1889, October 19 - John Crerar, an American of Scottish descent, dies and leaves Chicago money for a library and $100,000 for a “colossal” statue of Abraham Lincoln.
1897 - Augustus Saint-Gaudens was chosen as the sculptor. Born in Dublin, his father was French and his mother was Irish.
1904 - St. Gaudens studio was destroyed by fire, including the model of the Lincoln statue. He was well known to Chicago having sculpted the General John A. Longan monument and the “standing” Lincoln statue in Lincoln park.
1903 - Stanford White visits Chicago to study the location. He was a member of the firm of McKim, Mead and White who were all Scottish Americans.
1904 - Stanford White was chosen to design the architectural settings. The statue would sit on a monolithic pedestal of pink Stony Creek granite surrounded by an excedra or semi-circular area 153 feet in diameter.
1906 - White was murdered by Harry Thaw. White and St. Gaudens were close friends.
1907 - St. Gaudens dies in Cornish, New Hampshire. Before his death he orders the statue of Lincoln to be cast in bronze. It took 12 years to complete the statue and he regarded it as his “crowning glory.”
(Before the statue could be placed in Grant Park there were legal issued to be settled “as to the right of the South Park board to use Grant Park for certain purposes,” and then there was A. Montgomery Ward, known as the “Watchdog of the Lakefront.”)
1908-1913 - The statue lay crated in the basement storerooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Some sources say it was displayed; others say it was not.)
1913 - In September it was brought back to Chicago and stored.
1914 - “Until the Federal government passes on the question of how far we may project our improvements into the lake and until we know definitely whether we are permitted to construct the proposed strips of land for Park and Boulevard purposes we can say nothing as to the site for the new Lincoln statue. The erection of the statue can’t be hurried anymore that the other lakefront matters can be hurried. It all depends on the government” and the legal actions of A. Montgomery Ward.
1915 - The statue was displayed at the San Francisco World’s Fair and returned to Chicago. It may have also been displayed in other cities but I could not find a list.
1916 - The statue was stored for ten years, covered with dust, in a shed in Washington Park.
1926 - May 31 - Statue was finally unveiled. Judge Charles S. Cutting made the principal address. “Abraham Lincoln has become a world figure. He is the symbol of law and liberty throughout the world.”
1985 - The Chicago Tribune reports that the statue was cleaned and restored. Lights were also added to the area.
Summary: The artist wanted to show the loneliness and isolation that Lincoln endured during the Civil War. His head is slightly bowed as if in deep thought. He is a gaunt figure. Two columns, each 50 feet high, rise from the ends of the excedra. It’s a wonderful work of art, just south of the Art Institute along Michigan Avenue made possible by a Scot and life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
History Club meeting, June 1, 2013. We will honor veterans at this meeting so if you have served please join us. John LeNoble, and his daughter, Nancy Strolle, have recently taken the “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C. John will tell us about his trip. There will also be a video showing the landing of our troops on Normandy, June 6, 1944 (D-Day).
The History Tour is scheduled for July 20. Our chartered bus will leave the Scottish Home at 10:30 a.m. First stop will be St. James church and cemetery where we will find and pay our respect to James Michie, president of the Society in 1847. Second stop will be at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church, established in 1848 by Scottish immigrants. We will have our lunch at the church, visit the church cemetery and hear from direct descendants of those pioneer families.
Our last stop will be at the NaAuSay cemetery, 12 miles west of Plainfield. In this country cemetery is buried Thomas C. MacMillan, president in 1906 and 1907.
There are always surprises along the way.
Cost $30.00 per person. Register online, call 708-447-5092 or 630-629-4516.