Rudolph Thiem ~ Designer & Woodcarver
Berlin • New Orleans • Hamilton, Ohio
Rudolph Thiem was a designer, woodcarver and sculptor active in Germany and the United States. He was born in 1857 in Berlin, where he studied modeling and sculpture at the German School of Applied Arts. On leaving the school, he became modeling 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 as 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. A list of his lost works can be found here.
Reopening of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument
On Memorial Day 2018, Hamilton's Soldiers, Sailors and 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 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.
(Click on any image throughout the site to enlarge)