Wells Monument, 1909

Horace Wells Monument

Horace Wells Monument

Charles T. Wells erected this monument in honor of his father, Horace Wells, in 1909. Wells, a Hartford dentist in the 1840s, was posthumously recognized as the discoverer of anesthesia.

Louis Potter of New York and Montague Flagg of Hartford designed the monument. The bronze bas relief was the work of Potter, a Trinity College graduate. Potter also studied under Hartford portrait painter Charles N. Flagg, the father of Montague who pursued a career in architecture.

Wells Monument Detail (photo by Jeffrey Dutton)

Wells Monument Detail (photo by Jeffrey Dutton)

The main bronze depicts a recumbent figure symbolizing suffering with the angel bearing relief. The entire composition is shadowed by the protecting wing of Mercy. The two female heads symbolize death and resurrection and indirectly the anesthetic sleep and the awakening to relief and hope. The front piece reads “There shall be no pain” while the left sculpture depicts morning glories and is inscribed “I awaken to glory” and the right sculpture depicts poppies and is inscribed “I sleep to awaken.”

According to the Hartford Courant (1909) “This bronze is sure to be reckoned among the finest productions of American art and will add to Mr. Potter’s growing reputation. The floating figure of the angel of Mercy expresses most strikingly a passionate desire to help. Every line shows eager sympathy, and it seems to have come from some great distance and a sphere beyond the earth. The figure of the sufferer is of manly strength and expresses fortitude and resistance to pain…It is one of those combinations of idealism and reality which constitute great art, and Hartford is to be congratulated that it has something which is a ‘possession forever.’”

Wells Monument Detail (photo by Jeffrey Dutton)

Wells Monument Detail (photo by Jeffrey Dutton)

While there is little theft and vandalism at Cedar Hill, the end pieces were stolen in the early 1980s. Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation, Aetna Foundation, the Horace Wells Society, and the Hartford Medical and Dental Society raised the funds to restore the monument to its original condition, including replicating the end pieces.

Working from photographs of the originals, sculptor Anatole Mikhailov reproduced the end sculptures. The bronze was cleaned as well. Completed in 2004, this was the Foundation’s first monument restoration project.