Hancock's Spartan Youth 

Milton Hershey School

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

After Treatment This sculpture, as displayed near the main entrance of the Milton Hershey School, Hershey, Pennsylvania, was produced by sculptor Walter Hancock (1901-1998). The recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1989, Mr. Hancock’s career began in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, while studying at Washington University’s School of Fine Arts. After completing a year, he transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia; where he would later teach. From 1921 through 1925, while still a student, Hancock created an impressive portfolio that earned him several awards including: the Edmund Stewardson Prize (1921), the William Emlen Cresson Traveling Scholarship (1922 and 1923), the George D. Widener Memorial Gold Medal (1925), and the Prix de Rome (1925). The latter enabled him to study for three years at the American Academy in Rome. After he completed his studies, Hancock eventually returned to PAFA to teach for a short time. He established a studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he continued his work. Hancock’s post educational accolades were as equally impressive to those of his formative years. He won the national competition to design the Air Medal during World War II, made several major changes to the National Cathedral, and among others, created the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial—his most famous work. Hancock continued to sculpt and teach from his studio until his retirement. A year before he passed away, he was honored with an autobiography entitled A Sculptor’s Fortunes published by the Cape Ann Historical Association. Hancock passed away in 1998.

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

Before TreatmentDue to an apparent deterioration in the aesthetic characteristics of the sculpture, B.R. Howard & Associates was contacted by the Milton Hershey School to provide an assessment of the overall integrity of the piece. Once on site, it was determined that the sculpture was in a poor and unstable condition as the result of the loss of it protective wax coating and underlying patina. The bright bronze substrate was exposed over the majority of the figure. This was caused by extensive abrasive cleaning; however, remnants of the original dark patina were still evident within the recessed areas. This remaining patina created a visually distracting and mottled appearance. Additionally, there were some minor areas of active, green copper sulfate corrosion noted in some of the recessed areas as well as along the lower edge of the integral cast bronze base. Lastly, the grout lines were observed to have white residue, likely from an accumulation of previously used cleaning products.

TREATMENT

Application of the PatinaAfter providing the Milton Hershey School with a condition assessment, B.R. Howard & Associates was contracted to provide conservation treatment for the sculpture. This process began with extensive “before treatment” photo documentation. Treatment then commenced with a thorough cleaning of the sculpture using a diluted aqueous cleaning solution. The application of the cleaning solution was done with lambs wool mittens and natural sea sponges. The areas of copper sulfate were then mechanically reduced. The piece was then rinsed with potable water and dried using lint free cotton rags. The bronze was then re-patinated using a dilute ferric nitrate solution applied to its heated bronze surface. This process was then given time to dry, then once dry, the surface of the sculpture was again heated and a specialized microcrystalline wax was applied to the surface. When complete, twenty-four hours was provided before a second coating of was applied. The piece was then buffed. Throughout treatment, “during treatment” photo documentation was performed. Once completed, “after treatment” images were taken and a treatment report was compiled. This report was then issued to the Milton Hershey School.


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