Connecticut has no shortage of war memorials and statues featuring prominent business and political leaders. The celebration of the state’s ordinary working people, however, is almost nowhere to be found. One exception is The Craftsman in Hartford.
It is a striking example of a working man, created in 1931 by Evelyn Beatrice Longman, prominently displayed on the campus of the A.I. Prince Technical High School on Flatbush Avenue.
The bronze sculpture portrays a worker sitting and reading. His jacket is lthrown across the wooden chair. He is dressed in rough clothes, worn work shoes, rolled up sleeves. His concentration is intense. In one hand is a tool of his trade; at his feet are machine parts. On his lap is a set of schematics. He is concentrating, and perhaps, puzzling out a repair.
The Craftsman was dedicated on September 16, 1931 at the Hartford Trade School on Washington Street. The school and the statue moved to Hartford’s south end in 1960.
The granite foundation on which the sculpture sits does not include the name of Ms. Longman’s work. Instead the words carved into the stone base read : “Industry, given in honor of the pioneers of industry in the city of Hartford, men whose memory is revered, whose influence survives to inspire succeeding genarations.”
The subject and the dedication seem like a mismatch. The Craftsman is clearly not a “pioneer of industry;” he is a skilled worker, the kind employed by the pioneers. He is the nameless working man who made the pioneers successful. But the statue was commissioned and paid for by the CT Manufacturers Association, so they had the last word.
In fact, around the time the statue was dedicated Connecticut was a hotbed of militant union organizing. Leading up to The Craftsman’s unveiling, there were a dozen labor strikes throughout the state: textile workers in Putnam and New London, fur workers in Danbury, necktie and shirt makers in New Haven and laborers in Newtown. Even unemployed workers struck: they were in a city-sponsored relief program at Hartford’s Brainard airfield and stopped work until they won transportation, food allowance and a dollar a day raise.
The Craftsman is not Longman’s only worker-themed sculpture. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took the lives of 146 New York immigrant garment workers, some as young as fourteen. The reckless tragedy spurred safety reforms and union organizing. A year after the fire, survivors dedicated the Triangle Fire Memorial to the Unknowns for the six victims who could not be identified. The monument’s creator was never publicly known, and it was only recently discovered to be Evelyn Longman’s work. The identities of the six unknown garment workers were finally determined in 2011.
Evelyn Longman moved her New York studio in 1920 to the campus of Loomis School in Windsor. She had been commissioned to create a piece in honor of Nathaniel Batchelder’s late wife. Batchelder was the headmaster at Loomis; he and Longman eventually married. The studio had train tracks running through it so clay and other material could be directly delivered to her workshop.
By the time The Craftsman was completed, Longman was firmly established in her field. Besides a variety of local installations (many of which were full of military symbolism including Spirit of Victory, a Spanish American war memorial in Bushnell Park), Longman’s work was displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. She was the only artist for whom Thomas Edison would sit. Around 1920, Longman was asked to work on the Lincoln Memorial. There she created a number of decorative wreaths cut in stone and, it is said, she sculpted the humble rail splitter’s hands from Georgia granite.