The Missouri Humanities Council’s 275-square-foot U.S. grant bicentennial exhibit, “Ulysses Grant’s Missouri” — paired with Grant memorabilia belonging to Cape Girardeau businessman Earl Norman — opened last week at the former Chrisman Art Gallery, 32 N. Main St., in downtown Cap Girardeau. The exhibition is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It will continue until September.
The exhibit explores the life of the 18th president, born in 1822, in particular his many ties to Missouri.
Cape Girardeau’s ties to Grant are well known. It was here that Grant assumed command of the Southeastern Military District of Missouri in August 1861. And before leaving for Cairo, Illinois, Grant inspected the forts at Cape Girardeau, then in various stages of construction.
Apparently, this connection to the Civil War general was still deeply felt at the time of his death in 1885, so much so that a memorial was ordered placed in the Court’s Register of Common Pleas. The ornate artwork still exists and the Director of the Cape Girardeau County Archives Center, Marybeth Niederkorn, was kind enough to provide a photograph of it.
(Photo submitted by Marybeth Niederkorn)
Here are the two stories published in the Southeast Missourian about the memorial, drawn by an unknown artist.
Published February 7, 1925:
HE FORGOT TO SIGN HIS NAME
* * *
THE ARTIST WHO HAS DREW GRANT’S PICTURE IN RECORD BOOK IS NOT KNOWN
Attaches to the Court of Common Pleas at Cape Girardeau endeavor to determine the author of a pen-and-ink sketch of the late U.S. President Grant, entered in a docket by order of the court on July 23, 1885 , the day Grant died. .
The drawing was discovered by abstractors while searching the archives, and by FA Kage, clerk of the court. Kage, who was sheriff when the drawing was made, remembers when it was commissioned, but says he doesn’t remember who made it.
Robert L. Wilson was judge of the court and Edward H. Engelmann, clerk.
The design, which is exceptionally well done, has an inscription at the bottom which reads:
“This page is inscribed in the imperishable memory of US Grant, an intrepid patriot, renowned soldier and virtuous citizen.
“Born at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, April 27, 1822. Died at Mount Gregor, New York, July 27, 1885.”
Published February 7, 1975:
COURTHOUSE ARTIST REMAINS
A MYSTERY AFTER 90 YEARS
He forgot to sign his name, and so, 90 years later, his identity is still a mystery.
An article in today’s Out of the Past – 50 years ago – mentions a search for the name of an artist who composed a pen and ink drawing that surrounded a photograph of President Ulysses S. Grant. The drawing was inscribed in the records of the Court of Common Pleas here on July 23, 1885, the date of Grant’s death, in memory of the former president and Civil War general who ordered the construction of wartime forts civilian at Cape Girardeau.
Court officials set out to find out who the artist was when abstractors, rummaging through court records, came across it. Their efforts, however, apparently went unrewarded as no mention of the search results was made in subsequent issues of The Missourian.
The memorial design still exists today, neatly filed among the pages of court transactions in 1885. The previous page among the bound documents deals with general court proceedings of the time, and the reverse of the design continues in the style of handwriting at the hand used by court clerks to record court activities.
The design, a welcome break from a volume almost devoid of any illustration, is drawn directly on the lined court pages and features an oval-shaped sketch (actually a photograph – Sharon) of Grant surrounded by detailed greenery, all in portico columns. A scroll below the photograph indicates that the page is a memorial and states:
“This page is inscribed in the enduring memory of US Grant, the intrepid patriot, renowned soldier, and virtuous citizen. Born at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, April 27, 1822. Died on Mount Gregor, New York, July 27, 1885.”
Attaches interviewed various townspeople who might have known the artist, but no one could remember his name. The clerk of the court in 1925, FA Kage, was sheriff when the court ordered the design to be entered, but he could not remember the name of the man or woman who performed the deed.