This week Southsider magazine of Lexington, KY published a great profile of Isaac Scott Hathaway, designer of the Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver commemorative half dollars, produced from 1946 to 1954. -Editor His classmates called him "Big Boots" because he had no shoes and wore his father's Army combat boots to school.
Isaac Scott Hathaway was born April 4, 1872, the son of a Civil War veteran, Robert Elijah Hathaway, who had proudly served as a member of the United States Colored Troops. When Hathaway was only 2 years old, his mother, Rachel Scott Hathaway, died, and the children were raised by their father and grandparents.
At the age of 9, Hathaway stated that he would become the sculptor of busts of "famous Negroes" after he found none displayed in a gallery.
Hathaway frequently visited the Thoroughbred race and trotting tracks in Lexington, not to bet on the horses but to draw and paint them. A news article in 1897 listed the horses he had painted for wealthy patrons of the industries. Only one of the paintings is known to have survived: one of Queen Ban, completed in 1896.
After graduating in 1891, Hathaway became a teacher at Keene in Jessamine County – a profession that he continued until his retirement in 1966. All the time he taught, he also pursued his other passion – creating busts of famous African Americans and placing them where people could see them. Hathaway received advanced training in the arts at the New England Conservatory in Massachusetts and the Cincinnati Art Academy. He returned to Lexington after his studies and began perfecting his skills. In 1900, he opened his first studio of sculpture in that chicken coop behind his birth home.
He requested and was granted permission to take the death mask of Cassius Marcellus Clay, famed Kentucky emancipationist and former United States Ambassador to Russia; he later created a heroic-sized bust.
Near the end of 1907 Hathaway moved to Washington, D.C., where he and other partners founded the Afro-Art Company. During his Washington years, he produced 12-inch busts of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Booker T. Washington, Bishop Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass. His work of the time period was cited in "The Artists of Washington, D.C. 1796 – 1996," by Virgil E. McMahah.
In his lifetime, Hathaway produced over 100 busts and masks of African Americans in all disciplines. His sculptures are at scattered in public institutions across the country, as well as in private collections.
Hathaway is the only African American to be commissioned by the United States Mint to design the molds for two commemorative coins honoring great African Americans: Booker T. Washington, educator and president of the Tuskegee Institute, and George Washington Carver, educator and scientist at Tuskegee – both of whom Hathaway personally knew. The coins were produced from 1946 to 1954. Hathaway's achievement as the only designer of two coins now stands as a record of 63 years.
I'm not sure what record the article is referring to. Was he the only sculptor to design two different commemorative coins? That may have been true in 1954 (although I haven't researched this), but today multiple artists have credits for more than one commemorative design. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: "Big Boots" pulls himself up (www.southsidermagazine.com/Articles-c-
Wayne Homren, Editor
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