Steve Peters is holding out hope that a large part of his family history will wind up in a museum, where it can be viewed and appreciated by people of all ages.
The 78-year-old Van Buren resident has multiple heirlooms from his great-great-uncle, sculptor/artist/author John Quincy Adams Ward, including a detailed maquette that served as a small-scale model for a larger bronze sculpture of President James A. Garfield. Ward created the maquette in the 1880s and had it presented to members of Congress as a way of seeking approval to sculpt a larger statue of Garfield, Peters said.
“He sculpted the larger statue of President Garfield, and it is located today at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “John Quincy Adams Ward sculpted two presidents — President James A. Garfield and President George Washington.
“The George Washington statue can be seen on Wall Street,” Peters added. “John Quincy Adams Ward only did two statues of the president, but they are great.”
Peters hopes the maquette and other items that belonged originally to Ward eventually will find their way into a museum. These items include an ornate, uniquely colored plate; several small, 10-cent, newspaper-style magazines; a smoking pipe carved to look like the face of a bearded human; a coffee-creamer container carved into the shape of a grinning, winking cat; and a small rifle made of wood and some form of metal, among others, he said.
“I do know that Whoopi Goldberg has expressed some interest in the small statue,” Peters said. “I was able to speak with Whoopi over the telephone, and she was absolutely wonderful to me. Whoopi was a great joy to speak with — she couldn’t have been nicer to me.
“And Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also has shown interest in the maquette,” he added. “We’ll see what happens.”
Every heirloom seemingly has its own story to tell, Peters said. The small gun was created for Ward by his father when Ward was only 10 years old, he said.
“The gun is an old flintlock gun,” Peter said. “A person would stand the gun up and put the powder down into the barrel. It’s an interesting antique piece.”
Ward also sculpted what is known as “The Freedman,” a large bronze statue that can be found at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, he said.
“The statue is interesting because Ward built it from a sketch he did, when he was a child, of a man named Caesar Russell,” Peters said. “He asked Caesar to kind of sit down on a stump for the sketch. He asked Caesar, who was a sharecropper, to do that when he came back from working in the field.
“And after he created the statue, John Quincy Adams Ward then put live shackles on the statue; you can see shackles around one of Caesar’s wrists, and there’s a chain there, too,” he added. “You see the chain is broken, which means Caesar is free.”
Peters said he was amazed when he found Ward’s original sketch for the Caesar Russell statue was tucked inside a family book.
“And I’m proud to say that I’m the only person right now who knows the name of the man in that statue,” he said while leaning back and smiling. “That man is Caesar Russell, and it’s a very interesting statue.”
Peters predicted that more adults would be interested in his collection, but added that there might be a few younger individuals who would find the items interesting.
“This is history, really,” Peters said of the collection. “I find this stuff fascinating, but my kids aren’t really interested in these items. That is why I would like for these items to go to a museum — a place where they could be preserved and people could see them.”