different image of the face of Steuben.


Perhaps with the availability of photography over the past 150 years, we are surprised today not to know what a famous person really looks like.


We are indebted to local journalist and historian Joseph B. Doyle for his influence on retaining this history for future times.


His authorship of our 1911 county history, and works about Stanton and Steuben ensures that the history will be retained for the future.


Of course, Doyle's membership on the Library Board from 1910-1928 certainly aided in the procurement and display of this great painting.