The Disappearance of the Plaster Casts

Naval Flight School, 1943.

Special Collections and University Archives, Colgate University Libraries.

When the casts were removed and where they were taken remain a mystery. In 1943, the casts were still in James B. Colgate Library, silently auditing a lecture for the Naval Flight Preparatory School that trained hundreds of naval cadets for the war effort. By 1956, the casts had long since evacuated the library.1 Rumor has it that it took twelve truckloads to deposit them in the local dump. Only the busts of Homer and Virgil, safeguarded by the Department of the Classics, continue to grace the Classics Center in Lawrence Hall.

1 “Mary Guller recalls ‘Good Old Days’ When World Wars and Roaring Twenties Brought Many Changes to College,” Colgate Maroon, March 7, 1956: 8.

Old chapel in Alumni Hall, date unknown.

Memorial Chapel Collection. Special Collections and University Archives, Colgate University Libraries.

The Surviving Casts

The only plaster casts remaining today are the busts of Homer and Virgil, given by the Classes of 1894 and 1895, respectively. The busts were originally placed in the old chapel housed in Alumni Hall.  Today, they are protected in the Classics Center of Lawrence Hall.

The third remaining bust is not plaster, but a more valuable marble bust of the Reverend Walter Brooks. Originally placed in the reading room of the old library in James B. Colgate Hall, this bust is currently housed in Case Library.

Reproduction of Portrait Bust of Homer.

1894. Plaster.

Department of the Classics, Colgate University.

Photo by Erica Hiddink '17.

Portrait Bust of Reverend Walter R. Brooks.

circa 1902. White Marble.

Colgate University Libraries.

Photo by Erica Hiddink '17.

Reproduction of Portrait Bust of Virgil.

1895. Plaster.

Department of the Classics, Colgate University.

Photo by Erica Hiddink '17.

This bust of Homer is the senior class gift of the Class of 1894. It is cast in plaster from a mold that was taken from a marble bust that now resides in the National Archaeological Museum at Naples.

Reverend Walter R. Brooks served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in the village of Hamilton from 1856 to 1873. He played a crucial role in the religious life of the town, bringing together the Hamilton and university communities to hear his extremely eloquent sermons.

This bust of Virgil is the senior class gift of the Class of 1895. It is modeled after a marble bust identified as a portrait of Virgil in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

Surviving Busts in Exhibition.

Photo by Erica Hiddink '17.