Isaac Scott Hathaway (1872-1967) was a nationally renowned sculptor and ceramist who lived in DC and worked in a studio at 1234 U Street from 1907 to 1915. He was the only African American ever to be commissioned by the U.S. Mint to design commemorative coins.
Hathaway was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1872, to Robert Elijah Hathaway, a preacher, and his wife Rachel Scott Hathaway, who died two years later.
Hathaway graduated from the Lexington Normal Institute and taught high school in Kentucky, while working as an artist on the side. After five years he left teaching and enrolled at the New England Conservatory in Boston and then at the Cincinnati Art Academy. In 1900 Hathaway began his career as a sculptor; in 1907 he moved to Washington, DC and established a studio at 1234 U Street.
Soon Hathaway and several partners had formed the National Afro-Art Company, with a mission to "place before the people of the country the busts of Negro men and women who have won fame among various lines," according to a contemporary account in The Washington Bee. As part of this endeavor Hathaway sculpted 12-inch busts of Bishop Richard Allen of the A.M.E. Church, Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Frederick Douglass, among others. From its offices at 1912-1/2 14th Street, the National Afro-Art Company in 1910 advertised that the retail price for the busts would rise from $1 to $1.50.
In 1912 Hathaway married Hattie Ettice Pamplin, a former teacher from South Boston, Virginia. The couple moved to 1011 T Street, and also lived at 3226 11th Street, NW, and 831 Rock Creek Church Road, NW, during their tenure in Washington.
In 1914 Hathaway was hired by Ales Hrdlicka, curator of the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. There Hathaway helped prepare the anthropological exhibit for the 1915 world's fair, officially known as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, in San Francisco.
Hathaway left Washington in 1915 to establish and chair the ceramics department at Branch Normal School (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). In 1937 he moved on to do the same at the Tuskegee Institute, then 10 years later accepted a position at Alabama State College. He retired in 1965 and died two years later.
During his career Hathaway sculpted more than 100 busts and life and death masks. He also designed two U.S. commemorative coins: the Booker T. Washington memorial half-dollar, which was produced from 1946 to 1951, and the George Washington Carver-Booker T. Washington memorial half-dollar, produced 1951-54. The U Street building that housed Hathaway's Washington studio was razed in the 1970s; the site is now an entrance to the U Street-Cardozo-African American Civil War Memorial Metro Station.