Spirits of Ohio’s Doughboys
Viquesney Spirit of the American Doughboy Statues across Ohio
By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee
December 6, 2018
Statues are a common feature of town squares and parks throughout Ohio. Often they are dedicated to local men who served in the Civil War, and feature soldiers, sailors, and depictions of liberty embodied. These statues reached the peak of their popularity in the early 1900s, when Cleveland and other cities erected enormous monuments covered with sculptures and reliefs. By the time the First World War ended such massive memorials were on the decline. In their stead came statues of an individual soldier representing the American fighting spirit. One design epitomizes the First World War statue, E. M. Viquesney’s Spirit of the American Doughboy, and Ohio is fortunate to have as many as fourteen throughout the state.
Viquesney’s statue shows a US infantryman charging through no-mans land in the First World War. In a pose reminiscent of the statue of liberty, he is holding a grenade as he moves forward. The Spirit of the American Doughboy is perhaps the most iconic of First World War statues in the United States. Viquesney sought to portray a soldier in combat—with rifle, bayonet affixed, and the ever-precious gas mask—showing as best he could the realities of war. Viquesney used not one model for his statue, but combined the features of some fifty veterans to create a composite soldier that represented all of America’s fighting men.
Viquesney came from a family of French lineage who had been stone carvers since the early 1800s at least. Born in 1876, Ernest Moore Viquesney, known as “Dick,” grew up in Spencer, Indiana, where he learned to carve stone. After serving in the Spanish-American War, Viquesney moved around the country, but spent the years between 1905 and 1922 in Americus, Georgia, before returning to Indiana. It was in Americus that he created Spirit of the American Doughboy.
Akron, Crooksville, Fostoria, Gallipolis, Marion, Newark, New Philadelphia, Swanton, Woodville, Zanesville all have statues that bear Viquesney’s name. St. Bernard in Cincinnati has a statue with the name of Viquesney’s business partner Walter Rylander. Blue Ash in Cincinnati and Warren both have copies made from Viquesney’s molds but by different foundries.
Ohio’s Viquesney Doughboy statues began with Crooksville in 1922 (according to researchers Earl Goldsmith and Les Kopel). Many were dedicated in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the last came in 1941 when the town of Warren dedicated its statue. Though anyone could purchase a Viquesney Doughboy, many were purchased by veteran organizations, like American Legion posts (New Philadelphia, Woodville), Auxiliaries (Gallipolis), and even the Veterans of Foreign Wars (Newark). Naturally, dedications usually occurred on or near Armistice Day (Akron, Crooksville, Fostoria, Marion, and New Philadelphia).
Though iconic, Viquesney’s Doughboy portrayal was not the first. Mere months before Viquesney began marketing his statue, sculptor John Paulding debuted a realistic Doughboy statue, Over the Top. If not for Viquesney’s aggressive marketing, Pauldings statue—an example of which can be found in Chillicothe—might have become the most iconic Doughboy statue to honor the war. Owing to their similarities, however, Over the Top statues are often confused for and referred to incorrectly as a The Spirit of the American Doughboy.
When you are traveling through Ohio, admiring its many historic monuments and statues, keep an eye out for Spirit of the American Doughboy.
This article borrows heavily from the excellent work found on the E.M. Viquesney Doughboy Database by Earl Goldsmith and Les Kopel https://doughboysearcher.weebly.com/