Hartley Alexander

Hartley Alexander books and biography


Hartley Burr Alexander


Hartley Burr Alexander, Ph.D (1873–1939) American writer, educator, scholar, philosopher, poet and iconographer, born Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 9, 1873.


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Family and early years

Alexander's father, the Rev. George Sherman Alexander (1823 - 1894), was a Methodist minister and pioneer newspaper editor in Nebraska. These twin sources were to implant in young Hartley a delight in the written word and a healthy distrust of Christianity. His mother, Abigail Smith Alexander (1835 - 1876), died when he was three and in 1877 his father remarried Susan Godding (1829 - 1893). Ms. Godding had been a teacher and chairperson in the Methodist School in East Greenwich and at Friends College in Providence, Rhode Island, and brought with her to the harsh Nebraska frontier a love of art, music and language that was to stay with Alexander for the remainder of his long and productive life. Living on the frontier exposed Alexander to the ways of the First Peoples and was to instill in him an interest in Native religion and spirituality that was to form one of the paths of life that he was to follow. In 1890, while still in high school he wrote a poem, To a Child's Moccasin, (Found at Wounded Knee) that bucked the current philosophy that "the only good Indian was a dead Indian." This was not to be the only time that Alexander's conscience was to lead him to take an unpopular stand that would put him in opposition to the current American standards.


After graduating from high school in Syracuse, Nebraska in 1892 Alexander attended the University of Nebraska in nearby Lincoln. Following that he attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained his doctorate at Columbia University in 1901.

He received the Knight of the Legion of Honor award from the government of France in 1936 and was awarded an Honorary Membership in the American Institute of Architects for his collaboration with many of its architect members.

Career and accomplishments

He was on the staff of Webster's Dictionary from 1903—1908, then became professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska.


Alexander Family tombstone, Syracuse, Nebraska
Alexander Family tombstone, Syracuse, Nebraska

His published writings include:

  • The Problem of Metaphysics (1902)
  • Poetry and the Individual (1906)
  • The Mid-Earth Life (1907)
  • Odes on the Generations of Man (1910)
  • The Religious Spirit of the American Indian (1910)
  • Mythology of All Races, volume x: North American (1916); volume xi: Latin American (1920)
  • Liberty and Democracy (1918)
  • Letters to Teachers (1919)
  • Truth and the Faith (1929)

He wrote a volume of poetry, Odes and Lyrics (1921). In 1919 he served as president of the American Philosophical Society.


Burr is belived to have coined the tern iconographer to describe the work that he did developing iconographic schemes, decorative themes and inscriptions for a large number and variety of public buildings in the United States. These include:

  • Alexander family burial plot marker, Lee Lawrie, sculptor, c.1924, Syracuse, NE
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Century of Progress Exhibition, Chicago, Illinois, 1933
  • City Hall, Wight & Wight, architects, 1936, Kansas City, Missouri
In this commission each of the four sculptors involved, C. Paul Jennewein, Walker Hancock and Ulrik Ellerhusen were required to each pay Alexander $100 from their fee for his input.
Inscription, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
Inscription, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Fidelity Mutual Insurance Building, Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, architects, Lee Lawrie, sculptor, 1926, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Goodhue Memorial Fountain
  • Joslyn Art Museum, John and Alan McDonald, architects, 1931, Omaha Nebraska
  • Justice Department Building, Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, architects, 1931-1934, Washington D.C.
  • Los Angeles Public Library, Bertram G. Goodhue, architect, Lee Lawrie, sculptor, Los Angeles, California
  • Metropolitan Life Building, NYC
  • Myron Taylor Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • Nebraska State Capitol, Bertram G. Goodhue, architect, Lee Lawrie, sculptor, Lincoln Nebraska
  • Oregon State Capitol, Salem, Oregon Leo Friedlander, sculptor
  • Rockefeller Center, Lee Lawrie, Paul Manship, Rene Paul Chambellan et al, sculptors NYC
  • Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial, Paul Cret architect, Einar Jonsson, Heinz Warneke, John Flannagan, Jacques Lipchitz et al, sculptors, 1932 Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  • State Finance Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Title and Trust Building, Los Angeles, California
  • University of Nebraska Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

[edit Sources and resources

  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture in America, unpublished manuscript
  • Luebke, Frederick C. Editor, A Harmony of the Arts – The Nebraska State Capitol, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska 1990
  • Masters, Magaret Dale, Hartley Burr Alexander--Writer-In-Stone, Margaret Dale Masters 1992 .
  • Whitaker, Charles Harris,Editor, Text by Hartley Burrm Alexander, Lee Lawrie, Paul Cret et al, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Architect-and Master of Many Arts, Press of the American Institute of Architects, Inc., NYC 1925
  • Whitaker, Charles Harris and Hartley Burr Alexander, The Architectural Sculpture of the State Capitol at Lincoln Nebraska, Press of the American Institute of Architects, NY 1926

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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