Boston Mayors: Andrew Peters, Malcolm Nichols and Frederick Mansfield

Bronze portrait relief

Andrew J. Peters (1872-1938) was the 42nd Mayor of Boston when his portrait was cast in bronze by Frederick Warren Allen in 1921. His term ended the next year, but he liked the plaque so well that he ordered one for himself! This commission was one of three mayoral portraits received through Charles Coolidge, Architect.

The Boston School of Artists believed in portraying their subjects honestly and naturally rather than idealizing them. In the Peters portrait, notice the realistic details of the bushy eyebrows, the thin hair and the facial wrinkles.

Size of unframed medallion: 11 9/16”
     Another size noted of 14 3/8” may be the framed copy.
Signed under the chin
Inscription: ANDREW J. PETERS-MAYOR of BOSTON-1918-19 -20-21 F.W.ALLEN FECIT
Sold for $400
Two or three copies cast in bronze, one with dark patina in a square dark oak frame with mitered corners, sold at auction, now in private collection [Jean Gibran] One for Mayor Peters
Perhaps a third copy retained by Allen.
One with a golden patina was found in the family collection and was given to a granddaughter. [Laurel Beetham Harrison in the summer of 2012].

This was to be the first of three mayoral portraits done by Allen for the City of Boston for what Allen’s wife recorded as the “Hall of Fame” in Old City Hall. Andrew J Peters served 1918-1922, Malcolm Nichols 1926-30 and Frederick Mansfield 1934-38.

A 1913 press conference with Mayor Curley at Boston's Old City Hall shows the Mayoral portrait display in the background. F.W.Allen sculpted three such portraits 8 and 16 years after this photo was taken.

The Allen Diary dates the Nichols and Mansfield portraits in 1937. A plan to portray all of the mayors never was carried out, but these three hung in City Hall until it was gutted for renovation in 1969. A search has been conducted to find what happened to the portraits of Mayors Nichols and Mansfield, but for now there is only one image to show, that of Mayor Peters. Two copies have been discovered, one in a square wooden frame found at auction by one of Allen’s pupils and another unframed in a personal collection.

Peters was from an old Massachusetts family, born in Jamaica Plain. He lived near the Arnold Arboretum (Peter’s Hill at the Arnold Arboretum is named after him), attended private school and was a Harvard educated lawyer. A career politician, he held posts in the State Legislature, in Congress and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury before becoming Mayor of Boston after which he returned to his law practice and his farm in Dover, MA.

As Mayor he is known for his actions in the 1919 Boston Police Strike. Peters’ commitment to the financial health of the city was disgraced by some subordinates and his reputation was further damaged by a relationship with a young female relative, the story of which became a part of O’Hara’s Butterfield 8. His character also played a part in Lehane’s book, The Given Day.

Perhaps Allen knew him in North Haven where he had property. His grave is at Forest Hills Cemetery where he had served as a Trustee.

Bronze portrait relief
Size: 11 9/16” – 14 3/8” diameter

Malcolm Nichols (1896-1951) was a Boston Brahmin and a Republican, the last of that party to serve as Mayor. Born in Maine and educated at Harvard and Harvard Law School (earning money playing at piano bars), he became a journalist and newspaper reporter working on political stories. Nichols served in both branches of the Massachusetts legislature and as Federal Tax Collector before becoming Mayor from 1916-1930, sandwiched between Curley and Mansfield. While Mayor he built the Dorchester Tunnel extension of the famous “Boston Elevated” for which he was credited with driving “the last spike with a gilded hammer.”

A jovial and friendly man and a sound financial manager, there was a surge in the public and private building business during his tenure. “He sounded like a Democrat to me,” his granddaughter said, with his promotion of education and job-creation programs. He was a witty man and kind, helping some neighbors pay for milk deliveries. There are photos of him with Amelia Earhart and one with Charles Lindbergh wearing a top hat, apparently the last Mayor to do so regularly. He too is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery.

Nichols presenting bouquet of roses to Amelia Earhart
Nichols with Charles Lindbergh

Bronze portrait relief
Size: 11 9/16” – 14 3/8” diameter

Frederick W. Mansfield (1877-1958) served as the 46th Mayor of Boston from 1934-1938 after Michael Curley’s third term. Born and brought up in East Boston, he served in the Navy as an apothecary then worked as a pharmacist. He earned his L.L.B. degree from Boston University School in 1902 and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar of which he served as president. Another political position he held for a year was as the first Democratic Treasurer and Receiver General of the Commonwealth from 1914-1915. As a lawyer he was counsel for many years to the American Federation of Labor and to the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church.

Mansfield was an Irish-Catholic Democrat and a progressive idealist, serving during the difficulties of the Great Depression. He used the radio to his advantage, broadcasting from his office in Old City Hall. As Mayor, he was able to make significant changes in the city, using the federal WPA to advantage in extending subway lines and upgrading city parks. His administration oversaw the construction of a Boston City Hospital building, a golf course, theFaneuil Hall reconstruction and seven new schools. Financially, he modernized the city’s accounting and auditing systems while reducing the debt and pushing for sales tax on non-necessities and the creation of low-income housing. He remained prominent in politics until his death and is buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, MA.

Further information on these and other mayors can be found in these books:

  • The Hub: Boston past and present by Thomas H. O’Connor
  • Planning the City Upon a Hill: Boston Since 1630 by Lawrence W. Kennedy

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