Literary editor and newspaper critic Laurence Hutton stumbled upon a life changing purchase in the late 1800s. While shopping in New York City, a young boy approached him claiming that he had a cast of a human face. Hutton immediately recognized that it was the face of Benjamin Franklin but was unsure of whether this cast was taken during Franklin’s lifetime and intrigued as to where this came from, so Hutton paid the boy to take him to where he found it. Upon arrival, Hutton found numerous other face casts of prominent figures such as George Washington and Union American Civil War general Philip Henry Sheridan.
From then on Hutton dedicated his time to collecting these masks and finding the proper historical documentation behind them. Today, this collection belongs to Princeton University and is accessible for research purposes only. This collection contains approximately 100 life and death masks of noteworthy English and American literary and political figures.