Friday, December 28, 2012

Heald Square Monument

Heald Square Monument
Location: Wacker Drive at Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
Dedication: December 15, 1941
Medium: Bronze
GPS Coordinates: N 41° 53.251 W 087° 37.615

Heald Square is located at the intersection of East Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The square is named for Nathan Heald, an officer in the United States Army during the War of 1812. Heald was in charge of Fort Dearborn during the Battle of Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812. Heald and his wife barely escaped with their lives as a band of Potawatomi attacked the fort and burned it to the ground. Heald Square became part of the Chicago Park District in 1934, but the ownership was transferred to the City of Chicago as part of the Second Functional Consolidation Act in 1959.

The Lorado Taft Heald Square Monument is an 11 foot high bronze image of three Revolutionary War heroes standing on a six foot high granite base. George Washington is the central figure. Washington is flanked by Haym Salomon on his left and Robert Morris on his right. Robert Morris was born in Liverpool, England, on January 20, 1734. He moved to Oxford, Maryland, at the age of 13 to live with his father who was a tobacco farmer. His father later sent him to Philadelphia where he apprenticed at the shipping and banking firm owned by Charles Willing. After becoming a partner in the reorganized shipping and banking firm of Willing & Morris at the age of 18, Morris became a very wealthy and prominent businessman in Philadelphia. He became politically active in 1765 when he served on a committee established to oppose the Stamp Act. From 1775 to 1778, Morris represented Pennsylvania in the Second Continental Congress. In 1776, he loaned $10,000 of his own money to the government when the Continental Army lacked the funds to continue fighting the war. He devised a plan for a National bank and submitted it to Congress in 1781. Morris was one of only two patriots to sign all three of the important founding documents of the United States: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The United States Constitution.

Haym Salomon was born in Leszno, Poland, in 1740. His parents had been driven out of what is now Portugal by anti-Semitic laws decreed by the monarchy. When Salomon was a young man, he fled to Holland during a period of mob violence against Jews. He traveled throughout Europe in the 1760’s and became fluent in several languages. He returned to Poland in 1770, but had to flee again in 1772 because he was involved in Poland’s nationalism effort. Salomon immigrated to New York City in 1775 and became a financial broker. He sympathized with the anti-British forces and joined the Sons of Liberty. The British arrested him for spying in 1776 and again in 1778. He then moved to Philadelphia and resumed his brokerage business. Salomon opened an office as a dealer of bills of exchange, bonds sold to provide funds for the Revolutionary War effort, and arranged for a loan to help George Washington pay his soldiers. Salomon and Morris collaborated to become effective brokers of bills of exchange to meet federal government expenses. Unfortunately, Salomon died penniless shortly after the Revolutionary War, having donated everything he owned to the war effort. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in 1975 hailing Salomon as a “Financial Hero of the American Revolution.”

The scourge of anti-Semitism invaded the United States after the Civil War. During the first decades of the twentieth century, Jewish quotas were imposed at many colleges and universities. The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, restricting the number of Jews entering the United States, was passed in 1924. Anti-Semitism reached its peak in the 1930’s when more than one hundred anti-Jewish groups were organized. Father Charles W. Coughlin of Royal Oak, Michigan, was one of the leading disseminators of Jewish hatred on nationwide radio, and the Ku Klux Klan was formed in the 1920s. Henry Ford believed that Jews were responsible for starting wars in order to profit from them. His rants against the “international Jewish community” were embraced by Adolph Hitler and reprinted in Nazi propaganda publications.

Barnet Hodes, a Chicago attorney and head of the Chicago Department of Law, led an attempt to curb the rise of Anti-Semitism in Chicago when he created the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago on July 4, 1936. Hodes defined the purpose of the foundation: “Leaders in every walk of life and representatives of every cultural group have confirmed the conviction that a major contribution to patriotism, historical knowledge, and understanding of the part played by peoples of various nationalities in the building of America will be made by the erection in Chicago of an appropriate memorial symbolizing the cooperation that George Washington received from Haym Salomon and Robert Morris.” Of Polish Jewish heritage, Hodes had read about the financial contributions that Jewish patriot Haym Salomon had made to the American Revolution and planned to honor him. However, Hodes felt that a commemorative statue of Salomon standing alone would not deliver the message of inter-cultural cooperation as effectively as a sculpture with non-Jewish patriots like George Washington and Robert Morris.

Barnet Hodes chose Lorado Taft to design the Heald Square Monument, and a campaign to raise $50,000 to complete the project was launched. Taft completed a small study model of the monument that depicted Robert Morris and Haym Salomon standing hand-in-hand with George Washington. Taft unfortunately died in 1936, but his work was completed by three of his students, Leonard Crunelle, Nellie Walker, and Mary Webster. The face of Washington was modeled after the 18th century bust of him by Jean Antoine Houdon. The inscription on the base of the sculpture is a quote from George Washington who based his comments on part of a letter written in 1790 by Moses Seixas, a member of a Newport, Rhode Island, Hebrew congregation. It reads: “The government of the United States which gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it in all occasions their effectual support.” For the back of the base of the sculpture, Taft designed a bronze plaque with Liberty stretching out her arms to welcome all persons of whatever race and belief.

The Heald Square Monument was dedicated on December 15, 1941. The date was chosen to coincide with Bill of Rights Day, a nationwide celebration of the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The fact that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, added additional significance to the dedication ceremonies. Barnet Hodes formally presented the Heald Square Monument to the City of Chicago and said: “Robert Morris and Haym Salomon tell us that civilian cooperation and civilian sacrifice with the military and naval forces was no less important in the first days of our Republic than it is today. Joined with the indomitable Washington, they will stand here to remind us that America became the America we love because there was that working together between civilians and soldiers without which no war can be won. It is the fervent hope of those who made this monument possible that all who see it, today and through the years to come, will catch from it and be constantly inspired by this crucial lesson from the past.”

Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly observed: “George Washington and his friend, Robert Morris were Christians. Haym Salomon was a Jew. These three, though of widely different walks of life, labored together in a common cause in order that the American way of life, as we know it today, might be guaranteed to future generations of other Americans, the right to live as free men knowing no master, alive to their own opportunities, yet tolerant and sympathetic toward others. To my mind, this typifies the very spirit of America.” Illinois Senator Scott Lucas referred to the three figures on the monument as representing “the ideals we reaffirm in a challenging world. Different as day and night, yet these three men held as one the torch of liberty, worshipping God, each in his own way, each daring the hangman tyrant’s halter in the cause of that new light of the world – democracy. From this monument we take courage and hope. We rise in the image of these three men to shield the light of liberty from extinction, to keep our country what they helped to make it – the permanent abode of sacred freedoms, the greatest of which is the freedom of man’s religious soul.” The Heald Square Monument became the first sculpture designated as a Chicago Landmark by the Chicago City Council on September 15, 1971.

For further reading:

Bach, Ira J. & Mary Lackritz Gray. A Guide To Chicago’s Public Sculptures.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Barnard, Harry. “This Great Triumvirate Of Patriots:” The Inspiring Story Behind Lorado Taft’s Chicago Monument To George Washington, Robert Morris And Haym Salomon. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1971.

Fast, Howard. Haym Salomon: Son of Liberty. New York: Julian Messner, 1941.

“George Washington-Robert Morris-Haym Salomon Monument Was Dedicated In Wake Of Pearl Harbor Attack.” Chicago Jewish History. Vol. 25, No. 4, 2001.

Graf, John & Steve Skorpad. Chicago’s Monuments, Markers, and Memorials.
Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

“Monument to Haym Salomon to be Dedicated in Chicago Today.” Jewish Telegraphic History. December 15, 1941.

Rappleye, Charles R. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Riedy, James L. Chicago Sculpture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

Schwartz, Laurens R. Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Salomon and Others. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Publishers, 1987.

Wenger, Beth S. “Sculpting an American Jewish Hero: The Monuments, Myths, and Legends of Haym Salomon” in Divergent Jewish Cultures: Israel and America. Deborah Dash Moore and S. Ilan Troen, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Young, Christopher J. “Barnet Hodes’s Quest to Remember Haym Salomon, the Almost-Forgotten Jewish Patriot of the American Revolution.” The American Jewish Archives Journal. December 2011.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lorado Taft's Dream Museum

Lorado Taft had long envisioned the creation of a Dream Museum, a building dedicated to the exhibition of casts of all the greatest sculptures from all over the world. Taft had always been very interested in art education, and hundreds of sculpture students learned their artistic skills from the master. However, educating students about sculpture was not enough for Taft; he wanted to give them the chance to see and enjoy examples of sculpture in person. Taft also strongly believed in the proper lighting for sculptures. Once when he was lecturing in the Midwest, he observed a perfectly lighted cast of the Venus de Milo. This revelation of the beauty of this masterpiece bathed in proper lighting strengthened his passion: a Dream Museum containing casts of the greatest sculptures of the world arranged in sequence.

One possible site for a Dream Museum was the Palace of Fine Arts or the Fine Arts Building from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Unlike the other buildings from this Chicago World’s Fair, this structure was constructed with a brick substructure under its white plaster fa├žade. It originally housed the Columbian Museum, later the Field Museum of Natural History. The site was left vacant when a new Field Museum was opened near downtown Chicago in 1920. Taft led a campaign to raise funds to restore the building and convert it into his Dream Museum. City officials authorized the expenditure of five million dollars to restore the building. Unfortunately, while Taft and his wife were traveling in Europe, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald changed the focus of the project. The Fine Arts Building became the Museum of Science and Industry instead.

In the early 1930’s, Taft approached officials from Los Angeles and suggested that his Dream Museum be built on a site in Griffith Park. He received help from his brother-in-law Hamlin Garland and Los Angles Times publisher Harry Chandler. Taft went on the lecture circuit to generate financial support for his Dream Museum. The museum would have cost two million dollars back in the 1930’s. The museum staff organized a premature groundbreaking ceremony on February 9, 1934, and Taft dug out the first shovel of dirt. Because of the Great Depression and Taft’s declining health, sufficient funding never materialized for the construction of his Dream Museum.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Crusader: Victor Lawson Monument
Location: Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois
Erected: 1931
Medium: Granite
GPS Coordinates: N 41° 57.498 W 087° 39.505

Graceland Cemetery is located at 4001 North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, and was founded in 1860 by Thomas Bryan, a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman. Bryan hired landscape architect H. W. S. Cleveland to develop the original sixty acres of land and to turn it into a park similar to the cemeteries of Victorian England. Park designer and landscape architect Ossian Simonds was contracted to create a final plan for the cemetery when additional acres were later added. Simonds was a founding partner of the architectural firm of Holabird, Simonds, and Roche that designed all the buildings for the cemetery. Using native plants to enhance the rustic landscape in the cemetery, Simonds created an agrarian parcel of land with room for memorial markers and picnics--a green area for the living and a final resting place for the dead.

Graceland Cemetery officials often described it as “The Cemetery of Architects.” Architects Louis Sullivan, John Root, Daniel Burnham, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, William Le Baron Jenney, Marion Mahony Griffin, Bruce Goff, Fazlur Khan, Richard Nickel, and Dwight Heald Perkins were all buried in Graceland Cemetery. Other Chicago luminaries buried there include George Pullman, Potter Palmer, Jack Johnson, Martin Ryerson, William Kimball, John Peter Altgeld, Philip Armour, Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, Allan Pinkerton, and Victor Lawson.

Victor Fremont Lawson was the son of Melinda and Iver and Lawson, a Norwegian immigrant who arrived in Chicago in 1848. He became a wealthy man by buying and selling real estate and was the first Norwegian-American to became politically active. He served as a Chicago alderman and a state senator. When Victor was born on September 9, 1850, the Lawsons named him Victor Fremont in honor of John C. Fremont, the Republican Party’s first nominee for president. Victor attended grammar school and high school in Chicago and later excelled at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed his father’s real estate business, but Iver regained part of his fortune during the next several years. When Iver died in 1874, Victor took over the management of his father’s business interests.

A Norwegian-language newspaper called the Skandinaven was one of Victor’s new partnerships, and he began to manage the family businesses in an office in the newspaper building. Melville E. Stone, the founder of a struggling new newspaper called the Chicago Daily News, also had an office in the same building. When the first issue of the Daily News was published on December 23, 1875, readers soon realized that it was a totally different kind of newspaper from others of the day. It was politically independent, printed stories that were very concise, and sold for one penny. After six months of financial difficulty, Melville Stone turned to his friend and former schoolmate Victor Lawson for help. Lawson agreed to help and bought the newspaper for $6,000. He became the publisher of the Daily News on August 1, 1876, and Melville Stone stayed on the staff as the editor. They bought the Post and Mail in 1878 since it was a member of the Associated Press. Because it tried to serve the whole urban population, the Daily News soon became a true mass-market newspaper in Chicago. From the beginning, the newspaper included popular fiction, household tips, local and national news, and any content that might appeal to a majority of the readers.

The Daily News started with an afternoon edition and introduced a two-penny morning edition in 1881. When it later published both editions for a penny, the Daily News maintained a circulation of more than 200,000. Lawson proved to be a genius in building circulation for the newspaper. He advertised through other publications, posters, postcards, calendars, and clocks. He ran contests and games in the newspaper to generate interest and readership. When Melville Stone retired in 1888, Victor Lawson assumed the positions of both editor and publisher. In the 1890s, the newspaper became a strong advocate for urban reform and campaigned for better city services. Because Lawson felt that the American people needed a direct source of international news during troubled times, he started the Daily News Foreign Service in 1898. Newspapers all over the world followed the model of the Daily News and created their own foreign offices. Lawson also started one of the first columns devoted to radio in 1922. The Daily News was always considered a writer’s newspaper and hired among others Carl Sandburg and Mike Royko. The Daily News published its last edition on Saturday, March 4, 1978.

Victor Lawson married Jessie Strong Bradley on February 5, 1880. The couple had no children partly because Jessie was chronically ill during most of her life. The couple made frequent trips to Europe searching for healing and restoration. Jessie maintained strong religious convictions throughout her life, and because or her beliefs, Victor never published Sunday editions of his newspapers. She died in October 1914. Lawson received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Michigan in 1923 and a similar degree from Columbia University in 1924. Throughout his life, Lawson donated money to many charities including the Chicago Theological Seminary, the Daily News Fresh Air Fund, and the Y.M.C.A. Lawson died on August 19, 1925, at his residence on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Although Victor Lawson frequently reprimanded his younger brother for not working hard and studying enough, Iver N. Lawson commissioned Lorado Taft to design an appropriate grave marker to honor his older brother and to mark his final resting place in Graceland Cemetery. Taft created The Crusader that portrays a medieval knight in armor looking off into the distance and holding a sword in his left hand and a shield in his right hand. A cross of a crusader is embellished on the shield. The statue was carved out of a solid block of granite and polished until it resembled bronze. The Henry C. Smalley Granite Company of Quincy, Massachusetts, furnished the granite. Victor Lawson’s grave is unmarked except for an engraved statement located on the base of the statue that reads: “Above All Things, Truth Beareth Away The Victory.” The phrase refers to a story in the apocryphal Book of Esdras.

For further reading:

Bach, Ira J. & Mary Lackritz Gray. A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Dennis, Charles H. Victor Lawson: His Time and His Work. Chicago, Illinois:
The University of Chicago Press, 1935.

Graf, John & Steve Skorpad. Chicago’s Monuments, Markers, and Memorials. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Lanctot, Barbara. A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Architecture Foundation, 1988.

“Unique Statue As Memorial To Victor Lawson.” Chicago Tribune. July 24, 1931.

Vernon, Christopher. Graceland Cemetery: A Design History. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

“Victor F. Lawson, 1850-1925.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society.
Volume 18, No. 3. October 1925.

“Victor F. Lawson Is Dead.” Chicago Tribune. August 20, 1925.

Weller, Allen. “Lorado Taft, the Ferguson Fund, and the Advent of Modernism,” in The Old Guard and the Avant-Garde: Modernism in Chicago, 1910-1940. Sue Ann Prince, ed. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Lorado Taft Books

In recent weeks, I have discovered two new books about the life and career of Lorado Taft. Lynn Allyn Young has written Beautiful Dreamer: The Completed Works and Unfulfilled Plans of Sculptor Lorado Taft. Published in 2012 by Quality Books, Inc. based in Oregon, Illinois, this 136-page paperback book contains many photographs of Taft’s existing sculptures, several interesting classic pictures, and extracts from several publications. One appendix of the book contains an exhaustive list of Taft’s sculptural creations. The book can be ordered from Young’s website:

Robert G. La France, curator of pre-modern art at the Krannert Art Museum on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Henry Adams, and Stephen Thomas have almost finished editing Allen Weller’s Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years. To be published in 2013 by the University of Illinois Press, the book will cover 50 years of the sculptor’s life and work. All of Taft’s major works are considered and most are illustrated. The Lorado Taft papers and the Allen Weller papers in the University of Illinois Archives are considerably utilized all through the book.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trotter Memorial Fountain
Location: Withers Park, Bloomington, Illinois
Dedication: May 30, 1911
Medium: Georgia Marble
GPS Coordinates: N 40° 28.793 W 088° 59.529

Lorado Taft began his artistic career primarily as a sculptor of portrait busts and monuments to soldiers. Later in his profession, he became best known for his symbolic and allegorical fountains including the Fountain of the Great Lakes and The Fountain of Time in Chicago, the Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C., and the Thatcher Memorial Fountain in Denver. The Trotter Memorial Fountain, one of Lorado Taft’s most emblematic sculptural creations, is located in Withers Park in Bloomington, Illinois. Located near the corner of East and Washington Streets in Bloomington, the Withers Park land was originally the site of the home of Alan and Sarah Withers, prominent early settlers of Bloomington. The widowed Sarah donated the property to the Library Association, and in 1887, the Withers Library was dedicated on the site. The library served Bloomington citizens until 1977 when it was razed.

The Trotter Memorial Fountain was named for the Trotter family, Bloomington community activists. Siblings John, James, and Georgiana were refugees of the Great Irish Potato Famine who immigrated to the United States before the Civil War. The Trotter family operated a prosperous lumber, grain, and coal business in Bloomington. John Trotter represented his ward on the Bloomington City Council from 1873 to 1879 and was subsequently elected mayor of Bloomington three times. First serving as a nurse in the Civil War, Georgiana Trotter with her friends Sarah Withers and School Superintendent Sarah Raymond led the fund raising campaign for the Withers Library. Georgiana was elected to the Bloomington Board of Education and served on the Withers Library Board.

When James Trotter passed away in 1907, his will contained a provision calling for the creation of a fountain near the Withers Public Library. The fountain would serve as a memorial to his parents and siblings. Sarah E. Raymond, married to Captain F. J. Fitzwilliam since 1896, served as the executrix of the will. Mrs. Fitzwilliam contacted Lorado Taft to design the fountain, and she remained involved with the project until the day of the dedication. Taft’s students from his Chicago workshop sculpted the fountain, carving the Georgia marble with hammers and chisels. Native American women are depicted on the east and west sides of the fountain. Water flows from urns on the shoulders of the women when the water is turned on. A Native American child is located near each woman, and a dog and a bear cub standing on hind legs are featured on the north and south sides of the fountain. These figures symbolize childhood, animal life, and pioneer life. The coat of arms of the Trotter family is located on the north side of the fountain, and the following inscription is included on the south side: “This Fountain Presented to the City of Bloomington Under the Will of James Trotter as a Memorial to His Father John Trotter, His Mother Ann Trotter, His Brother John, and His Sisters Maria, Ann, and Georgiana.”

Although the fountain would remain unfinished for several months, the Trotter Memorial Fountain was dedicated at a grand ceremony on May 30, 1911. A large parade of members of local civic organizations preceded the event. The renowned public speaker from Chicago, Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus, and Sarah E. Raymond Fitzwilliam addressed the audience. Large bouquets of flowers were given to honored guests Ex-Vice-President Adlai E. Stevenson, Ex-United States Ambassador to Belgium James S. Ewing, Judge Owen T. Reeves, and Judge Reuben M. Benjamin. Sarah E. Raymond Fitzwilliam also presented the Trotter Memorial Fountain to the City of Bloomington, and Acting Mayor James Costello accepted the fountain on behalf of the City. Florence Funk, granddaughter of the oldest living native born citizen of McLean County, George W. Funk, unveiled the fountain. Water flowed from the fountain on dedication day. Unfortunately, city officials soon realized that the mineral content of the city water caused unsightly yellow stains to appear on the stonework, and the water was shut off for decades. In recent years, modern technology has allowed the city to turn the fountain’s water back on during the summer months.

Lorado Taft interpreted his design of the Trotter Memorial Fountain by saying: “Fountains have always had a peculiar appeal to my imagination. They stand primarily for beauty and refreshment. My studio threatens to become a natatorium, for I have at present four fountains under way. But even this great opportunity granted to me in Chicago and Washington has not given me greater pleasure than the thought of making something for a children’s playground in this central part of Illinois, a region so dear to my heart. Half of the charm of Rome and Florence lies in their picturesque, gurgling, and splashing fountains that make the heat of the summer endurable through their very suggestion of comfort. Every town should have its own visible symbol, a something tangible around which its civic affection may twine. We lack traditions; we owe it to ourselves to make them. I love to address an audience of young people, but think of the sculptor’s privilege in sending a message down the centuries to unborn and unnumbered generations. This is a playground. I want to tell our children and their children that little ones had played here long before we came. This is the privilege of the sculptor’s art, this most enduring of the arts with its hint of eternity, to unite the ages, to reach a grateful hand to the past, and a loving greeting to the future. In this work, I send an affectionate message to all the little people to come.”

For further reading:

“Art Committee at University: Dr. Hieronymus, Lorado Taft, Noted Sculptor, and President Felmley Speak.” The Daily Pantagraph. June 23, 1924.

“Comes Here to Oversee Fountain: Mrs. Fitzwilliam Arrives in the City With Flags and Other Material for Memorial Ceremonies.” The Daily Pantagraph. May 15, 1911.

“Dedicate Memorial Fountain: Lorado Taft, Dr. Frank Gunsaulus, and Adlai E. Stevenson are Speakers at Notable Event.” Chicago Tribune. May 31, 1911.

“Fountain is City’s Heaviest Stone: Granite Block Weighs 22,500 Pounds.”
The Daily Pantagraph. May 27, 1911.

Kemp, Bill. “Trotter Fountain Work of Lorado Taft.” The Daily Pantagraph.
February 10, 2008.

“Lorado Taft is Heard at Normal: Demonstrates Work of Sculptor with Clay and Paper Mache Models.” The Daily Pantagraph. August 12, 1924.

“Lorado Taft to Speak at Normal: Will Lecture Monday Evening at University on Glimpses of a Sculptors’ Studio.” The Daily Pantagraph. August 9, 1924.

“Maker of Trotter Fountain Is Here: Noted Sculptor Talks of the Proposed Memorial in Bloomington and Other Subjects in His Line.” The Daily Pantagraph.
October 19, 1910.

“Pictures Shown of New Fountain for the Withers Park.” The Daily Bulletin. February 16, 1910.

“Programme of Dedication & Unveiling Exercises of Trotter Memorial Fountain in Children’s Playground, Withers Park.” Bloomington, Illinois: May 30, 1911.

Smedley, Gene. “Fountain Promoted Youthful Play.” The Daily Pantagraph.
March 26, 2000.

“Trotter Fountain Here is Among Works of Lorado Taft, Sculptor: Bloomington Friends Mourn Death of Famous Artist Who Died in Chicago.” The Daily Pantagraph. October 30, 1936.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Alma Mater Group
Location: Near Altgeld Hall, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
Dedication: June 11, 1929
Medium: Bronze
GPS Coordinates: N 40° 06.598 W 088° 13.697

Lorado Taft was born on April 29, 1860, in Elmwood, Illinois, and moved to Champaign with his family when his father was appointed Professor of Geology at the University of Illinois in 1871. When the fourteen-year-old Lorado helped unpack and repair a sculpture collection at the Fine Arts Gallery on campus in 1874, he discovered his passion and life’s work as a sculptor. Taft later received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Illinois in 1879 and 1880. When he was appointed a non-resident professor of Art at the university in 1919, he gave popular lectures and speeches on art to large and enthusiastic audiences. Throughout his life, Lorado Taft maintained a close relationship with his Alma Mater, which resulted in several sculptural creations crafted by him dispersed throughout the campus.

As early as 1883, letters written by Lorado Taft indicated that he was interested in “giving back” to his beloved Alma Mater, and he modeled a relief of Learning and Labor holding hands. He made a sketch of his proposed Alma Mater statue in 1916 and experimented on the size of the figures to be included. He finished a plaster cast of his conception and brought it to the campus in June 1922. In speaking to his classmates at an alumni reunion, Taft said that the creation of the sculpture “had been a labor of love, a period of happy toil, recalling the wonderful days of the early practice of my art. I have been going to my studio at five o’clock every morning, and these fragrant mornings have brought back memories of similar dewy dawns of nearly fifty years ago when I used to hasten over to my spacious studio in the basement of old University Hall and work in the clay until breakfast time.”

Lorado Taft designed The Alma Mater Group, a sculpture that contained a group of three figures and an armchair. The front and center figure is “Alma Mater,” a standing female wearing an academic robe. Her palms are open, and her arms are outstretched, a gesture of kindly greeting to her children. The University of Illinois’ motto of “Learning and Labor” is depicted in the two figures behind her. “Labor” is a male wearing a blacksmith’s apron. His right arm is extended over the chair in a handshake with the female “Learning” to his left. She is a model of the Lemnian Athena, a classical Greek statue of the goddess Athena. The armchair has a bas-relief seal of the State of Illinois on the back. Several quotes are inscribed on the base of the sculpture. They include: “Given to the University by the sculptor, the Alumni Fund, and the senor classes 1923, 1925, 1925, 1926, 1917, 19228, and 1929,” “Her Children Arise Up and Call Her Blessed.” Proverbs 3: 28, and “Alma Mater To Thy Happy Children of the Future, Those of the Past Send Greetings.” The American Art Bronze Foundry and Jules Berchem and Sons of Chicago cast the sculpture. Originally placed behind Foellinger Auditorium, the Alma Mater Group was moved to its current location on August 22, 1962.

The Alma Mater Group was dedicated on June 11, 1929. William L. Abbott, president of the Alumni Fund Board, presented the sculpture to the university and said in his remarks: “Republics are ungrateful. We little appreciate that which is freely given without the asking. Alumni of state-supported universities are lacking in alma mater sentiment. These are charges are often made and often refuted. One monumental refutation of the charge of indifference of alumni already stands on this campus, and here today we dedicate another testimonial, much humbler in pretention but none the less sincere. The inspiration for this piece was born long ago in the longing of Alma Mater’s great artist son to leave on the campus a symbolic expression of the love which he and all true alumni feel for this university.”

David Kinley, president of the University of Illinois, accepted the Alma Mater Group on behalf of the university and said in his remarks “I speak for the Board, for the State, for the Faculty, for the Students, both of today and of the years to come. As you know, this great gift is the result of contributions from the alumni, the senior classes, and, greatest of all, from the sculptor himself. This contribution is significant in several ways. First, there are these people who thought of doing it, and who were willing to do it unselfishly for the benefit of future generations. Then there is Mr. Taft himself. I know I shall not look upon his like again. I accept this magnificent gift for the University, and I hope that all of us will cherish in our hearts and minds the spirit and the ideals which went into it.”

William L. Abbott then introduced Lorado Taft and gave these introductory remarks: “You are the idol of the University, and although your ample feet are not of clay, your hands often daubed with that material. It was fifty years ago when you modeled clay under the old chapel. During all of these intervening years, the University has watched with pride your growing fame and has shone in your reflected light. For my associates and me, we count ourselves fortunate in having been privileged to work with you in this latest achievement, and we congratulate ourselves on having been able to consummate the undertaking in time to have it serve as a crowning feature of the 50th anniversary of your graduation.”

Lorado Taft was given a standing ovation when he arose to speak. Taft told the audience about the history of the Alma Mater Group, saying that he had envisioned the sculpture ever since his graduation. He continued: “I hope that this Alma Mater Group may widen the horizons of all Illini, not only of today and yesterday but of those in the long centuries to come.” At the conclusion of Taft’s speech, President Kinley presented him with a hand-illuminated testimonial. The University also conferred an honorary LL.D. degree on him on commencement day that year.

In recent years, the Alma Mater Group was appropriately decorated for significant university events. When the men’s basketball team reached the Final Four in 2005 and played for the NCAA championship in St. Louis, she wore an Illini jersey. She was decorated with orange and blue roses when the football team played in the 2008 Rose Bowl game. During commencement week in 2010, she was outfitted with what was probably the world’s largest cap and gown. The Herff Jones Company from Champaign manufactured and paid the cost for the ensemble. The area around the Alma Mater Group became a very popular site for commencement photographs that year.

In 2011, university officials announced that the Alma Mater Group needed restoration. Jennifer Hain Teper, chairperson of the Preservation Working Group, declared it to be “one of the visual icons of the campus. When people think of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, this is one of the visual landmarks.” Lorado Taft had originally designed the sculpture to allow students to climb on it, but this is not permitted now because of its deteriorated condition. The sculpture was last repaired in 1981 when a university professor strengthened the internal supports, caulked the sculpture’s joints, and replaced rusted bolts. The university contracted with the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio to complete the restoration. The company plans to move the sculpture on a flatbed truck to its headquarters in Forest Park, Illinois, in August 2012. Company officials promised to return the Alma Mater Group to its rightful place on campus before the 2013 commencement exercises.

For further reading:

“Alma Mater Statue Is Dedicated: Impressive Exercises Held On Alumni Day, June 11; Cherished Dream Of Lorado Taft, ’79, Is Realized.” Illinois Alumni News.
June 26, 1929.

Griffin, Ashley. “Alma Mater Statue To Be Restored.” Illinois Issues. April 2012.

Kanfer, Alaina & Larry. Illini Loyalty: The University of Illinois. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2011.

“Lorado Taft to Begin Work on a Statue for the University of Illinois.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Vol. 12, No. 1 April 1919.

McCauley, Lena M. “Alma Mater Group In Bronze.” Art World Magazine Of The Chicago Evening Post. May 28, 1929.

McCauley, Lena M. “Taft Completes Work on Alma Mater Group: To Be Placed on U. of I. Campus as Gift of Sculptor.” Chicago Post. June 6, 1922.

Rohr, Lauren. “Alma Mater to be Removed for Crack, Stain Repair.” The Daily Illini. May 7, 2012.

Rohr, Lauren. “University to Restore Alma Mater to Prevent Serious Future Damages.” The Daily Illini. February 21, 2012.

Scheinman, Muriel. A Guide to Art at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, Robert Allerton Park, and Chicago. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

Scheinman, Muriel. “Labors of Love: Lorado Taft – the Sculptor Behind the ‘Alma Mater’ – Embraced Both His Art and His University.” Illinois Alumni. March/April, 2010.

“Sculptor Helps to Pay Honor to His Alma Mater: Lorado Taft Executes Group in Bronze for University of Illinois.” The Christian Science Monitor. November 25, 1929.

Wurth, Julie. “Alma Gets Her Gown On.” The News-Gazette. May 11, 2010.

Wurth, Julie. “Alma Mater Taking Leave After Commencement.” The News-Gazette. February 17, 2012.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fountain of the Great Lakes

Fountain of the Great Lakes
Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Dedication: September 9, 1913
Architect: Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge
Medium: Bronze
GPS Coordinates: N 41° 52.731 W 087° 37.407

A remark by famed Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham convinced Lorado Taft that he should create one of his most famous sculptures, Fountain of the Great Lakes. Burnham complained that the sculptors who designed art for the 1893 Columbian Exposition failed to produce a single work representing the natural resources of the Great Lakes. For inspiration for the sculpture, Taft turned to the Greek myth of the Danaides, forty-nine sisters who were sent to Hades for killing their husbands on their wedding nights. As punishment for this crime, the sisters were eternally condemned to hopelessly carry water in sieves. Taft envisioned a fountain with five female figures each representing one of the Great Lakes. Each statue would hold a conch shell, and the water would flow from the shells in the same way that the water passes through the Great Lakes system.

Lorado Taft assigned five of his women sculpture students to design a plaster study sculpture called The Spirit of the Great Lakes in the spring of 1902. Nellie Walker, Angelica McNulty, Clara Leonard, Lily Schoenbrun, and Edith Parker were each responsible for sculpting one of the individual women. By January of 1906, Taft cast a plaster version of the sculpture that he then showed to a Ferguson Fund trustee. On December 16, 1907, the Ferguson Fund trustees awarded a contract to Taft to commence work on Fountain of the Great Lakes. Site selection concerns and legal problems delayed the project for several years. Finally, in May 1913 a plaster model of the sculpture was sent to the Jules Berchem foundry for bronze casting. Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge of Boston, the architects of the original building of the Art Institute of Chicago, designed a base for the sculpture. A pool surrounded a pedestal on which the fountain was placed and two fish served as waterspouts. The fountain was originally placed along the south wall of the original Art Institute building, but was relocated to the west side of the Morton Wing addition in 1963 where it stands today. Unfortunately, a bronze bas-relief portrait and a quotation of Ferguson on the backside of the fountain are hidden from view in the current location. Landscape architect Daniel Urban Kiley designed the gardens that surround the fountain.

Fountain of the Great Lakes was the first commission funded by the trustees of the B.F. Ferguson Monument Fund. Benjamin Franklin Ferguson was a Chicago merchant and philanthropist whose one million dollar gift to a charitable trust fund helped finance many Chicago public monuments and sculptures. The terms of Ferguson’s gift specified that the Art Institute of Chicago could select artists and sites for “the erection and maintenance of enduring statuary and monuments, in whole or in part of stone, granite, or bronze in the parks, along the boulevards, or in other public places within the city of Chicago, Illinois, commemorating worthy men or women of America or important events in American history.” In article an from an April 1905 edition of the Chicago Tribune, the writer stated: “No other city in the world has such a fund available as that left by Mr. Ferguson, and officials of the Art Institute, artists, and devotees of municipal art freely predicted that the bequest would make Chicago the richest city in the world in sculpture and the Mecca for artists.”

Fountain of the Great Lakes was dedicated on September 9, 1913. Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago, presented the sculpture to the assembled audience. John Barton Payne, president of the Board of South Park Commissioners, accepted the sculpture. Hutchinson spoke first and said: “This is but one of many monuments which will in time be erected and add greatly to the beauty of our city. They will give pleasure and inspiration to thousands of our fellow citizens by recalling to memory great Americans and events, notable in the history of our country. Think of all that will be accomplished in the course of a hundred years through the generosity of Mr. Ferguson. It is difficult to conceive of the glory of it all, made possible by his farsighted benevolence. We are fortunate in having among our citizens a great artist, Mr. Lorado Taft. For several years, he worked faithfully to give adequate expression to one of his noble conceptions. The city is to be congratulated upon possessing an artist capable of creating this beautiful fountain, and at the same time a citizen so generous and of such great vision as to enable the artist to put his ideas in permanent form.”

In his acceptance speech, John Barton Payne said: “In accepting this splendid monument for and on behalf of the South Side Commissioners, I speak not only for the Commissioners but also for the people of the City of Chicago. It is singularly appropriate that the first great work, the result of the splendid bequest of B. F. Ferguson, should typify the Great Lakes. Bodies of water have always been the subject of song and story. Rome celebrated its Tiber, Florence its Arno, Paris its Seine, London its Thames. Well may Chicago celebrate our great chain of lakes, our inland seas, Erie, Ontario, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. How wonderfully these names lend themselves to poetry, song, and story, and how the rivers fade into insignificance when compared with these Great Lakes! Lorado Taft, one of the great sculptors of this age, has placed a crown upon the forehead of our Great Lakes.”

In his dedication address, Lorado Taft explained his thinking behind his artistic creation: “The motif of the group is not profound. I have sometimes wondered if it were not too obvious. ‘Lake Superior’ on high and ‘Lake Michigan’ at the side both empty into the basin of ‘Lake Huron,’ who sends the waters on to ‘Lake Erie’ whence ‘Lake Ontario’ receives them. As they escape from her basin and hasten into the unknown, she reaches wistfully after them as though questioning whether she has been neglectful of her charge. The exigencies of placing have made her reach toward Saint Louis instead of the Saint Lawrence, but you are requested to overlook this solecism. But we are gathered here for another purpose. We come to do honor to a good man, a man of imagination and vision. I never met Mr. Ferguson, but I wish that I had. I remember what a thrill I felt when the significance of his unprecedented benefaction first dawned on me. I felt that I should have known him. I wanted to thank him personally in the name of all Chicago, the Chicago of today and of the many tomorrows.”

For further reading:

Bach, Ira J. & Mary Lackritz Gray. A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Exercises At The Dedication Of The Ferguson Fountain Of The Great Lakes: Chicago, September 9, 1913.

Garvey, Timothy J. Public Sculptor: Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

Graf, John & Steve Skorpad. Chicago’s Monuments, Markers, and Memorials. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Hilliard, Celia. “The Prime Mover:” Charles L. Hutchinson and the Making of The Art Institute Of Chicago. Chicago, Illinois: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2010.

Moulton, Robert Hunt. “Chicago’s Dream of Civic Beauty Realized in the Symbolic Marble of Lorado Taft’s ‘Spirit of the Great Lakes’.” The Craftsman. Vol. 25, 1913.

Riedy, James L. Chicago Sculpture. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

Weller, Allen. “Lorado Taft, the Ferguson Fund, and the Advent of Modernism,” in The Old Guard and the Avant-Garde: Modernism in Chicago, 1910-1940. Sue Ann Prince, ed. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.