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Joseph Mullicken (1704-1768)

Joseph Mullicken was the younger brother of Robert, Jr. and John. He had been apprenticing with his brothers when a distemper epidemic hit the area ca 1736. The call for gravestones was so great Joseph began carving that year along with his brothers. He favored his brother John’s carving style but not the Mullicken family imagery. Joseph began by carving stark skulls.  As his carving matured he became quite creative. Joseph was an innkeeper, tavern keeper and ferryman.

“Joseph”– Haverhill, MA
In 1718 Joseph’s father allowed Joseph to carve his name on the bottom of a gravestone. This bottom would have been hidden underground. For some reason the stone leans against a tree. Joseph was fourteen years old when he carved his name. Note each letter has a different style. This was an indication of what the teenager would eventually do with his gravestone art.

Stark skull Jonathan Colby – 1736 – Merrimac, MA
Without wings a skull sets in middle of lunette flanked by simple lines curled over at top against outer sides. The epidemic took many lives and sometimes whole families. It was a dark time in northeastern Massachusetts. Historians feel Joseph’s stark skull reflects the mood of the people at that time period. Authors are in agreement with the historians.

Fancy winged skull Hannah Ordway – 1741 – Newburyport, MA (formerly Newbury)
Joseph maintained his skull imagery while becoming expressive in his art. He added fancy wings of various designs. Here small concentric circles were placed in top of stylized wing. Finials have whorls a bit larger but similar in design to his brother, John’s whorls.

Woman’s gravestone (special design) Anna Rogers – 1747 – Newburyport, MA
During the 1740’s Joseph began to carve hair on the skull of women’s gravestones. This led to a bonnet later on. For this woman, he gave her hair. From the mid 1740’s onward Joseph gave every woman either hair or a bonnet. A women’s gravestone became readily recognizable when carved by Joseph Mullicken.



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