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Jerome Fedeli

Born: July 7, 1845, Milan, Italy. Married: Sarah Smith, 1876, St. Louis, Missouri. Died: March 22, 1902, Kansas City, Missouri.

Born in Milan, Italy on July 7, 1845, Jerome Fedeli was inspired at an early age by the beautiful architecture of his hometown. He served his country as a soldier during the Austrian-Italian war. There he began to specialize in mural decoration.

When he was 25 Fedeli immigrated to the United States. He married Sarah Smith in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1876. They had two children. The family lived for several years in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1881 they moved to Kansas City, Missouri.

In Kansas City Fedeli created artwork for many public buildings and private residences in Kansas City and the surrounding areas. His frescoes included the Independence Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church; St. Patrick's Catholic Church; and the Kansas City Public Library at Ninth and Locust.

When a dispute occurred between the Missouri Pacific Railroad and Italian laborers, Fedeli acted as a mediator. He was appointed Italian vice consul at Kansas City in 1885.

In March 1898 the Kansas Legislature controlled by the Populist Party hired Fedeli to complete murals in the upper dome of the Kansas State Capitol. A Republican, Fedeli received a contract for $1,562.72 for his frescoes. His concept was a conventional Greek design with maidens encircling the area between the fifth floor and the railed level of the dome. Fedeli engaged his son, Edward, and five workers to paint the 16 figures, connected by a garland of flowers and vases with ornamental flowers. The job was completed in three months. Fedeli reportedly netted $500.

On behalf of his work as a labor mediator, Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy, presented Fedeli with an order of merit in 1901, an equivalent of knighthood.

Fedeli's work at the Capitol soon became the subject of ridicule. Critics called his maidens "nude telephone girls." When Republicans regained the majority and governorship in 1902, support grew to replace the Fedeli’s artwork. Abner Crossman and his Chicago firm of Crossman and Sturdy was contracted to replace the murals.

His work reflected the style of the late Victorian era, with vivid colors. Fedeli was color-blind, unable to see the vibrant colors in his work. His wife helped prepare his palette. Few of Fedeli’s works have survived today.

Entry: Fedeli, Jerome

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2017

Date Modified: January 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.