by Steve Starger
Photos by Valerie Dunn
The massive bronze statue of a quahogger, his dog, and a couple of bags of quahogs has stood at the base of a fountain in the library courtyard since its dedication in 1998. The piece, which features an eight-foot tall quahogger, appropriately celebrates Rhode Island’s heritage of quahogging, but not everyone may know who actually created the statue. For 14 years, the statue has stood without any identification of its creator.
That changed in June 2012, when two plaques were affixed to the base of the state, one bearing the official title of the statue and the name of the sculptor. That plaque reads: The Warwick Quahogger, A Day’s Catch by Antonio Tobias Mendez. Dedicated 1998. The other plaque is a dedication “in loving memory” of Murray S. Danforth Jr., the father-in-law of Governor Lincoln Chafee.
When the statue was dedicated, Gov. Chafee was the mayor of Warwick and Lincoln Almond was the governor. The unveiling of the statue came five years after Gov. Chafee had proposed the project. Total cost of the fountain and sculpture came to $150,000, which came from the Tourism Advisory Board and a private grant.
At the 1998 dedication ceremony, Chafee noted that, “Just as lobsters are to Maine and crabs are to Maryland, the quahog is a symbol of Rhode Island.
The quahog or hard-shelled clam represents many things to Rhode Islanders: a delicious seafood treat, a entryway to memories of “shore dinners” and community and family clambakes, an industry crucial to the state’s economy, and for many quahoggers past and present, memories of the backbreaking work of pulling quahogs out of the water and hoping for a good day’s catch. In fact, Rhode Island and quahogs are virtually inseparable.
To focus attention on the statue and on the state’s quahogging tradition, the library held its first Quahoggers Jamboree in June 2012. The event featured an outdoor concert, a meet-and-greet with local quahoggers, and children’s arts and crafts. The library hopes to make it an annual affair.
On your next trip to the library, take a closer look at this marvelous representation of Rhode Island’s water-based culture.
Learn about Warwick's quahogging heritage.