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Special Collections

The McComas Collection

death masks

Death masks are wax or plaster casts made of a person’s face after death. The McComas Collection (1955-2013), in the McDaniel College Archives, contains life and death masks of 66 famous and infamous persons, as well as other paper manuscript materials relating to the collection. The masks in this collection are believed to be cast from masks in the Lawrence Hutton Collection at Princeton University. They were collected by Dr. Henry C. McComas, and given to the College by his cousin, alumni Philip Myers.

View the Archives Catalog record for the McComas Collection.

Read the McDaniel Free Press article, "Hoover Library: Home of the Hundred Death Masks" (October 2015).

Life and Death Mask List

The masks are listed below in alphabetical order by name. Dates given are years of birth and death.

If you are McDaniel Faculty and would like to use the masks as an educational tool for your classes, please contact the Archivist to make arrangements.


Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)Italian poet and statesman of the Late Middle Ages; author of the "Divine Comedy"

Lawrence Barrett (1838-1891)American stage actor

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)German Classical and Romantic composer and pianist

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer; regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and subsequent Revolutionary Wars; Emperor of the French from 1804-1815

Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868)1st Baron Brougham and Vaux; British statesman who was Lord Chancellor of Great Britain from 1830-1834

Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849)French-born engineer who developed plans for the Thames Tunnel

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who served as a member of parliament in London, England as a representative of the Whig Party

Robert Burns (half-skull) (1759-1796)Scottish poet and lyricist, regarded as the national poet of Scotland

Aaron Burr (1756-1836)American politician, third Vice President of the United States

John C. Calhoun (1782-1850)American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina, and seventh Vice President of the United States

Antonio Canova (1757-1822)Italian neoclassical sculptor, famous for his marble sculptures

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832)American signer of the U. S. Declaration of Independence for Maryland and son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis

Ben Caunt (1815-1861)English bare-knuckle boxer who became the heavyweight boxing champion known as the "Torkard Giant" and "Big Ben"

Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour (1810-1861)Italian statesman and leading figure in the movement towards Italian unification

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)Scottish minister, professor of theology, political economist, and a leader of the Church of Scotland and of the Free Church of Scotland

Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718)King of Sweden from 1697-1718

Henry Clay, Jr. (1811-1847)American politician and soldier from Kentucky, third son of U. S. Senator and Congressman Henry Clay

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)English poet, literary critic, and philosopher; considered a founder of the Romantic Movement in England with William Wordsworth, with whom he jointly published "Lyrical Ballads"

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)English military and political leader, later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)British politician and writer, twice serving as Prime Minister, who played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party

Frederick II The Great of Prussia (1712-1786)King of Prussia from 1740-1786

David Garrick (1717-1779)English actor, playwright, and theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century; pupil and friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson

Girl from the River Seine (L'Inconnue de la Seine) (ca. late 1800s)An unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the Seine River at the Quai du Louvre in Paris in the late 1800s

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)German writer and statesman; author of "Faust" and "Wilhelm Meister s Apprenticeship"

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)18th President of the United States and leader of the Union Army during the American Civil War

Henry IV of France (1553-1610)French monarch from the House of Bourbon, King of Navarre (as Henry III) from 1572-1610 and King of France from 1589-1610

Edmund Kean (1787-1833)British Shakespearean stage actor

John Keats (1795-1821)English Romantic poet

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834)French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)American general known for commanding the Confederate Army in the American Civil War

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)Italian poet, philosopher, essayist, and philologist

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)Sixteenth President of the United States, lead the United States through the American Civil War

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and nationalist

Maria Malibran (1808-1836)Spanish mezzo-soprano who was one of the most famous opera singers of the 19th century.

Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793)French political theorist and radical journalist during the French Revolution

John McCullough (1832-1885)American actor

Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1779-1801)Maternal grandmother of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)German Romantic composer, pianist, and conductor

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer; lyricist of "The Last Rose of Summer"

Napoleon III (1808-1873)Nephew and heir of Napoleon I; only President of the French Second Republic and Emperor of the Second French Empire

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)English physicist and mathematician widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution

Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892)English biologist, comparative anatomist, and paleontologist, known for his work with fossils

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary; one of the Foundinf Fathers of the United States and author of "Common Sense"

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)Longest-reigning elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving for over 31 years, from 1846-1878

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeaû (1749-1791)French noble leader of the early stages of the French Revolution

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)French lawyer and politician, an influential figure of the French Revolution, the defense of the Republic, and the Reign of Terror

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)English poet, illustrator, painter, and translator, who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brother in 1848

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)German poet, philosopher, physician, historian, and playwright; friend and contemporary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe from 1788-1805

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet with many contemporary readers in Europe, Australia, and North America; author of "Ivanhoe"

Alois Senefelder (1771-1834)German actor and playwright who invented the printing technique of lithography in 1796

Richard B. Sheridan (1751-1816)Irish satirist, playwright, and poet; long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane; author of "The Rivals" and "The School for Scandal"

William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891)American soldier, businessman, educator, and author, who served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War; received criticism for his "scorched earth" policies during warfare against the Confederate States

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)Irish novelist and Anglican clergyman; author of "Tristram Shandy" and "A Sentimental Journey"

John L. Sullivan (1858-1818)American boxer known as the "Boston Strong Boy," recognized as the first Heavyweight Champion of gloved boxing, holding the title from 1882-1892

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and cleric; author of "Gulliver's Travels" and "A Modest Proposal"

Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem "La Gerusalemme Liberata"

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865)British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister from 1855-1865

Celia Thaxter (1835-1894)American poet and short story author born in New England

Unknown Student (unknown)Death mask of an unknown male student

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883)German composer, theatre director, and conductor, primarily known for his operas; composer of "Ride of the Valkyries"

George Washington (1732-1799)First President of the United States, Commander-in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States

Daniel Webster (1782-1852)American statesman who served in the House of Representatives and as a U. S. Senator, twice the U. S. Secretary of State, serving under three presidents

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)American poet and essayist, author of "Leaves of Grass"

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)English Romantic Poet, who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication "Lyrical Ballads"