Henry Dexter

born Nelson, NY 1806-died Cambridge, MA 1876
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Nelson, New York, United States
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Henry Dexter was an unlikely candidate for an artist. At sixteen, he was indentured as a blacksmith in order to support his family. At the end of a four-year apprenticeship he was extremely skilled in his trade, but no happier and in no position to try something new. It wasn’t until he was thirty that Dexter was finally able to study the arts. He had imagined himself a painter, but discovered his real gift was sculpting. In 1859, Dexter decided to embark on an ambitious project: He would travel to every state in the Union to model a bust of each governor. It was a dangerous venture, as the country was on the brink of the Civil War, but Dexter was undeterred. He successfully completed his project and the busts were displayed in the Massachusetts State House.