This is where Anna Coleman Ladd came in. In 1917, while living in Boston, she discovered an article about the Tin Nose Shop. Working out of a hospital in London, English captain Francis Derwent Wood was creating bespoke metal masks that were lighter, more comfortable, and more aesthetically pleasing than the rubber models or strips of fabric given to mutilated soldiers as a last resort. “My work begins when the work of the surgeon is completed,” he wrote in the Lancet medical journal. “I endeavor by means of the skills I happen to possess as a sculptor to make a man’s face as near as possible to what it looked like before he was wounded.”
Inspired to action after her country joined the war, the American artist decided to open a similar space in France. As a sculptor trained in Paris and Rome, she had carved out a solid reputation within the Boston smart set, and had created a bronze fountain for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Her husband, a Harvard-educated pediatrician, introduced her to his contacts and she entered into negotiations with the American Red Cross. Her prayers were answered, and Anna Coleman Ladd crossed the Atlantic in December 1917. While her husband ran a dispensary near the frontline in Meurthe-et-Moselle, she contacted her colleague in London and started learning to make masks.
In the spring of 1918, the Studio for Portrait Masks opened in the Montparnasse neighborhood of the French capital. To promote the opening, the American Red Cross – which also set up several functional and professional rehabilitation centers for disabled veterans in France – sent a memo to hospitals and published advertisements in the press. Le Petit Journal picked up the news and published the following: “Mrs. Maynard Ladd, the American artist who makes masks for individuals with facial mutilations, resides at 70 bis Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. This is where surgeons and those wounded in the war, discharged or otherwise, may enquire.”