Thursday, September 26, 2019

The sad demise of a 20-foot tall bronze statue of Christopher Columbus after Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

This $50,000 ($1,330,000 today) monument to Christopher Columbus was made for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition by sculptor Howard Kretschmar of Chicago. It was originally placed in Lake Front Park (today's Grant Park) at the "Gateway to the Exposition," at Michigan Avenue and Congress Street.

The statue, in bronze, was twenty feet high, surmounting a granite pedestal thirty feet tall. Columbus' left hand was held to the chest, his right hand extended at his side, and his legs astride. The monument formed the design for souvenirs of the Exposition. The profits from sales were to be used to pay back the borrowed $50,000.
This 1902 photo shows the Christopher Columbus statue lying on the ground, waiting to be melted and reused.
The reaction from the public was immediate and adverse. There are numerous articles in the Chicago Tribune newspaper archives denouncing the statue. The concession never happened, and no money was ever paid back.

The statue was removed and placed in storage in June of 1897. 

In September of 1902, a proposal was put forth to recycle the metal from the Christopher Columbus statue. The metal would be used to make for a figure to honor President McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901.  

That, in fact, was done!

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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