Artist Frederic Sackrider Remington, famous for depicting the American West in paintings and sculptures, married a woman who lived in Gloversville.
Eva Caten was born in Howlett Hill, near Syracuse, in 1859, went to school in that area, then lived at 85 S. Main St. in Gloversville as a young woman. Her father, Lawton, was superintendent of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad for 23 years.
Remington, born in 1861 in Canton, was an indulged only child. His father was a Civil War colonel. Eliphalet Remington, who founded the firearms factory in Ilion, was a distant cousin.
Frederic Remington loved the outdoors and physical activity. He had skill in art but was reluctant to take classes when he attended Yale. He left Yale in 1879 to help care for his father, who died of tuberculosis the next year.
Caten met Remington on an outing at Cranberry Lake that same year. Historian Jacqueline Murphy wrote: “Frederic fell deeply in love and lost no time in asking for her hand. Frederic’s reputation of his inability to hold a job preceded him and Mr. Caten refused. Daunted but determined to make his fortune, Frederic set out for the west.”
Eva and Frederic finally married in 1884 in Gloversville. Remington was living in Kansas City at the time. Eva went there, but shortly left Frederic and returned to Gloversville, discouraged that her husband was half-owner of a saloon.
They reconciled within a year, and Remington’s career as a magazine and book illustrator took off. Murphy said the turning point came when an illustration of the search for Geronimo appeared under Remington’s name in Harper’s Weekly in 1886. He began to sculpt in 1895. Hearst newspapers sent him to Cuba to sketch the Spanish-American War.
Murphy wrote: “On December 20, 1909, [Remington] went to bed with severe stomach pains. Although he had an emergency appendectomy, he died the day after Christmas. He was 48 years old and at the peak of his career.” The artist was extremely overweight, and that may have contributed to his demise.
The Remingtons were then living in Ridgefield, Conn. Eva wrote in her diary: “It seems very lonesome without Frederic. The whole house is filled with his presence. Feel as though all had gone from me.”
Sue Schrems, who was a history professor at Rose State College in Oklahoma City, said Eva set to work marketing the sketches, paintings and sculptures her husband left behind to provide a steady income. Eva knew she needed to keep alive the public’s interest in Remington’s work illustrating the West.
In 1915, Eva moved to Ogdensburg in the North Country, near where her husband originally came from. She died there in 1918 and gave many of Remington’s western art works to the Ogdensburg library.
Remington’s 1895 sculpture “Bronco Buster” has been called the most famous piece of American art. An original cast of the statue can be seen during presidential speeches delivered from the Oval Office at the White House.
An 18-inch-high copy of “Bronco Buster” was given to the Gloversville Public Library by local relatives of Eva Caten Remington in 1919. In 1932, the statue was stolen by someone who had hidden inside the library at closing time.
The thief, named in news accounts as Charles Bell, sold the statue for $100 to an antiques dealer in Woodstock. The statue (identified by a secret marking put on the statue by the library) was located by authorities in New York City and returned to the library on East Fulton Street in Gloversville, where it is still there on display.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.