Clarence Shaler

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Clarence Shaler was a successful industrialist in Waupun, Wisconsin, a manufacturer of numerous products including umbrellas, automobile headlights and golf clubs. He owned one of the first automobiles in Wisconsin, and when fed up with flat tires, he invented a vulcanizer for tire patches that made him a millionaire. Visiting in Chicago, he wandered into the studio of Lorado Taft before Taft was famous. Shaler and Taft became fast friends, which fueled Shaler's life-long interest in the arts. Shaler brought major art to Waupun and in retirement, he took up sculpture at the age of 70.

Shaler never sold any of his works because he said the joy that came from the work was the greatest happiness he had ever known. Shaler never pursued his artistic desire until after he had assured enough income for his family to allow pursuit of his artistic drive. A sickly man most of his life, Shaler said his happiness from sculpting drove his improved health in later life.

The first major work of art that Mr. Shaler brought to Waupun was James Earl Fraser's The End of the Trail. You might not know it by name, but you will know it on sight. Fraser was 17 when he created the original, it was 18" tall. He reproduced it in plaster for the 1914 Pan Pacific Exposition (at the western terminus of the new Lincoln Highway) where Mr. Shaler saw it. Shaler commissioned Fraser to cast the statue, full sized, in bronze, for Waupun. It was unveiled in Waupun in 1929 where it remains to this day. (Fraser neglected to copyright the work, and copies of it are everywhere.)

Shaler commissioned Lorado Taft to sculpt The Recording Angel as a memorial to his wife. It is the only Taft work in Wisconsin, although one of Taft's students, Helen Farnsworth Mears, sculpted Genius of Wisconsin that is on display in the state capitol.

Shaler created several sculptures, six which are on display in Waupun. His most eerie work is called The Citadel, inspired by the rise of the Nazi Party and fascism in the 1930s. The Citadel was sculpted by Shaler as an allegory to what was happening in Europe. It features a ghoulish figure (probably the devil himself) watching over the scene. The scene includes a fractured column (representing the cracking and collapsing free society) and Lady Liberty in a seated position, holding her head in her hand and weeping over the demise of freedom.

After Shaler's death in 1941, his daughter donated the sculpture to the University of Southern California. It was not treated very well. It was displayed in the library until about 1960 when it was removed. The statue was stored unceremoniously beehind the physical plant, and was the brunt of several practical jokes including being kidnapped.

The sculpture was returned to Waupun in 1993, restored, and is on display downtown. It is encased in glass to protect it from the elements and vandals, but the glass also makes it very difficult to photograph.

Shaler's other sculptures include a life-size statue of statue of Abraham Lincoln. Another statue entitled Genesis, along with Lincoln, reside at his alma mater, Ripon College. Eleven other sculptures are in California and another is in Miami. Six of his sculptures are on display in Waupun, which has one of the highest concentrations of sculpture per capita in the country.

Shaler's twin sister, Clara, died at the age of 18. Morning of Life is a tribute to Clara. It is located at her gravesite in Mackford Union Cemetery in neighboring Green Lake County.

Clarence Shaler led a colorful life, he loved Waupun, he loved the arts and especially sculpture. He demonstrated his gratitude and passion for his art by leaving a heritage of great public art to his adopted hometown.

Dawn of Day (Dodge County, Wisconsin)
The first of Clarence Shaler's sculptures donated to Waupun
Doe and Fawn (Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)
End of the Trail (Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)
One of the most famous sculptures in America, located in Waupun
Lincoln the Dreamer (Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)
Statue of a young Abraham Lincoln created by Ripon College Graduate, Clarence Shaler
Morning of Life (Green Lake County, Wisconsin)
A striking memorial to the twin sister of the sculptor
Recording Angel, The (Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)
Lorado Taft sculpture commissioned by Clarence Shaler in memorial of his wife, Blanche
Ripon College Historic District (Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)
Campus of Ripon College, Alma Mater of Spencer Tracy and Harrison Ford
The Citadel (Dodge County, Wisconsin)
Allegory statue sculpted by Clarence Shaler
The Pioneers (Dodge County, Wisconsin)
Clarence Shaler's monument to the optimism of those who pushed west
Who Sows (Dodge County, Wisconsin)
Clarence Shaler's monument to the optimism of those to sow seeds