Rudolph Thiem ~ Designer
Berlin • New Orleans • Hamilton, Ohio
News: 2018 Reopening of the Soldiers, Sailors & Pioneers Monument
On Memorial Day 2018, Hamilton's Soldiers, Sailors & Pioneers Monument was reopened by the Butler County Historical Society. Recent renovations have restored the interior of the building to something like its original condition when it was first dedicated in 1906. The new exhibit includes view boards detailing the history of the monument and background on the Billy Yank statue and Rudolph Thiem, its designer, as well as upcoming programs. There is also a seven foot tall photograph of the Billy Yank statue—also called Victory—with the members of the Monument Committee that sponsored the memorial and its large bronze sculpture. The original photograph was take by Chris Schwenn in Rudolph Thiem's studio in April 1904. The new curator of the monument is Butch Frederick. For more information, please visit bchistoricalsociety.com.
Rudolph Thiem was a designer and sculptor active in Germany and the United States. He was born in 1857 in Berlin, where he studied modelling and sculpture at the German School of Applied Arts. On leaving the school, he became modelling assistant to sculptor Hermann Hultzsch in Dresden, where he helped Hultzsch on an overlife-size bronze statue of Duke Albrecht the Spirited, completed in 1876. After a stint working in his father’s billiard table factory in Berlin, Thiem opened his own business as a sculptor and a craftsman specializing in ornamental mirror frames.
In 1881, Thiem left Germany for New Orleans. There the 24-year-old sculptor did freelance work in partnership with the founder Paul Riess, also from Berlin. Five years later, Thiem moved to Hamilton, Ohio, where Lazard Kahn had hired him as a stove ornament designer at F. & L. Kahn & Bros., a large stove manufacturer. Thiem left the Kahns in 1889. He then spent five years managing a hotel in Hamilton. Next, he set himself up as a self-employed “model maker, designer, and ornamental carver.” He worked in these capacities from 1895 until his death in 1928.
His works in bronze include public sculptures, plaques, and reliefs. He also designed bronze medallions for Civil War monuments in National Battlefield parks. As an ornamental wood carver, he made a range of art furnishings, including chairs, cabinet doors, hall trees, church pews, and picture frames. At the same time, he continued to do design projects for manufacturers.
Thiem’s magnum opus is a seventeen-foot bronze figure of a Civil War soldier (1904) that stands on top of Hamilton’s Soldiers, Sailors, and Pioneers Monument.
This website introduces visitors to the range of Rudolph Thiem’s artistic activity in a variety of genres. Many of the pieces that we know Thiem designed have been lost, or are not yet identified. For instance, the regimental medallions he designed for Civil War battlefields remain, with one exception, untraced.
If you happen to know the whereabouts of any of Rudolph Thiem pieces, please send a message using the contact form on the Contact page of this website.
Here is a shortlist of important Thiem sculptures or designs that have gone missing over time.
“Group of Cotton Yardmen”— three cotton press workers, white and African American. New Orleans, 1882. Plaster. Thiem and his business partner Paul Riess offered this plaster piece in a raffle to benefit victims of the 1882 flood in New Orleans and southern Louisiana. On this website’s page Bronze & Wood, a copy of the bleached-out photograph of the plaster cast that was printed on the raffle ticket can be seen. It is not known if the fascinating plaster model was ever cast in metal.
Statue of Robert E. Lee. New Orleans, 1883. By Thiem and founder Paul Riess. This is a “full-length” sculpture in “red bronze.” Height, four feet three inches. Lee is dressed in ordinary military garb, with a felt hat, sword in a scabbard, and a sash. The statue was exhibited at the American Exhibition, New Orleans, 1885-1886.
Fire Basket. For use in a fireplace or open door stove. Hamilton, Ohio, 1888. The back of the basket is a relief showing three blacksmiths beating out a piece of body armor with hammers. Iron. Design patented by Lazard Kahn and Rudolph Thiem, June 5, 1888. The photograph accompanying the U. S. patent indicates that a prototype of this object was cast in iron. Whether it ever went into production is not known. A reproduction of the patent photograph appears on this website’s page Stove Design.
Portrait Medallion of Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer. Cast in bronze in 1897 in Hamilton, Ohio, and in that year affixed to the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry monument on Snodgrass Hill, Chickamauga National Military Park, Georgia. The medallion was pried off the monument and stolen in 1994. A photograph of the monument is reproduced on this website’s page Bronze & Wood.
(Click on any image throughout the site to enlarge)
Victory - 1904
Photo courtesy of Jack Armstrong