While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Al Lowman
Peter Heinrich Mansbendel
Photograph, Portrait of Peter Heinrich Mansbendel. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Peter Mansbendel and his family
Photograph, Peter Mansbendel and his family in their Hyde Park home in Austin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MANSBENDEL, PETER HEINRICH (1883–1940). Peter Heinrich Mansbendel, woodcarver, was born to Johann Peter and Valeria Siegrist Mansbendel on August 12, 1883, at Basel, Switzerland. The elder Mansbendel was a businessman who gave his children little beyond three meals a day and a grade school education. At ten Peter had determined to become a woodcarver and was apprenticed to a local master named Ulrich Huber, with whom he trained for the next six years. There followed a period of study at the Industrial Arts School and then a stint of compulsory service in the Swiss Artillery. Once discharged, Mansbendel yielded to wanderlust and set out for London to examine the woodcarvings of the seventeenth-century English master, Grinling Gibbons. He then departed for Paris to complete his education at the Coquier-Roland School of Art. Mansbendel immigrated to America in 1907. He worked first in Boston and then in New York, where he executed woodcarving for L. Marcotte and Company, an interior-design firm. During this time he also taught night classes in clay modeling at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. At tea in his studio he met Clotilde Shipe, whose father, Monroe M. Shipe, was a prominent Austin real estate developer. Mansbendel followed Miss Shipe to Austin, where they were married in 1911. In time they became the parents of a daughter and a son. Mansbendel opened a studio in a corner of the former Swedish consulate at 109 West Ninth Street, where Swante Palm (see JAENSSON, SWEN) once housed his library. He worked out of this studio until ill health overtook him late in 1939.

Snail newel post
Photograph, Snail newel post, by Peter Mansbendel. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Grave of Peter Mansbendel
Photograph, Grave of Peter Mansbendel in Austin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

During the 1920s and 1930s leading architects in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio would summon Mansbendel to put finishing touches on their most important projects. His fireplace mantels were especially popular. In addition to architectural detail work, he also made furniture and decorative household items. He frequently interpreted Texas themes-historic persons, places, and events as well as the flora and fauna of his adopted land. His pieces are noted for their fidelity, strength, and spirit. He was always the seeker of the quick, spontaneous effect, always careful to avoid chiseling the life out of an object. Except for portrait carvings, surfaces were never sanded; crisp tool marks were left for texture and effect. The market for Mansbendel's kind of artistry was in decline during his lifetime, however. Texas had only recently emerged from its frontier past, and the children of its pioneers had just begun to develop a serious interest in the fine arts. Moreover, Mansbendel was at the peak of his ability just as the Great Depression settled over the country. Nonetheless it was during these hard times that he produced some of his most notable public work: the magnificent carved doors of the Spanish Governor's Palace and of Mission San José at San Antonio, as well as the portrait medallions of former University of Texas presidents which are located in the Texas Union on the University of Texas campus in Austin. In addition to his career in woodcarving, Mansbendel was actively engaged in the Austin Community Players, both as a set designer and performer, in the Austin Sängerrunde, and in St. David's Episcopal Church. He died of cancer on July 20, 1940, in Austin.


Peter Mansbendel: A Swiss Woodcarver in Texas (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Al Lowman, "MANSBENDEL, PETER HEINRICH," accessed June 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fma97.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 28, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...