The Mass Produced Civil War Monuments…

The soldier page of Monumental Bronze Co.’s 1882 catalog, completed with drawings and testimonials. Internet Archive/Public Domain.

Most people are aware that most of the civil war monuments which went up were a blatant product of later propaganda, and a convenient way to oppress and terrorize those not white enough. Atlas Obscura has a look at the company that had a lock on so many of these “bronze monuments”, the Monumental Bronze Co., who had discovered white bronze, which is actually zinc, and started mass producing monuments of all kinds. Described as the Wal-Mart of monuments.

White bronze isn’t white. It’s more of a chromy gray that, over time, gets progressively blue. It isn’t bronze, either: it’s zinc, cast into shape in a mold, and blasted with sand to add a rough, stony texture. But “bluish-gray sand-blasted zinc” doesn’t sound that appealing, and the company trafficking in this material, Monumental Bronze Co., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was focused hard on selling it. From 1879 until 1914, Monumental Bronze Co. offered statues, grave markers and monuments that were, in their words, “beautiful in appearance and unequaled for durability.”

…They also had a whole muster of Civil War statues in various designs, the parts of which could also be easily interchanged, Mr. Potato Head-style. “Statue of American Soldier” was a man with a mustache and a billed cap, holding his gun in both hands. “Colorbearer” had a flag draped over his shoulder. “Confederate Soldier,” introduced in 1889, wore a broad-brimmed hat and carried a bedroll. You could also get your soldiers custom-made: the Confederate Monument in Portsmouth, Virginia has four Monumental Bronze Co. statues on it, each fashioned after a local man.

Another of their selling points was price: thanks to their choice of material (as well as their distribution model, which relied on independent “agents” and eliminated the need for storerooms) they could easily undersell stone-based companies.

The cover of this 1885 issue of Scientific American was dedicated entirely to “The White Bronze Monument Industry”—aka Monumental Bronze Co. Internet Archive/Public Domain.

A fascinating glimpse into the not so distant past. You can read and see much more at Atlas Obscura, and browse a Monumental Bronze Co. catalogue here.


  1. springa73 says

    I knew that I had read somewhere that many of e Confederate statues were actually mass-produced in the northern US, but I didn’t know about the “white bronze”, the advertising campaign, etc. Thanks for posting this!

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