Monday, June 30, 2014

The “Sitting” Lincoln

2nd stop on Our Summer History Tour:

Chicago has two great statues of Abraham Lincoln, both by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. One, often called the “Standing Lincoln,” is in Lincoln Park, just east of the Chicago Historical Society. The second one is in Grant Park and features the President in a sitting position. Both have Scottish connections and we will visit both during our July History Tour.

Our first stop, after we leave the Scottish Home, will be at the statue of General John A. Logan. The second stop will be at the Lincoln statue, just south of the Art Institute. This statue of the 16th President was made possible by a gift from John Crearer. Who was John Crerar?

The parents of John Crerar were born in Scotland. His father was born in Dull, Perthshire, and his mother, Agnes Smeallie, in Kirkiston, Scotland. She came to America independently sometime in the 1820s and probably met John Crerar at the Scotch Presbyterian Church in New York City where they both attended. Their son, John Crerar was born, March 8, 1827 and came to Chicago in the 1860s. Crerar, Adams & Co. were dealers in railroad supplies and contractors’ materials.

Mr. Crerar was an original investor in the Pullman Palace Car Company and was a member of the board of directors for twenty-two years. He was also a director of the Chicago and Alton Railway, Chicago and Joliet Railroad, and the London and Globe Insurance Company. He belonged to the Chicago Literary Club, the Chicago Historical Society, the YMCA, the American Sunday School Union, the Chicago Orphan Asylum, and the Presbyterian Hospital, holding positions of director or president in each. He was also a life-member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. He led a very quiet personal life, never married and lived for a time at the Grand Pacific Hotel. John Crerar died in Chicago at the home of Norman Williams and was buried in Greenwood cemetery in Brooklyn, New York next to his mother. I visited his simple grave a few years ago, but don’t go unless you have a car or like to walk!

In his will, John Crerar left $100,000 for a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The bronze edifice is the last work of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens who died in 1907. The first four years of the life of the statue were spent in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The statue was then displayed in different cities of the United States while “the South Park Board fought over the right to place it in Grant Park.” It was finally brought to Chicago in 1916 and for the next ten years was “stored in a shed in Washington Park.”

Two sets of trustees died unable to erect the statue. The third group, led by William Louderback, was successful in obtaining approval to place the monument in Grant Park. Stanford White, a noted architect, designed the architectural setting for the monument. White was a member of the firm McKim, Mead & White, all of whom were Scottish Americans. Finally, on May 31, 1926, forty years after John Crerar’s bequest, the “Sitting” Lincoln statue was unveiled in Grant Park just east of Van Buren street.

“In the center of the semicircular seat, 153 feet in diameter, which forms the setting for the statue, rises a monolithic pedestal of granite supporting the bronze figure of Lincoln, which faces the south. The pedestal rests on a raised platform with granite steps leading to it.” Serious, with open arms, the statue well represents a time of great change and two great men - Abraham Lincoln and John Crerar.

Thomas C. McMillan wrote about John Crerar and said: “He made the public his heir, and erected a monument which will endure after marble has crumbled to dust, and the fame of mere earthly deeds have faded from the memories of men.”

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Office 630.629.4516


Luxury bus arrives at Scottish Home, July 19, 2014, at 11 a.m.
Bus departs Scottish Home promptly at 11:30 a.m.
1st stop - Grant Park, Logan Statue
2nd stop - “Seated” Lincoln, Grant Park
3rd stop - Millennium Park - Visit the Bean, play in the water, Military Museum
4th stop - “Standing” Lincoln in Lincoln Park
5th stop - Robert Burns statue in Garfield Park

Cost is $25 per person. Children under 10 admitted free. Box lunch and soft drinks furnished. Call 708.447.5092 or 630.629.4516 to make reservations.

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