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Randolph Rogers' Ann Arbor Life

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Miss E. Cora DePuy, in the Sunday News-Tribune, writes entertainingly of Randolph Rogers' early life here. From the article we extract the following, showing among other things how the celebrated sculptor devoted some of his earlier hours of work to the service of the Argus: Randolph Rogers was born in the village of Waterloo, Séneca County, New York, July i2th 1822. VVhen seventeen years of age his parents moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., then a pioneer village, without a railroad or telegraph line, and took up their permanent residence. There was a large family to provide for, with limited resources, and as soon as the boy, Randolph, had acquired a fair education he entered the bakery of D. V. and C. Bliss (1835) as an aP" prentice where heworked for three or four years. While in this business the inherent genius which was in the future to bring him fame and fortune, began to manifest itself. His brain and hands were ever busy, and often while momentarily unemployed he would take a piece of dough and make a figure or bust and leave it in some conspicuous place where his employers should be sure to see it. It was while in this business, in truth, that the wonderful genius which afterward made him so famous began to show itself in the primitive pieces of art which he executed with so much skill and ingenuity. During his leisure hours he also directed his attention to drawing and sketching, and became quite proficient in that line of art. Occastonally he was enabled to turn his genius to account, the most notable instances being the wood cuts he made for the newspaper ces of the town. In 1835 the Michigan Argus was founded by Mr. E. P. Gardiner. It was a six-column devoted to the inj terest of the democratie party while its energetic editor was alive to all the innovations and advancements of the day in the way of attractive improvements. For a number of years the Argus was printed on a press built for the publishers by H. and R. Partridge, which was the first and oniy iron press in the state of Michigan. Electrotypes and wood-cuts were comparatively unknuwn in those days, although a few type foundries had an American eagle for election purposes, cast of metal the same as type, and a few similar representations. The only illustrations which appear in the columns of the Argus from 1835 to 1848 are those of a saddle, which advertises a harnessmaker's business, a rude takle with no reference to light and shade or artistic outline, advertising a furniture store, an eagle screaming over the election, a "group" figure representing the signing of the DecIaration of Independence, two store buildings, an ox (which had strayed) , a sneep bahing for customers for a meat market, and a cut of two barrels advertising a cooper shop. There is one other, a cut representing a tailor, which appears in the advertising columns of the Argus, Feb. 8, 1843, and which is probably the first wood-cut ever made by the famous sculptor. There is a pioneer now living in the city of Ann Arbor, who has been a resident of that city for fiftytwo years, who remembers of young Rogers making these wood-cuts. This pioneer was -a millwright in those days, and built nearly all the flouring milis in the state of Michigan. Among the rest he built a mili at Jackson, Mich., in 1841, for John Rogers, an older brother of Randolph, and during that time had his attention especially attracted to the young artist, who was continually giving expression to his inherent genius. While building this mili Mr. John Rogers found it impossible to find board and lodging for his men, and so, after the building was enclosed, some rude beds were improvised in one corner, and in anothera kitchen was established, and the younger brother, Randolph, sent for to come and do the cooking. As he had worked in a bakery for three or four years, cooking was quite as easy as carving or sketching, and willingly the youth, who was of a genial, obliging nature, responded to the cali, and helped his brother out by cooking for the men five months. At this time Randolph Rogers was twenty years old. Returning from Jackson to Ann Arbor, he obtained a position in a dry goods store, where he clerked until 1848. During those six years, from 1842 to 1848, the young sculptor made many pieces of work that would be prized today even more highly than the great masterpieces which afterwards brought him fame and fortune, could his friends come into posession of even one of the precious ' ticles. One of these was a little! steam engine, complete in every detail, the castings having been made for him at the foundry according to his personal instructions. Others are j the sketches he made of people and buildings and familiar landscape scènes about the city, for the scenery about Ann Arbor in those days was very wild and picturesque, and the artist was continually sketching some bit of realistic nature on a scrap of writing paper or the back of an envelope, or any convenient material he might have at hand. But unfortunately there was no one of his family or acquaintances who realized that there shone forth in these scraps of sketches the stroke of the master-touch, and therefore nothing is preserved save in the memory of the one aged pioneer, who loves to recount the many incidents of those early days which the mention of the name of the great sculptor ever calis to mind. One of the wood-cuts made by Randolph Rogers was that of Cook's hotel, which stands on the corner of East Huron street and Fourth avenue. It was originally a three-story building and is so represented in the cut, which was in all probability executed with the jack-knife of the amateur sculptor. It was in the offiee of the Ann Arbor Journal that this wood-cut was used. A file of this paper may be found in the room of the Washtenaw County Pioneer society, which is in the basement of the court house at Ann Arbor, where also may be found a file of the Ann Arbor Argus, which was established in 1835 and is therefore one of the oldest newspapers in the state. The files of the Argus show only five cuts which could have been made by Randolph Rogers. One is for a cooper's advertisement. If studied closely it will readily be seen that the sketch was designed by a true artist. There are the light and shade, the hoops of the barrel clearly brought out, even the end of the jtaves defined, and in those days there were no country newspapers affording their readers illustrations of home enterprises. In fact, there were only a few journals in the United States at that time giving illustrations at all, notably Graham's Magazine, Gleason's Pictorial Weekly and the Harpers. Of these three the engravings for Graham's were made abroad. In these files the Argus gives the appearance of taking the lead in illustrations and advertisements, there being beside the wood cuts made by the home artist, illustrations of a patent medicine and of a circus, the cuts presumably having been furnished by the advertisers. Unfortunately the Journal was not preserved later thari 1844. It would be interesting to know how much Randolph Rogers received for his wood cuts, but all of the publishers who had intímate knowledge of this esDecial line of his work are now dead, while the offices are in possession of younger men who know nothing of their early history save what the printed pages of the files afford them. The only life-sized oil portrait in the United States of the great sculptor is that painted by his niece,Miss Katie Rogers, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who is one of the best portrait painters in this country. The portrait, for which he posed, hangs in the hall of her home, at the right as you enter, where the light is peculiarly soft, and where no guest can ever fail of seeing it, the first object that attracts attention as one enters the door. In truth the home of Katie Rogers, No. 7 North División street, is a veritable studio, the walls of every room being lined with family portraits and other creations which her brush has wrought upon the canvas. If genius can add luster to genius, then this gifted, highsouled niece has added many laurels to the illustrious brow of her farfamed uncle. Not only has she painted his portrait, but she has preserved his masterpieces, "Nydia," and "Ruth," in a forra that intensifies her own genius as well as his. "Nydia" is done in oils, in black and white, producing the effect of the marble itself on a back-ground of Venetian red. The copy was made f rom the original statue in the art gallery of the University of Michigan, where Miss Rogers spent months of time and labor in working out the wonderful transformation. The painting rests on a stand in the corner of the front parlor, with soft, olive ■ 31 plush drapery artistically arranged on either side, as if shielding it trom all intrusión. One familiar with the exquisitely wrought, original figure instantly recognizes it in this faithful and realistic reproduction, which is marveious in its similarity and outline.