Archibald MacNeal Willard

1836-1918

Wellington is a town full of "Spirit".  This website, for example, is formally titled "The Spirit of Wellington".  But why?  It all traces back to Archibald Willard, who in 1875, painted one of the most recognizable patriotic portraits in American History: The Spirt of '76.

 

[insert picture of the spirit here]

Archibald Willard was a native of Bedford, Ohio on the northeast side of Cleveland.  But after fighting with the 86th Ohio Infantry in the Civil War, Willard made his home in Wellington.  He went to work for the E.S. Tripp Carriage Works, at the time one of the largest builders of horse-drawn carriages and work wagons, as a painter.   It was from the Tripp factory that Willard watched across the street as a fifer and two drummers were warming up for a parade.  As this sight sparked an idea, Willard sketched this out on a scrap of wood that he found on the factory floor. 

The original, an 8' by 10' oil painting, was begun in Wellington but moved to Cleveland after a photographer from the city encouraged Willard to create a semi-humorous patriotic painting for the country's centennial celebration.  This move allowed more room for models.  Willard's friend and fellow Civil War veteran, Hugh Mosher posed as the fifer.  Henry Devereux, son of General John Devereux, posed as the junior drummer.  Willard used his father as the senior drummer.  However, his father passed away before the painting was completed and Willard opted to make the painting more serious than originally intended.

After a national tour, the painting was purchased by General Devereux.  The original painting was altered by Willard in an 1893 retouching and now hangs in Abbot Hall in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Archibald Willard created at least 14 original "copies" of The Spirit of '76, but there are actually several variations.  One original hangs a few blocks from the White House at the Department of State headquarters in Washington, D.C.  Three originals hang locally: at Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, at Cleveland City Hall, and in the Herrick Memorial Library in Wellington.