Huntington Statue In
Andrew Jackson State Park
By Historian Louise Pettus
When the Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster County celebrated the 200th anniversary of Jackson's birth, March 15, 1967, the feature attraction was a bronze larger-than-life statue of young Andy Jackson astride a horse. It is still a star attraction, the creation of Mrs. Anna Hyatt Huntington, then in her 90th year, a world-renowned sculptress for 70 years.
The project began with a letter from a sixth-grade class at Rice Elementary School in Lancaster. Miss Nancy Crockett, teacher-principal of Rice, and her students had written Mrs. Huntington to ask if she would sculpt a statue of young Andrew Jackson for the park. Mrs. Huntington replied, in part, "A picture came to mind as I read your letter and I have tried out the composition. I have Jackson as a young man of sixteen or seventeen seated bareback on a farm horse, one hand leaning on the horse's rump and looking over his native hills, to wonder what the future holds for him."
Equestrian statues were a specialty of Mrs. Huntington, who also sculpted other animals so well that she was famous as an "Animalier," a person who could sculpt an animal's mood and personality as well as its likeness. She created the famous el Cid Campeador and Don Quixote statues for Spain, France's Joan of Arc, and another more like her conception of the young Jackson - one of young Abraham Lincoln, studying as he rode his horse - titled "The Prairie Years". South Carolinians are probably most familiar with her 31 sculptures in Brookgreen Gardens on the coast.
Anna Vaughn Hyatt was born in 1876 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of a Harvard professor of paleontology. She studied at the Art Students League in New York before going to France. In 1910 the Paris Salon failed to give her a medal for her famed "Joan of Arc" because they refused to believe that a woman was capable of sculpting the huge works she specialized in. Joan of Arc required over a ton of clay for the model.
In 1923, Anna Hyatt married Archer Milton Huntington, heir to a great railroad and shipping fortune. Her husband, a scholar, poet, and founder of museums, shared her love for Brookgreen plantation near Georgetown which was once the rice plantation S. C. governor Joseph Alston and his wife, Theodosia Burr. Three additional adjoining plantations were added to Brookgreen's acreage. They turned the plantation into a wildlife sanctuary as well as providing the funds for developing gardens and for purchasing more than 300 additional sculptures to add to those created by Mrs. Huntington.
"Andrew Jackson - Boy of the Waxhaws" was sculpted at Mrs. Huntington's Bethel, Connecticutt studio. Usually her horses were noble, prancing, fierce beasts. She made Jackson's horse a gentler animal by fixing the energy and tension of the work on the figure of young Jackson. The statue was first worked in clay in half the scale of the final statue. Even then, it was necessary for the octogenarian sculptress to use a tall ladder to reach the top. All of her life, she began with a clay model of either one-quarter or half-size. A number of her works were done in stone but bronze was more suitable for a sculptress of advanced age.
She wrote to Miss Crockett's class her thoughts about young Andrew Jackson, "He must have been a good looking and thoughtful boy, wondering what the future might hold, moments we all have from our teens to our nineties." South Carolina school children responded by donating their nickels and dimes to raise the necessary funds for a massive base to support the statue which looks out over the large expanse of lawn ringed by a museum, frontier school house, a meeting house and picnic shelters. County workmen placed the statue on its Lancaster County pink granite base in time for the ceremony marking Andrew Jackson's birth.
Mrs. Huntington was not able to come to Lancaster for the ceremony. Her last visit to South Carolina had been in 1959 when she dedicated her statue, "Black Panther" at the Myrtle Beach Air Force base. She died October 4, 1973.