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The Saw and the Scroll

1977-1978 Jesse Howard Born: Shamrock, Missouri 1885 Died: Fulton, Missouri 1983 acrylic and crayon on canvas and wood; acrylic on metal and wood overall: 39 3/4 x 71 x 1 1/2 in. (101.0 x 180.3 x 3.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 1997.124.26A-B Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 24B

Gallery Label

The Saw and the Scroll is a tour through the Bible written on an old hand saw, canvas, and discarded wood. Howard reveals his passion for the Bible by enthusiastically listing books, chapters, and verses. Pointing fingers emphasize key events and characters, as Howard urges viewers to "READ ON, AND ON, AND KEEP ON READING."

Largely misunderstood and ridiculed by his neighbors, Howard suffered numerous thefts and his farm was vandalized, including a fire of unknown origin. Never stymied, Howard continued to express his opinions on politics, local happenings, and religion. This sign is one example of Howard's exercise of his First Amendment rights, signed off at the end with earnest wishes from the artist.

"I’m going to speak what I think for as long as I live."
—Jesse Howard

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Object - written matter

Religion - Christianity

Religion - Old Testament - Genesis

Religion - Old Testament - Tower of Babel


folk art


paint - acrylic

fabric - canvas