Douglas Tilden, The Mechanics Monument, San Francisco
At the age of five, Douglas Tilden became incurably deaf from a bout of scarlet fever. He graduated from the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind in Berkeley in 1879 and became a teacher there for the next eight years. The artist’s interest in sculpture did not develop until his early twenties, but his immediate talent in creating graceful compositions soon won him an award to study in New York City and Paris. These thirteen months, including five months as a student of Paul-François Choppin, also a deaf-mute, comprise Tilden’s only formal training in sculpture.
Tilden subsequently spent seven years in Paris, visiting museums and galleries and admiring sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Tilden’s well-known sculpture “The Tired Boxer” was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1890 and received an honorable mention, which was the highest prize ever to be awarded to an American sculptor at that time. Tilden is often called the “Father of San Francisco Sculpture” for the large number of commissioned public sculptures that you can still see today.
“The Mechanics Monument” was one of three major art works for the Market Street Beautification Project at the turn of the 20th century. Installation was started in 1899 with a dedication ceremony on May 15th of 1901. It was twice relocated, first in 1951 and then in 1973 to its present location on Market Street at the corner of Battery and Bush Streets. Cast of bronze, the full weight of the sculpture, excluding the base, is approximately ten tons.