Proctor, Alexander Phimister (1860–1950)

By: Vivian A. Paladin

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: April 30, 2019

A. Phimister Proctor, sculptor, was born on September 27, 1860, at Bozanquit, Ontario, to Alexander and Tirzah (Smith) Proctor, the fourth in a family of eleven children. The family moved to Michigan in 1863, Iowa in 1864 or 1865, and six years later to Denver, Colorado. There Proctor developed a love for hunting and sketching wild animals. He took his first art lessons in Denver, and his first employment in art was with a wood-engraving firm, for which he made twenty wood engravings for a book entitled Hands Up (1880). In 1885 he sold a gold claim and with the proceeds went to New York to study at the National Academy of Design. Later he took drawing and anatomy classes at the Art Students League. Whenever finances permitted, Proctor visited his friends in the West and his family, who had moved by 1890 to the Pacific Northwest. In 1891 he met an official of the planned Columbian Exposition in Chicago and through him received his first important commission for sculptures. In the next two years, until the exposition opened in 1893, Proctor worked on thirty-seven animal sculptures, including elk, moose, bear, cougar, and mountain lion, all life-size. His work at the exposition established him as a sculptor of importance. There he also met Margaret Daisy Gerow, a promising young artist who gave up her career to become Proctor's wife. They were married on the artist's thirty-third birthday in 1893 and eventually had eight children. The couple went to Paris, where Proctor studied under a Rinehart scholarship and added to his reputation, especially in equestrian sculpture. In 1894 he was commissioned to model the horse for Augustus Saint-Gaudens's equestrian memorial to Gen. John A. Logan in Grant Park, Chicago. A few years later Proctor modeled the horse for Saint-Gaudens's equestrian statue of Gen. William T. Sherman in Central Park, New York City. He produced many well-regarded memorials and received top honors for sculpture at the Paris Exposition (1900), the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (1901), and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904). His major works, usually heroic monuments and especially equestrian ones, include General Lee and Young Soldier (dedicated in 1936 in Dallas), bronze tigers at the entrance to Nassau Hall at Princeton University; four large buffalo for the Q Street Bridge in Washington, D.C.; Bronco Buster and On the War Trail for the Civic Center grounds in Denver; The Rough Rider (Theodore Roosevelt) in Minot, North Dakota; Pioneer Mother memorials for Kansas City, Missouri, and Eugene, Oregon; and The Circuit Rider for Salem, Oregon.

Proctor's final large commission was for Mustangs (dedicated in 1948) at the University of Texas in Austin. In 1938, when Texas oilman Ralph Ogden determined to give a sculptured group of mustangs to the university, J. Frank Dobie, a friend of Ogden's, contacted Proctor. The sculptor responded by sculpting a model of a compact group of six mustangs standing fifteen inches high. When he brought his model to Texas, it was accepted after a colt was added. Proctor then spent most of 1939 on the Tom East Ranch (part of the King Ranch) in South Texas, using a live herd of wild mustangs for inspiration in his work. After the sculpture was finished, its casting and dedication were postponed due to metal shortages in World War II. The Gorham Bronze Foundry in Providence, Rhode Island, held the plaster model until the needed materials were released. On May 31, 1948, with Proctor in attendance, the nine-ton work in front of the Texas Memorial Museum was dedicated. Proctor wrote a memoir, published in 1971 by the University of Oklahoma Press as Sculptor in Buckskin. He left rough models of Jason Lee and John McLoughlin for the Oregon entry in Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C., a project that was completed by his son, Gifford MacGregor Proctor, the only one of Proctor's children to follow a serious career in art. Proctor died in Palo Alto, California, in 1950.

Vivian A. Paladin, "A. Phimister Proctor: Master Sculptor of Horses," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 14 (Winter 1964). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Peoples
  • English
  • Visual Arts
  • Sculpture

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Vivian A. Paladin, “Proctor, Alexander Phimister,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 30, 2019