Thursday, May 5, 2016



Sara Clampitt was born in Lewes 13 August 1817, her father being a river pilot on the Delaware. Her brother John, also a Lewes native, was a carpenter and after the Civil War became a surfman for the Life Saving Service. After moviing with her father to Philadelphia Sara married the portrait artist Joseph Alexander Ames of Massachusetts 9 September 1845 and the newly weds made a year visit to Italy where her husband painted a portrait of Pope Pius IX. Returning to America in the 1850's Sara was active in the anti slave crusade where she met Abraham Lincoln.
During the Civil War she was a nurse at a hospital in the Capitol Buildiing in Washington and was an occasional visitor to the White House on duties and had suggested to the President to have her do a sculpture of him which required a photograph of him for her to work from. This photograph was made by Alexander Gardener in his studio at 7th & D Streets and a photo of Lincoln staring directly into the camera was the one chosen for the model. This photo was observed as the most interesting ever taken of Lincoln, it's rugged homeliness, the deep attraction of suffering and sympathy showing Lincoln's true picture for his bust. Daniel Chester French used the Gardner photograph as a model for the statue in the Lincoln Memorial. The Clampitt bust of Lincoln was purchased by the Federal government in 1868 and placed in the Capitol , third floor east corridor of the Senate Wing. Copies are in the Massachusetts statehouse, three museums in Massachusetts and the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia. Sara died 8 March 1901 in Washington, D.C. She and her husband were parents of Emily Girdlestone Ames, Emma Ames, Josephine Ames, Robert Fisher Ames and Sophia Marguerite Ames, all being descendents of Major John Whistler, a British soldier in the American Revolution, who returned to America to enlist in the U. S. Army duriing War of 1812 and served in the American west against the native Indians.

Abstract from Delaware Coast News, Delaware Diary by Michael Morgan

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