Edison Goes to Washington

edison-statueAlan Cottrill, a farm boy from Zanesville who didn’t begin sculpting until he was 38, has been picked as the creator of a statue of Ohio native Thomas A. Edison for the U.S. Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The Ohio Statuary Hall Commission made the announcement yesterday afternarrowing the list to three finalists two weeks ago. Cottrill was picked over Thomas Lingeman of Perrysburg and Emanuel Enriquez of Bowling Green.

Best of all, the bronze statue of the Milan, Ohio, inventor already is done.

Cottrill, 62, decided some time ago that he was going to make an Edison statue – win or lose.

“I didn’t do it for the money. This is about as high an honor as a sculptor can get,” Cottrill said. “I decided I was going to make the absolutely best statue of Edison I could and if they didn’t pick me, it would become the crowning piece of my studio in Zanesville.”

Cottrill’s selection still must be approved by the state, the architect of the U.S. Capitol, and the Joint Committee of the Library of Congress.

Cottrill’s winning design is of a life-size Edison holding up the incandescent lightbulb, one of many inventions that made him an international figure. He also is credited with inventing the phonograph and kinetoscope, a predecessor to the movie projector, and his name is on 1,000 patents.

“We were thoroughly impressed by the credentials and designs of the three finalists we considered for the project, but ultimately felt that Mr. Cottrill’s representation of Thomas Edison was the one we wanted to represent Ohio in the Capitol,” said Douglass W. McDonald, president and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati Museum Center, which was involved in the process.

“Mr. Cottrill’s design captures the ingenuity and industriousness in Edison that is inside every Ohioan. We’re excited to see Mr. Cottrill’s design come to fruition and get Edison to the Capitol.”

Cottrill was selected out of an original field of 30 artists who responded to a request to submit proposals. The commission said Cottrill’s 20 years of experience and 500 figurative statues that he’s created “ensured the commission that Edison would be in good hands.”

“It’s an unusual and prestigious honor to select an individual to represent the state of Ohio in the U.S. Capitol,” said Mark Wagoner, a commission member. “We know that this opportunity may never present itself again, so we need to get it right.”

Cottrill served in the U.S. Army, worked as a truck driver and started a pizza franchise before turning to sculpting in 1991 following a motorcycle crash. Since that time, he has turned out hundreds of sculptures, many of them located in public spaces, including an 8-foot bronze likeness of former Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes that’s on the Columbus main campus.

Fund-raising for the project, which is to be entirely privately funded, has been slow, with just $40,000 raised of an estimated $2 million needed for the work.

The statue of Edison will replace Ohio Gov. William Allen in the U.S. Capitol hall, which includes two statues from each state. Allen’s pro-slavery views were deemed inappropriate to represent modern-day Ohio. Ohio’s other statue, of President James A. Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881, will remain.

The Edison project has been in the works since Ohioans voted for Edison over the Wright brothers in a statewide contest to decide on a statue.

Information about Cottrill and his Zanesville studio can be found online at www.alancottrill.com/index.html.


From the Columbus Dispatch