Myers, Fred E. (1910-1950) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Frederick Eric Myers was a southern Illinois native who carved approximately 120 works in his lifetime (1910-1950). He was born in Woodlawn, Illinois (Jefferson County) on February 8, 1910. In 1917 the Myers family moved to West Frankfort where his father obtained a job in the Old West Mine. Fred Myers resided in the West Frankfort area for the rest of his life.
He was a self-taught artist who began whittling during his career as a coal minter. An appendectomy made it impossible for him to work in the mines in 1938 so he took a job with the Works Progress Administration. From 1939-1942 he was assigned to work for the Southern Illinois Normal University Museum under director Fred Cagle. He carved prehistoric animals to supplement the museum’s exhibits. In 1941, Myers’s carving focused changed to the working, common man under new museum director John W. Allen. He made 35 carvings for the museum until his WPA employment ended in 1942.
Because of his already existing injuries, and a substantial hernia condition, he died at the young age of 39 while working on The Last Stand, which some say was his masterpiece. His work was noticed and celebrated outside of Southern Illinois, and because of his work with the college he found mentors and friends who would consistently encourage him to go to graduate school or to pursue his work as a career. Myers never took their advice and many of his sculptures became lamps or were lost altogether.