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Philadelphia Oddities

Mother and Twins Monument, Laurel Hill Cemetery

Mother and Twins Monument
Mother and Twins Monument

For many the most fascinating 95 acres in the city is a hilly Victorian cemetery with thousands of elaborate tombs, gravestones and soaring monuments. Laurel Hill, which opened in 1836, is as much a sculpture garden as burial ground. Of all the monuments in this National Historic Landmark, one stands alone for sheer pathos and poignancy. The monument is a statue of a mother holding her infant twins. It was carved by her husband and the twins' father — a professional sculptor — and overlooks the spot on the Schuylkill River where the babies drowned. For years, cemetery guides believed the mother and her children died together in a boating accident. But cemetery records show the children were buried March 6, 1855. The mother was interred on July 27, 1857.

The husband and father was Henry Dmoghowski-Saunders (or Sanders), a Polish sculptor whose busts of Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski are on display in the U.S. Capitol. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the deaths and not much is known of the Polish sculptor, except that after finishing the sad monument he returned to Europe and never came back to America. Time and the elements have done much to erase the details of the marble monument. There are inscriptions on three sides of the base in Polish and English.

To the memory of Mary Schaaff. Wife of Henry Dmoghowski-Saunders. Born Neustadt on the Rhine May 24, 1823. Died Philadelphia July 8, 1857. Her children repose with her.

Parts of the other English inscription are too worn to read. This is what can be made out:

We Should Count Time in Heart Throbs. He Most Lives who Thinks Most. Feels the Nobelest. Acts the Best.

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