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October 11, 1918: Archibald Willard Dies

 

You don’t know him but you have seen his painting.  Archibald Willard died on October 11, 1918.  A veteran of the Civil War, Willard began painting while he was serving with the 86th Ohio.  After the War he became a professional painter.  His most famous painting is The Spirit of ’76.  Painted in 1875, the painting became famous during the centennial year of 1876.  Willard’s father served as the model for the middle figure.  I have always like the painting.  It recalls the huge national effort it took to win the American Revolution, with the Americans robbing the cradle and the grave to man their armies.

 

Willard is almost completely forgotten today, but his painting has achieved immortality as a classic symbol of the willingness of Americans to risk all for freedom.  I think that would have pleased the old veteran greatly.