Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Clevenger, Shobal Vail

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CLEVENGER, Shobal Vail, sculptor, b. near Middletown, Butler co., Ohio, 22 Oct., 1812; d. at sea, 23 Sept., 1843. He was the son of a New Jersey weaver, went to Cincinnati when a boy, and found occupation as a stone-cutter. Having developed artistic ability, as was shown by some very creditable tombstone work, he was induced by David Guid to carve busts in freestone. His first effort in this direction was the likeness of E. S. Thomas, then editor of the Cincinnati “Evening Post,” which was executed directly in the stone, without the intervention of plaster. He subsequently devoted himself to art, and transferred his studio to New York. Among his sitters were William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, and Washington Allston. Specimens of his work are now preserved in the art-galleries of the Boston athenaeum, the New York and Philadelphia historical societies, the Metropolitan museum of art in New York, and the Academy of fine arts in Philadelphia. His bust of Daniel Webster, recognized as the most faithful likeness of the great statesman, was selected by the Post-office department as best adapted for representation on the fifteen cent U. S. postage-stamp. In 1840 he went to reside in Rome, where he executed the “North American Indian,” which was the first distinctive American piece of sculpture made in Rome, and attracted a large number of Italians to his studio. While in Italy he contracted pulmonary phthsis by inhalation of stone-dust. He died when one day's sail from Gibraltar, and his body was consigned to the ocean. His works are characterized by remarkable fidelity, strength, and beauty of execution. Henry T. Tuckerman says of him: “Brief as was the life of Clevenger, it was for the most part happy and altogether honorable.” — His son, Shobal Vail, physician, b. in Florence, Italy, 24 March, 1843, received his early education in the Jesuit college of New Orleans, and later was graduated at Chicago medical college. In 1860 he filled a clerkship in a St. Louis bank, which he resigned to visit New Mexico, crossing the plains for this purpose, but returning soon after the beginning of the civil war. He enlisted in the U. S. army, and served in the engineer corps, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. Subsequently he was engaged in surveying in Montana and Dakota, and filled the office of U. S. deputy surveyor. Later he built the first telegraph-line through Dakota, and for a time was chief engineer of the Dakota southern railroad. In 1873 he began the study of medicine under army surgeons in Fort Sully, while holding the appointment of civilian meteorologist in the U. S. signal service. He settled in Chicago in 1879, and after studying medicine became a specialist in nervous and mental diseases. For some years he was pathologist to the Chicago county insane asylum, and he is consulting physician in his specialties to the Michael Reese hospital and to the Alexian Brothers' hospital. He has also held the professorship of anatomy in the Art institute of Chicago. Dr. Clevenger is a member of many scientific organizations, and a frequent contributor to the scientific press. He has published a “Treatise on Government Surveying” (New York, 1874); “Comparative Physiology and Psychology” (Chicago, 1885); and “Lectures on Artistic Anatomy and the Sciences Useful to the Artist” (New York, 1887).