There is scarcely a family of means and taste in the country but is the possessor of one or more of Rogers’s groups in plaster. You see them in every art or book-store window, and they are constantly finding new admirers, and rendering the name of the talented sculptor more and more a household word.
JOHN ROGERS, to whom the world is indebted for this new branch of art, was born at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 30th of October, 1829. His ancestors were among the original settlers of the colony, and have resided in Salem for generations. His father, a merchant of moderate means and good reputation, was anxious to train his son to some regular and profitable business. As the basis of this, he gave the boy a good education in the common schools of the town, and in 1845, when he was sixteen years old, placed him in a dry-goods store in Boston to learn the business. He remained there for two years.
He gave early evidence of his artistic genius, and when a mere child had shown a taste and talent for drawing which increased with his years, and made him eager to become an artist. His parents, however, were desirous of seeing him rich rather than famous, and did all in their power to discourage him from making choice of a vocation which they considered but little better than vagabondage. They magnified the difficulties and trials of an artist’s career, and so far succeeded in their efforts that he entirely abandoned his wish to make art a means of livelihood. He was not willing to forsake it altogether, however—he was too true an artist at heart for that—but contented himself for the time with continuing his efforts, merely as a means of personal enjoyment.
In 1847, feeling satisfied that he was not suited to a mercantile life, Mr. Rogers gave up his clerkship in Boston, and obtained a place in the corps of engineers engaged in the construction of the Cochituate Water Works. Here he had a fine opportunity for cultivating his talent for drawing, but the constant labor which he underwent so injured his eyes that he was compelled to give up his position. His physician advised him to make an ocean voyage for the purpose of re-establishing his health. Acting upon this advice, he made a short visit to Spain, and returned home very much improved by the voyage and the rest his eyes had enjoyed.
In 1848, soon after his return to this country, he entered a machine shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, to learn the trade of a machinist. He worked at this trade for a period of seven years, applying himself to it with great diligence and determination, and acquiring much mechanical skill and a thorough knowledge of the trade. He rose steadily through the various grades of his new calling—from the bench of the apprentice to the post of draughtsman in the designing department.