November 11th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 45
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
The Legacy of Emanuel Hahn
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Jack Fuller's Coleman statue draped in snow
Cenotaph statues can be found all across Canada usually positioned above marble or concrete engraved lists of the war dead from both World War’s One and Two and Korea. I have stood at the Coleman cenotaph for many years, first as a child scrambling for spent shell casings après the gun salute, and later on as an adult, head bowed in somber recognition, in the always whippingly cold west wind.

The Coleman cenotaph statue, done by carver and artist Jack Fuller, is judged by historian Ian Mackenzie to be neither bronze nor stone but instead of cast concrete. It seems to be an unusual departure from his well known back country carvings.

While I have a particular fondness for Coleman’s silent sentinel soldier there is a spectacular cenotaph statue in Fernie whose presence commands the attention of all who behold it. The first time I stood before it I was in awe. I had never seen anything memorial-wise quite like it. His contemplative, quiet and somber appearance evokes reverence and respect. On first observing this bareheaded soldier with helmet slung over his shoulder, head downturned and left hand resting on a cross, I felt the sorrow and the pain of war. The sculptor was brilliant in his presentation.
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This iconic tribute to our war dead provided a defining moment of inspiration for me. It was there I observed an incident that forever changed me and brought the desire to write to surface. It occurred on a bitter cold Armistice Day back in 1995 when a young piper-in-training at the Fernie ceremony faltered badly in his rendition of Amazing Grace. With his pipe reeds frozen he apologetically stepped back from the soldier and marched from the grounds, head down. I keenly felt his disappointment.

But then later after the crowd had dispersed he returned with thawed pipes and shouldered his instrument and for just myself and the monument played the song with gusto. This remarkable show of determination haunted me for some time until I finally put my thoughts down on paper. The piece I wrote was entitled it: Determination Prevails for the Courageous and paralleled this pipers courage with our soldiers who also showed courage, conviction and grace.

There are no less than 7,500 memorials across Canada that pay their respects to those lost in wars. There are pyramids, cairns, plaques, stelae, shafts, crosses and obelisks. And then there are the statues, just over 400 of them, half of which are made of Carrara marble from Italy. About eighty are either bronze or stone statues designed and built in Canada by Canadian artists and sculptors. They are among the very best and most diverse in our country and the Fernie cenotaph, in its spectacular setting, is one of the finest.
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The gifted sculptor that crafted the Fernie cenotaph was a German born master by the name of Emanuel Hahn. His story carries a lesson to all of us about perseverance amid bias and narrow-mindedness. Hahn was only seven when he immigrated to Canada with his family in 1888. On the very day he was old enough he became a naturalized Canadian citizen.

Emanuel Hahn studied art and design in Toronto and eventually returned to Germany for more training at the Stuttgart art academy where he apprenticed with a sculptor. Back in Canada from 1908 to 1912 Hahn worked as a studio assistant for the brilliant Canadian sculptor Walter Seymour Allward, designer of the magnificent Vimy Ridge memorial. It is interesting to note that Allward eventually bequeathed many of his personal sculpting tools to his protégé Emanuel Hahn.

In 1906 Hahn also began working on contract for the Thomson Monument Company and by 1919 was its chief designer. He held that position for over forty years. It is interesting to note that Thomson’s advertisements featured many of his designs, but they rarely mentioned him by name after the end of the war lest his German roots lose them business.

This position was not entirely unfounded and can be traced back specifically to an incident in 1925 when Hahn’s design for a new monument for the City of Winnipeg won out over 47 other submittals. Shortly after the unanimous awarding an uproar was precipitated by some, who on discovering his German birth, vociferously demanded that award’s withdrawal. The committee unfortunately ceded to their demands and Hahn was paid $500 for his design while the committee moved on to what they considered the next best design.
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This time the rules specifically dictated that the winning design must come from someone born in Canada or in an Allied Nation. A creation by Canadian born artist Elizabeth Wyn-Wood was chosen and brought about further controversy and debate. Shortly after choosing her it was discovered that she had been trained by Emanuel Hahn and that by the time of the award was in fact his wife. Once again there was uproar and once again the loudest braying resulted in the commission being withdrawn. Neither Hahn nor Wyn-Wood were allowed to design the Winnipeg Cenotaph.

This apparently did not affect Hahn’s popularity or acceptance noticeably and he went on to design hundreds of pieces of art across Canada. Returning back to before the Winnipeg story we find that in 1921 Hahn, who by then was a well-established, highly regarded sculptor, was commissioned to create a grieving soldier statue for the town of Westville, Nova Scotia. That beautiful bronze was so well received that others across Canada began serious fundraising for identical versions of it. Another identical bronze statue exists in Cornwall, Ontario but there are no less than eight more granite carved versions that were supplied by Thomson’s master craftsman to other communities across the country, including Fernie. The statues are in fact not truly identical and according to author Alan Livingstone MacLeod’s book: Remembered in Bronze and Stone: “each shows subtle differences from the others.” It is interesting to note that the Westville statue is the only one of the ten that is signed by Hahn.

The list of Hahn’s noted works actually go back as far as 1916 when he carved the profound monument, located at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, to commemorate the Empress of Ireland disaster. On May 29th, 1914 the Empress sank in the St. Lawrence near Rimouski with 1,012 lives lost including 167 of the 197 Salvation Army officers and family on their way to a Salvation Army congress in London.
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The Blairmore Enterprise reported on June 15th of 1914 that one of Empress victims was 26 year old A.E. Stillman, the general manager for the W.J. Budd Company out of Calgary. Stillman had just been in Blairmore the month before checking on some construction projects. Budd’s company started up the Rocky Mountain Cement Company here and built amongst other buildings the Peuchen Block in downtown Blairmore. They also installed Blairmore’s water system in 1912.

Getting back to Hahn, on July 22, 1922 Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps in World War One, chose, sponsored and dedicated yet another moving Hahn war memorial at St. Lambert in Quebec. The statue is of a soldier going full stride running into action with a rifle in his right hand. St Lambert is directly across the St. Lawrence River from McGill University where Currie was by then the university’s principal. The very first Hahn “going over the top” statue like St. Lamberts can be found in Summerside, P.E.I.

Another of Hahn’s most revered works, known as “Tommy in Greatcoat,” was completed a year later in Lindsay, Ontario. Once again Hahn returned to the portrayal of a somber figure like Fernie’s silent sentinel. Author MacLeod describes this moving work thusly: “His head bend downward, the soldier rests on his rifle, helmet hanging from his left forearm. His is an essay in pensive, quiet, contemplation. What is he thinking about? The answer is easy to imagine.”

On May 23 of that same year, in front of the Fernie courthouse, Hahn’s lone bareheaded soldier was officially unveiled. Beneath the bowed granite head of this perfect Hahn design are engraved the “books’, the lists of those lost in the Great War. There are a heartbreaking 93 names on two sides of the mount of this stone warrior. One other side carries a list of twenty souls lost in World War Two and a single entry for the Korean War.

Emanuel Hahn went on to do hundreds of Canadian designs. One need only reach into one’s pocket to find a Hahn original. The image of the famous Nova Scotia racing schooner “Bluenose” on our ten cent piece and the caribou head on the quarter are just a few of his varied coin designs. Hahn also sculpted the profile of Queen Elizabeth II that was used in 1953 on Canada’s coronation stamps.

Emanuel Hahn never had to slog through the mud of the trenches of Ypres or suffered the terrifying barrages of enemy artillery. Nor did he ever have to deal with the loss of a “beloved fellow soldier” but somehow he understood what horrors these men endured in the trenches. Whether his war memorial designs were allegorical or aggressive they never fail to reach us, from one end of this country to another.
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November 11th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 45
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