Settling of the Seaboard (1942)

by Wheeler Williams (1897 - 1972)

Photo Caption: Photo Alec Rogers for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Settling of the Seaboard

  • Artist

    Wheeler Williams (1897 - 1972)

  • Year


  • Location

    South Terrace of Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial (north of Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive)

  • Medium

    Limestone, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 12’1″, width 17'10", depth 5'6" (base height 3′, width 11', depth 5'6")

  • Themes

    Native American Themes

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art), bequest of Ellen Phillips Samuel

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

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At A Glance

  • Commissioned for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial

  • The artwork celebrates the earliest settlers of the U.S.

  • Artist Wheeler Williams created works for bridges, post offices and other public and private sites

A celebration of the earliest settlers of the United States, Wheeler Williams’ Settling of the Seaboard is a relief carving of four figures: a young man, a woman gesturing dramatically toward the distance, the infant in her arms, and an American Indian sitting peacefully at their side. A native of Chicago, Williams was an experienced monument-maker who trained as a sculptor and architect. He created works for bridges, post offices and other public and private sites.

R. Sturgis Ingersoll, a member of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s (now the Association for Public Art) Samuel Memorial committee, described the artwork as a “somewhat conventional statement,” yet it is notable as the only representation of a Native American among the sculptures originally commissioned for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial.

South Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial
The South Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial. Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

The South Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial

After the second Sculpture International in 1940, the Samuel Memorial committee selected four sculptors to express the governing themes of the new South Terrace – the settlement of the eastern coast and the emergence of the United States as an independent, democratic nation. The two principal groups were carved as reliefs, the other four sculptures as free-standing figures.

Sculptures in the South Terrace:

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Voices heard in the Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program: Penny Balkin Bach is the former Executive Director & Chief Curator of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art. Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Michael W. Zuckerman is Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and specializes in American Studies. He served on the Consultant Board for PBS “History Detectives” and is the Museum Without Walls Consulting Historian. | Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is the Association for Public Art’s award-winning audio program for Philadelphia’s outdoor sculpture. Available for free by phone, mobile app, or online, the program features more than 150 voices from all walks of life – artists, educators, civic leaders, historians, and those with personal connections to the artworks.



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