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Jesse Howard

Born:
Shamrock, Missouri 1885

Died:
Fulton, Missouri 1983

Biography

Soon after Jesse Howard purchased twenty acres for a home in Fulton, Missouri, he began using it to air his religious, political, and philosophical convictions. He posted signs covered with neat, hand-lettered texts. Unfortunately Howard's neighbors were not pleased with his contributions to the public debate. From the late 1940s until the 1970s, "Sorehead Hill"—as he called his place—was frequently vandalized, and he was repeatedly harassed for his unconventional means of exercising his "free thought and free speech." In 1952 some of his neighbors even went so far as to circulate a petition demanding that he be committed to a mental institution. Embittered but hardly broken by such vicissitudes, Howard remained determined to express himself, and he was eventually rewarded with favorable attention from scholars, collectors, dealers, and curators.

Tom Patterson Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)