Launt Thompson’s career as a sculptor began when he made the acquaintance of sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer in 1848. One year earlier, Thompson had emigrated from Ireland with his widowed mother and settled in Albany, NY. He spent nine years as Palmer’s assistant; during that time he developed a facility with clay modeling and marble carving.
Thompson relocated to New York City in 1857 during a particularly fertile period for the Pfaff’s regulars; he established a studio on Tenth Street, where several other individuals who were connected to Pfaff's also maintained spaces. At his Tenth Street studio, Thompson began producing busts and statues. Referring to him as a pupil of Palmer, one source explains that “Thompson has executed some very characteristic portrait busts and several statues of great merit” (The First Century 414). Writing about a visit to the studio, Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich remarks: "Mr. Launt Thompson’s studio was one of the largest, and as he was always a great favorite, choice spirits were always to be met there day and night" (Crowding Memories 56). Thompson also ventured over to Pfaff's, and scholar Justin Martin even argues that he was one of the "regulars in the saloon's early days" (62). William Winter also places Thompson among the artists who frequented Pfaff's (66).
Thompson and Thomas Bailey Aldrich both shared a friendship with Edwin Booth, another Pfaffian. The men were "the two knights who drew the glove and entered the field; their code to be: inseparable companionship; never two, always one" with Booth. Their friends had decided, based on a request from Mrs. Booth, who was unable to travel with her husband, that these two men would constantly chaperone the actor (Crowding Memories 31). Thompson maintained his friendship with the Booths after President Lincoln was killed; it was Thompson who was charged with escorting Mrs. Booth to a train to Philadelphia after the assassination of Lincoln when her daughter fell ill. The pair had to drive to Jersey City from New York; Thompson could hear a newsboy on the streets proclaim the death of John Wilkes Booth, but attempted to distract Mrs. Booth until he could get a paper and confirm the details. After finding Mrs. Booth a seat on the train, Thompson went off to find a paper, where he confirmed the details. He gave Mrs. Booth the paper and told her the news of the death of her son (Crowding Memories 75-76).
After becoming a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1862, Thompson exhibited his work in Paris and then traveled in Italy before he returned home to marry Maria L. Potter and to complete a bronze statue of Abraham Pierson in 1874 and a bronze of General Winfield Scott which is placed on the grounds of the Washington, DC Old Soldiers’ Home. After another visit to Italy, Thompson returned to New York in 1881; he died thirteen years later in Middletown, NY.
The sculptor Launt Thompson is among the company the Booths mention to be present at the Stoddards' home during their first visit (18).
Aldrich and Thompson were frequent guests in Booth's box during his New York engagement (25). During this visit, Thomspon and Aldrich were "the two knights who drew the glove and entered the field; their code to be: inseparable companionship; never two, always one" with Booth. Their friends had decided, based on a request from Mrs. Booth, who was unable to travel with her husband, that these two men would constantly chaperone the actor (31).
Of the popular artists' studios at the time, "Mr. Launt Thompson's studio was one of the largest, and as he was always a great favorite, choice spirits were always to be met there day and night." Mrs. Aldrich recalls that a few days after her engagement was announced, she and Mr. Aldrich were present at Thompson's studio for the making of a cast of a hand. "There seemed to be wireless communication throughout the entire building, so that if anything of interest was happening in any of the rooms the whole community knew of it." Mrs. Aldrich recalls that there was a huge statue in the middle of the room (she thinks it was of General Scott), his sculpture "The Trapper," was finished and mounted, the life-sized bust of Booth as Hamlet was in progress, a beautifully chiseled face of a girl could be seen, and there was a plaster medallion of Mr. Aldrich that was given to him as a wedding present. There were also "numerous torsos, legs and arms, hands and feet, hung on pegs and nails all over the brown-stained walls of the room, with here and there a piece of tapestry or bright rugs to give warmth and color, and always in a corner the alcohol urn for the brewing of tea or coffee for the unexpected or expected guest (56-57).
Thompson took Mrs. Booth to the train station after the assassination of President Lincoln (75-76).[pages:18,22,25,31,56-57,75-76]
The article mentions the completion of Thompson's statue of Napoleon I.[pages:7]
The column mentions that Launt Thompson displayed two bas reliefs at the previous reception but did not display anything during this most recent event (2).[pages:2]
Thompson was a sculptor. He is mentioned as a member of Aldrich's "nearer circle of contemporaries" during his experience in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Greenslet notes, "Launt Thompson's admirable busts of Booth and Bryant and heroic statues of Generals Scott and Burnside have given him the sculptor's immortality so strangley blended of tangible and shadowy elements" (38).
A collected edition of Aldrich's poetry to be published by Ticknor & Fields was "embellished with an exquisite steel engraving of the poet after the medallion by his friend Launt Thompson" (63).
Greenslet claims that in 1865 "the only cloud came through his love and friendship for Edwin Booth, who, after the assassination of Lincoln by his brother John, feeling that the name Booth must be forever the synonym of infamy, shut himself moodily within his house. There for weeks and months he lived, the melancholy target for all the cruel notes and letters that came daily to his door. The only mitigations of his mood came through the friendly ministrations of Launt Thompson and Aldrich, who shared his solitude both day and night" (72-3).[pages:38,63,73]
Thompson is described by Lalor as a "non-literary artist," perhaps a painter or a sculptor (3).[pages:3]
Launt is identified by Rawson as a "sculptor" (103).[pages:103]
The author describes Thompson as an Irishman who has become Americanized. He also mentions Launt's nine years working under Palmer.[pages:414]
Thompson was one of the artists that came to Pfaff's Cave (66).
In a letter to Winter from Aldrich discussing Winter's Life and Art of Edwin Booth, Aldrich mentions that he is glad Winter included Thompson's bust of Edwin Booth among the illustrations (374).[pages:66,374]
Launt is mentioned as having been an usher at Shattuck's wedding.[pages:1,]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015