Don MertzDonald K. Mertz, the WOOD BEE CARVER was commissioned by Gary Kersey, Lincoln historian, to carve the Congressional Funeral Delegation standing in front of Lincoln’s Springfield, Illinois home as depicted in a historic photograph. A few years earlier Gary had commissioned a local craftsman, Charles Lakatos, to build a scale model of the Springfield home.

One of the first things to consider was to figure out the scale of the men in the photograph to the house and apply that scale to the carvings. The men in the photo were approximately as tall as the window frames of the house, so the scale model house windows were measured to be six inches. Each of the carvings were carved using a two inch square by six inch tall block of basswood. Once carved the coloring applied was a mixture of artist oil paints and boiled linseed oil.

The original photograph adequately presented a good pose for how each man was standing but the facial features were not sharply distinct due to the size of the men as they appeared in the photograph and even enlarging the photo on a copy machine did not help. Mr. Kersey would research for larger portrait size photographs of each subject in order to capture the facial features.

Often a magnifying glass was used to study the original photograph to discover details that were missed with normal vision. One item that was magnified was that each man was wearing a “Funeral Badge and Ribbon” which became a part of each carving. On a visit to Henry Smith Lane’s Crawfordsville, Indiana museum, Mr. Kersey was able to see first hand an actual Funeral Badge and Ribbon belonging to Congressman Lane.

Three of the Congressman wore white sashes to designate their special office. Speaker of the House, Colfax wore a sash, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House, Ordway and Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, Brown all wore white sashes. Two of them carried a sprig of evergreen branches which may have been the bed the casket rested upon during the train ride from Washington DC to Springfield, Illinois.

Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, Brown does not have any other known photograph of him so artistic license and imagination was used to carve his facial features. All other details were carved as close as possible to be as accurate as possible without being an exact “photographic” reproduction of each person. In other words the carver’s imagination guided the artistic interpretation of a historic scene.

Each carving took approximately twenty hours to carve and an hour to paint. Each is carved with a base which is mortised into the carved cobble stone sidewalk. The first carving of Colfax was carved in May, 2005 and the last carving of the teen age son of Newell was delivered to Gary Kersey on Christmas Eve, 2007.

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