Two of Boston’s eminent historical figures converge in the Perkins Monument, sculpted in 1843.
Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a Boston Brahmin and wealthy merchant, had built one of the first railroads to carry Quincy granite to the ocean. He was a merchant in the fur and china trades, and became a philanthropist in his later years. Perkins left his residence to the Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, which was later renamed the Perkins Institute for the Blind. In 1843, at the age of 79, Perkins commissioned a sculpture to ‘guard’ his underground tomb.
He called upon Horatio Greenough to create the work. Greenough had studied at the Phillips Academy and Harvard before moving to Rome to study abroad. He was taught to cut marble by Alpheus Carey (sculptor of Hannah Adams’s monument , the first erected at Mount Auburn), supported by the famous Washington Allston, and called the first professional American sculptor. Greenough sculpted the realistic St. Bernard dog for Perkins while still in Italy. The beloved pet is a symbol of loyalty and companionship, and a guide through the afterlife.