John Marr (1831 - 1921)

Birth date: 1831 Death date: 1921  
Birth location: Benshausen, Germany Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: Ceramic , Decorative Art , Graphic Art , Metalsmithing , Sculpture Web site:
Comprehensive (file rating) - Major Wisconsin artist file that includes comprehensive documentation on artist's life that can be researched on site at MWA.


John (Johann) Marr

Born 1832 in Benshausen, Germany

Died 1921 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As a destitute young German boy, Johann Marr was forced to live with a jeweler and engraver; he cared for the man's property in exchange for room and board.  The man was good to Johann and became his mentor, teaching him the trade over the course of five years.  In 1850 Johann emigrated to the United States where he worked as an engraver at the Colt gun factory in Hartford, Connecticut for five years. 

In 1856 Marr moved to Milwaukee and set up an engraving practice with Danish engraver named Peter L. Mossin. The firm of Mossin and Marr became one of the main producers of dies that were used to stamp Civil War era tokens.  The tokens were issued due to the scarcity of small coins during the war.  Many of those dies that were made for Milwaukee merchants were made by Marr because of the high quality of his workmanship.  The commercial use of tokens was made illegal after the Civil War.

In 1858 John’s son, Carl Marr, was born.  He would later become one of Wisconsin's most notable artists, establishing himself in Munich, Germany.  In 1880 Johann Marr, later known as John Marr, went into partnership with an American xylographer (wood engraver) named Richards.  At that time, newspapers and other publications would hire engravers to engrave pictures on woodblocks, which would be used to print illustrations for publications. 

Although known primarily as a commercial engraver, John Marr was also a competent sculptor.  He created relief sculptures of family members and portraits of prominent Milwaukee citizens such as Frederich Ludwig Jahn, founder of Milwaukee’s Turner Hall.  The proposal for the Jahn portrait was a plaster cast and is in the West Bend Art Museum’s collection.  Few examples of Marr’s plaster casts remain today and most are in the West Bend Art Museum collection.  It is not known if any bronze castings were made of his work.

Selected Publications

n.d.      My Life an autobiography by John (Johann) Marr, originally translated from

German to English by Melitta Suder Pick. West Bend art Museum 1998


© 10/23/2007 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, Wisconsin                                                          10/23/2007

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