Banking on Baseball: The Legend We Call Ernie Banks

Image of Ernie Banks published in Chicago Sun Times

What makes someone beloved? Is that even something we can answer? I found myself asking this question about shortstop and first baseman Ernie Banks. “Mr. Cub,” as he was dubbed by Chicago newspaper writer Jim Enright, became Banks’ go-to nickname during his time with the Chicago Cubs [1]. He played his entire nineteen-year career in the Major League with the Cubs and stayed with them as a coach and ambassador after he retired from playing in 1971. Ernie Banks is the one player who “thoroughly and completely identified with the Cubs…[and] represented the franchise with class and enthusiasm” [2]. Despite his career as a player having ended nearly 50 years ago, Chicagoans of all ages seem to know and love Ernie Banks for what he represents as a person and baseball player.

Ernie Banks Statue outside Wrigley Field, dedicated on March 31, 2008

Teammates and non-teammates alike do not hesitate to express their appreciation for Banks. For that reason, on March 31, 2008, opening day for the Chicago Cubs’ baseball season, a statue was unveiled right outside the Clark street entrance to Wrigley Field of Ernie Banks. At the unveiling of his statue, other famous and well-respected baseball players including Hank Aaron, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo spoke to highlight the spirit Ernie Banks embodied that made him the perfect ballplayer [3]. If you know Ernie Banks, you know his most-quoted phrase, “Let’s play two.” His love for the game and the Cubs, his incredible skill, and his positive energy are what drew people to him, even those who didn’t grow up watching him play. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Banks noted after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, “Barack Obama gave it to me; he’d never seen me play!” [4]. But having a statue outside Wrigley Field showing him waiting for a pitch and engraved with his nickname, favorite phrase, and career accomplishments is a way for his legacy to live on and communicate to passersby who he was, what he did, and what he means to so many people.


With all the love Banks receives from fans past and present, one would think he grew up living and breathing Chicago and baseball. However, he grew up in Dallas, Texas and played football and basketball for his high school teams and softball on the community team. It was on the community softball team where Banks was recognized for his potential to play baseball as a career. In 1948, Bill Blair noticed seventeen-year-old Banks and recruited him for the Negro Baseball League. Blair was a pitcher and outfielder in the Negro League in the late 1940s and at the time he saw Banks playing, he was scouting for new players in Amarillo, Texas.


The Negro Leagues was a product of the racial segregation that characterized America after the Civil War. According to Edward White, “[n]o stated policy or written rule existed that barred blacks from participating in Organized Baseball. It was nonetheless apparent that no blacks could participate” [5]. By 1903, segregated baseball leagues for whites and Blacks were firmly established. This did not change until 1947 when Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first person to break the color barrier. However, it took another twelve years for every team in the Major League to include Black players in their lineups, with the Boston Red Sox being the last team to sign a black player in 1959 [6].


Ernie Banks, who had played in the Negro League for the Kansas City Monarchs, broke the color barrier for the Chicago Cubs, as he was the first Black player they signed in 1953. He would go on to have an incredible career of hitting 512 home runs, hitting five grand slams in a single season (1955), setting a Major League record as a shortstop that same season by hitting forty-four homeruns in a season—then breaking his own record with forty-seven homeruns in 1958—and being the first National League player to be named MVP two years in a row (1958 and 1959) [7]. Banks accomplished all this without ever playing in a post-season game. Ernie’s nineteen years with the Cubs was during their 37-year losing streak that kept them from making it to the post-season. During Banks’ residency from 1953-1971, the Cubs hadn’t competed in the post-season since they lost to the Detroit Tigers in 1945 for the World Series, and it would still be another twelve years after Banks retired that the Cubs would make it to the League Championship Series, where they would lose to the San Diego Padres in 1984.


Perhaps that is what makes it even more remarkable that Ernie Banks is so beloved by Chicagoans despite their losing record throughout Banks’ career as a Chicago Cub. Being known and loved for his enthusiasm for a game and a team that could not seem to have a winning season for the entirety of his career is a remarkable quality and a testament to Banks’ character. Honoring Banks and his legacy with his statue outside the main entrance of the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field is a show of respect and appreciation of his positive devotion to the Cubs franchise throughout his life [8].


The outpouring of love for Ernie online and in print is undeniable. YouTube clips about Ernie or interviews with him always come with comments from viewers describing a memory of watching Ernie play, an interaction they had with him, or what he meant to them and their family. In books and articles about him, the authors always share the impact Banks had on their lives. A couple who both love the Cubs and live in Lakeview, even decided to name their dog after Ernie Banks and devote an Instagram page to @Erniethe_doodle.

@erniethe_doodle visiting his namesake outside Wrigley Field and playing ball. Permission for using these images granted by his owners.


Statues are built for a reason. The person embodied in the statue made an impact in some way and is therefore thought to be deserving of such immortalization to remind current and future generations of their accomplishments and worthiness of being remembered. With all the controversy and politicization surrounding other statues and monuments to long dead influencers of history, it is hard to imagine Ernie Banks’ statue could ever follow in those footsteps. His goodness has been recognized for over sixty years now, and his statue will continue to remind Chicago baseball fans what it means to love the game.

Melissa Newman, Loyola University Chicago



[1] Freedman, Lew. Ernie Banks: the Life and Career of “Mr. Cub.” (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 11.

[2] Freedman, 3.

[3] “Cubs Legend Banks Honored With Statue Outside Wrigley Field”. 2008. ESPN.Com. https://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=3322443.

[4] Chicago Tribune. “Mr. Cub.” 2014. YouTube video, 4:07. April 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQL-F61pg78.

[5] White, G. Edward. “The Negro Leagues” in Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903-1953. Pp.128. Princeton University Press, https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0sm0.9.

[6] Rapoport, Ron. Let’s Play Two: the Legend of “Mr. Cub,” the Life of Ernie Banks. (New York: Hachette Books, 2019), 71.

[7] “Banks, Ernest (Ernie).” Oxford African American Studies Center. 1 Dec. 2006; Accessed 22 Nov. 2020. https://oxfordaasc-com.dom.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/acref/9780195301731.001.0001/acref-9780195301731-e-40156.

[8] Banks coined the now famous title that refers to Wrigley Field as “the Friendly Confines” after the Cubs were on the road for a while: “He was noting how good it felt to be home again for the Cubs’ next games.” Freedman, 4.


List of Images (in order of appearance):

Greenberg, Steve. 2020. “Touch ’em all, Ernie Banks: It’s the 50-year anniversary of home run No. 500 for Mr. Cub.” Chicago Sun-Times. https://chicago.suntimes.com/cubs/2020/5/12/21255604/cubs-ernie-banks-500-home-run-mr-cub.

“Ernie Banks Statue.” Photographs taken by Erik Newman, November 14, 2020.

Davie, Ryan and Sarah (@erniethe_doodle). “Just chilling with my namesake, Ernie Banks. I wonder if one day they will put a statue of me next to his…” Instagram. April 25, 2017. https://www.instagram.com/p/BTUDSIYBCmy/

Davie, Ryan and Sarah (@erniethe_doodle). “Smile! It’s Friday! #itsthefreakinweekend” Instagram. November 2, 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/BprjaDmlgNP/

Davie, Ryan and Sarah (@erniethe_doodle). “Happy Opening Day!!! So excited for baseball to be back in Wrigley Field! Let’s go Cubbies!!” Instagram. April 9, 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/BhWWN8JjA2Q/

Helping Hands: A Memorial to Jane Addams

The “Helping Hands” memorial to Jane Addams is situated within the Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens near the Prairie Historic District. Louise Bourgeois created the sculpture in 1993 to commemorate the life and works of Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and renowned advocate for women’s rights.[1] It is one of the first monuments in Chicago to memorialize a woman.

“Helping Hands,” by Louise Bergeron.[2]

“Helping Hands” is a series of sculptures made from black granite. Each one of the six is in the shape of a hand or hands and rests on a stone pedestal. The monument was originally situated in the Addams (Jane) Memorial Park near Navy Pier, but after being vandalized several times, it was taken down in 2006. After Bourgeois resculpted parts that had been damaged, the sculpture was moved to its present location in 2011, at the behest of the Art Institute and the Chicago Park District.[3]

Chicago was well overdue for a monument memorializing a woman’s contributions by the time “Helping Hands” came to fruition. It makes sense, too, for the subject to be Jane Addams, whose work with the Hull House advocating for women, laborers, and so many others, places her at the center of Chicago’s rich history of advocacy. Indeed, the six carved hands on their pedestals represent the many people Addams helped throughout her life, without thought to race, gender, or occupation, recalling what Addams herself said in her autobiographical notes: “Perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human hand.”[4]

Part of “Helping Hands,” two sets of hands intertwined.[5]

While perhaps not as common as memorializing generals or statesmen, memorializing advocates who cared for and made the world a better place is worthwhile. The symbolism of “Helping Hands” is lovely and evocative, and sitting in the Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens is a suitable context (though the Hull House Museum, located a short distance away, also seems

like it would have been a good choice), even if it was not the originally intended location. It is interesting to note that one of the few monuments to a woman in the city of Chicago is symbolic in its form rather than literal; with so few memorials to women and their work, perhaps “Helping Hands” should be more literal and straightforward. Disassociating Addam’s work from a corporeal form might serve to place the focus on her acts, but when women have so few monuments to them for their actions, it is somewhat unsatisfying. Given her own words, though, Addams probably would have liked “Helping Hands.”

Hands coming together. [6]

Following the removal of “Helping Hands” from its original location at Addams Memorial Park, the Art Institute and the Chicago Park District worked together to find a new location to place the sculpture. The Art Institute commissioned the piece in the first place (and still retains the maquettes for “Helping Hands” in its collection), so the Institute clearly retained the role of a stakeholder.[7] The Chicago Park District is another clear stakeholder, wishing to both beautify the parks it oversees and have monuments that will please visitors to the parks and not cause too much controversy.[8] Given the events of the last couple of years, with monuments coming down due to public outcry, the public itself is a stakeholder in “Helping Hands.”

Remembering the legacies of Jane Addams and Louis Bourgeois. [9]

“Helping Hands” does not court controversy. There is no evidence that the vandalism it experienced while at the Addams Memorial Park was due to objection to its form or what it stood for, but rather that the vandalism occurred because the monument was low-lying in a place that saw a lot of traffic.[10] While the symbolic nature of the memorial may give pause to those concerned about how few monuments there are to women within Chicago, the sculpture itself is not particularly controversial. With all its pieces carved out of black granite, it is difficult to differentiate the differences between the hands, placing the focus solely on the idea of reaching out to help others. While that focus may problematize the “Helping Hands” for a select few, the monument is unlikely to rouse ire the same way a more contested monument would.

The sculptor, Louise Bourgeois, is well-known for making symbolic pieces that depict abstract ideas. Her input about what “Helping Hands” meant to her—Addam’s compassion and willingness to reach out to those who needed help—probably was mostly responsible for driving the narrative surrounding the monument for quite some time.[11] Following her death, it is harder to say who controls the narrative about “Helping Hands.” As the Art Institute commissioned the piece, they undoubtedly do now and did even when Bourgeois was creating the sculpture. The Chicago Park District, too, has a voice in contextualizing the piece, having played a central role in relocating “Helping Hands.” The two institutions that provide commentary, both in the form of a plaque describing the memorial and a digital resource (originally designed to be scanned at the monument, but also available for the general public on Statue Stories Chicago), continue to drive the narrative about this memorial to Jane Addams, and perhaps thus some of the narrative surrounding Jane Addams, too.[12]

Describing and memorializing Jane Addams. [13]

Despite the way institutions have driven the narrative surrounding the sculpture, there is a power to the monument. Not only is it to be hoped that “Helping Hands,” still too new to have made a lasting mark on the city, will do so over the coming years, but that the memorial will spark more memorials to worthwhile citizens of Chicago who are not white or male. Indeed, perhaps the monument, with its decontextualized hands and emphasis on collaboration and reaching out to help one’s community, will inspire more collaboration and more unity. Perhaps it might even provoke questions about who “Helping Hands” truly memorializes and who deserves to be memorialized.

Amber Mear, Loyola University Chicago


[1] Chicago Park District. “Helping Hands.” Last modified July 21, 2015. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/helping-hands.

[2] “Helping Hands.”

[3] Glessner House Museum. “Helping Hands…That Talk!” Last modified August 10, 2015. https://www.glessnerhouse.org/story-of-a-house/2015/08/helping-hands-that-talk.html.

[4] Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912.

[5]Statue Stories Chicago. “Helping Hands Jane Addams Memorial.” Accessed November 20, 2020. http://www.statuestorieschicago.com/statue-helping-hands.php.

[6] “Helping Hands…That Talk!”

[7] Ibid.

[8] Chicago Park District. “Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens.” Accessed November 20, 2020. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/chicago-womens-park-and-gardens.

[9] “Helping Hands…That Talk!”

[10] Ibid.

[11] Waller, Mary. “Jane Addams’ “Helping Hands.”” Last modified February 17, 2019. https://janeaddams.ramapo.edu/2019/02/jane-addams-helping-hands/.

[12] “Helping Hands Jane Addams Memorial.”

[13] “Helping Hands…That Talk!”

117 Years of Change and the Right to Protest

The Haymarket Square Incident occurred on May 4, 1886 when a bomb was thrown from a crowd of unionized laborers into a line of policemen. Eight men, now pardoned, were tried and convicted for the attack without tangible evidence against them. Four of these men were sentenced to death by hanging [1]. The event is shrouded in mystery, but the monuments erected clearly capture changing sentiments in police brutality and historical documentation. Erected in 1889, and officially removed from the public in 1970, the first monument depicts a policeman with his hand raised, dynamically capturing poise and valor. The second monument, dedicated in 2004, represents the laborers. Sculptor Mary Brogger utilized the speaker’s wagon as a tool on which faceless laborers stand to demand their rights. The 117-year gap between the two monuments, as well as the drastic subject change, signal a deep shift in conceptions about power, worker rights, and humanitarianism.

The original Haymarket Incident monument dedicated to a fallen policeman at its first location in Haymarket Square, 1889.

We mean to make things over;

we’re tired of toil for naught

But our wages are bare enough to live on; never an hour for thought.

We want to feel the sunshine;

we want to smell the flowers;

We’re sure that God has willed it, and we mean to have eight hours.

We’re summoning our forces from shipyard, shop, and mill:

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours

For what we will [2].

An interpretation of the Haymarket Incident at the moment the bomb was thrown into a line of policemen, May 4, 1886.

The demand for an 8-hour work day in Chicago began in 1864, when Civil War sentiments encouraged the oppressed to fight for their rights. In 1867, a law was put in place to satisfy demands, but contained a loophole that negated any efforts to sustain the 8-hour work day for laborers. Later that year in 1867, a citywide strike shut down Chicago’s economy for a week and with it took down the ineffective law. The demands died down, and over the course of the next fifteen years, exhausted laborers gathered again to demand less work and more leisure time [3].

Chicago laborers breaking for a few golden minutes during a long work day in the Gilded Age, 1880-1900.

Then, in May 1886, the movement united laborers and skilled workers from all backgrounds and mobilized during the three days preceding the Haymarket Square Incident on May 4. The influence of anarchist publications played an important role in labor strikes, and fueled officials fears of radical education. While mass production was good for sales and revenue, it was assumed that spare time encouraged men to educate and arm themselves with socialist propaganda that reviled capitalist institutions [4].

Newspapers such as the German language anarchist publication Arbeiter Zeitung, as well as the English language publication The Alarm advocated for workers to demand their rights at all costs, even taking up arms against their oppressors. Key writers for these papers, August Spies and Albert Parsons respectively, gave speeches on May 4, 1886. Their speeches, as well as their call to arms and inflammatory language in their writing ultimately sentenced them to the gallows [5].

The four men sentenced to hang, among them August Spies and Albert Parsons, represented the mass of workers and laborers who demanded change within the city. Their final remarks remain true to their anti-capitalist, anarchist sentiments. George Engel, another set to hang on November 11, 1886, harkened the influence of leaders in anti-slavery groups, who, like Engel himself, were sentenced to die for their cause. Engel, on October 8, 1886, noted “I found long ago, that the workingman had no more rights here than anywhere else in the world… and just as the man who agitated against slavery in this country had to ascend the gallows, so must we. He who speaks for the workingman today must hang.” [6]

The monument erected in 1889 after the hanging heralded a different side of the story. Officials and local papers pushed back against these men, their demands, and their assumed violent actions towards policemen [7]. While there was no evidence to convict these men of throwing the bomb, the hanging acted as a demonstration of power, a warning to those who desired to fight for their right to equal work and leisure time. The monument, placed in Haymarket Square, reminded passerby that the state was in control of laborers’ live, and would use force to ensure that the industrial economy within Chicago was maintained, even at the cost of laborer’s lives. Though there was shifts in labor laws, and many factories and work places began to roll back hours imposed on their workers, the people were continually reminded of their place within the power hierarchyas they had no choice but to participate in the system built against them. 

A busy Haymarket Square after the installation of the first monument, a reminder of laborers’ struggle for their rights, 1889.

The first Haymarket monument was a consistent object of vandalism.  It was moved to Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue in 1900. For 27 years the statue remained untouched, a grim reminder of what happened on May 4, 1886. In 1927, however, a streetcar purposefully crashed into the monument, knocking it over. The driver noted he was “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised” [9]. The monument became a symbol of police and citizen unrest. Each time there was a conflict between police and citizens, the monument suffered.

In 1969, civilians, reenacting the original event, placed a bomb between the statues legs and destroyed it a second time. The monument was quickly rebuilt to reinforce the sentiment of control and anti-anarchy it symbolized, but was bombed a second time in 1970 [10]. After the second bombing, it was clear that officials had completely lost the respect of the people concerning this incident, and that a social shift had taken place concerning the interaction of civilians and law officials. Increased police brutality and subsequent protest indicated that the monument must be removed from the public, and that it no longer held the same power over the people as it once had. The monument now is in the Chicago Police Training Academy [11].

Mary Brogger’s 2004 monument replacing the original Haymarket statue. This monument pays respects to the laborers fighting for a fair working day.

Taking its place is Mary Brogger’s monument to the anarchists and martyrs of the Haymarket incident [12]. Faceless and nameless in life, they are memorialized by abstract figures that represent their social position during the time of these strikes.

The first monument incited a sense of fear within passerby and anarchist alike. Brogger’s monument, however, is a symbol of persistence among people fighting for their rights. Between the dedication of the first monument in 1889 and the second in 2004 is 117 years in which Americans have fought for myriad rights and were met with the same backlash as the laborers at Haymarket Square. After over a century of police brutality and maintenance of a state-dominated status-quo, it is clear that the will of the people prevails in one way or another. Broggerr’s monument represents perseverance, and reminds Chicago of how far the country has come in terms of labor rights, and what is possible when citizens push back for their rights.

Katy Rose, Loyola University Chicago

[1] De Grazia, “The Haymarkey Bomb,” 310.

[2] De Grazia, “The Haymarkey Bomb,” 286-7.

[3] Jentz, “Eight Hour Movement.”

[4] De Grazia, “The Haymarkey Bomb,” 285.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lembcke and Howe, “Chicago Haymarket Centennial,” 96.

[7] De Grazia, “The Haymarkey Bomb,” 285.

[8] chicagocop.com, “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[9] chicagocop.com, “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[10] chicagocop.com, “Haymarket Memorial Statue.”

[11] City of Chicago, “The Haymarket Memorial,” https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_s_publicartthehaymarketmemorial.html.

Bibliography

De Grazia, Edward. “The Haymarket Bomb.” Law and Literature 18, no. 3 (2006): 283-322.

“Haymarket Memorial Statue.” ChicagoCop.com. Accessed November 18, 2020. https://www.chicagocop.com/history/memorials-monuments/haymarket-memorial-statue/.

Jentz, John B. “Eight Hour Movement .” Eight-Hour Movement, 2005. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/417.html.

Lembcke, Jerry, and Carolyn Howe. “Chicago Haymarket Centennial.” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 31 (1987): 96-98.

Roediger, David R., and Philip S. Foner. Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day. 1989.

“The Haymarket Memorial.” City of Chicago :: The Haymarket Memorial. Accessed November 19, 2020. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_s_publicartthehaymarketmemorial.html.

Image sources (in order):

“Haymarket Memorial Statue.” ChicagoCop.com. Accessed November 18, 2020. https://www.chicagocop.com/history/memorials-monuments/haymarket-memorial-statue/.

“Labor Quote of the Day: August Spies.” Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO. Accessed November 20, 2020. http://www.dclabor.org/home/labor-quote-of-the-day-august-spies3880299.

Notable Labor Strikes of the Gilded Age. Accessed November 17, 2020. http://faculty.weber.edu/kmackay/notable_labor_strikes_of_the_gil.htm.

“Haymarket Memorial Statue.” ChicagoCop.com. Accessed November 18, 2020. https://www.chicagocop.com/history/memorials-monuments/haymarket-memorial-statue/.

Ugc. “Haymarket Square.” Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura, October 22, 2009. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/haymarket-square.

Tolerance and Patriotic Unity: Chicago’s Heald Square Monument

 With the impending peril of World War II, Chicago searched for American patriots who represented them and could serve as the city’s democratic role models. They discovered the heroes they were looking for in Robert Morris, Haym Salomon, and George Washington. Barnet Hodes and the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago designed the Heald Square Monument to symbolize patriotic unity and tolerance during a global conflict. Today, however, this message is muddled due to its three patriots’ complicated legacies.

Heald Square Monument located on Chicago’s Riverwalk on Wacker Drive.
Photo taken by Jennifer Barry on November 9, 2020.

In the 1930s, well-connected Chicagoan lawyer Barnet Hodes led the efforts of the city’s elites to construct the Heald Square Monument. In July 1936, Hodes gathered Chicago’s political and financial leaders to form the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to promoting democratic values [1]. Chicago’s leaders rallied behind Hodes and his monument to the American Revolution to demonstrate how Americans came together to serve their country in times of crisis [2]. Rather than rely on philanthropic support with the Foundation, Hodes hoped that Chicago’s citizens would be inspired by the monument’s patriotic message, and he successfully appealed for their financial support [3]. Next, Hodes and the Foundation sought American Revolutionary heroes who represented their patriotic beliefs.

The patriots of the Heald Square Monument. From left to right: Robert Morris, George Washington, and Haym Salomon.
Photo taken by Jennifer Barry on November 9, 2020.
 

The Patriotic Foundation of Chicago selected civilian financiers Robert Morris and Haym Salomon for their monument, with revolutionary war hero George Washington as the focal point. As a Polish Jewish immigrant, Hodes was deeply inspired by Haym Salomon [4].  Salomon was a Polish Jewish immigrant who served as a spy, arranged the escape of American prisoners of war, and secured funding for the revolutionary American government. As a leading figure in the Continental Congress, English immigrant Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed superintendent of finance in 1781. Morris and Salomon, both resourceful businessmen, worked together to provide critically needed money and supplies for Washington and the Continental Army [5]. With the aid given by Morris and Salomon, Washington prolonged the war until Great Britain could no longer afford to continue to fight and was forced to grant American independence. The Patriotic Foundation of Chicago envisioned that Chicagoans would be inspired by the three patriots’ abundant generosity so that their country could endure.

Quote engraved on the front of the base of the Heald Square Monument:


“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 on all occasions their effectual support.”

President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, August 18, 1790. Full letter found on Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-06-02-0135.

Hodes and the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago commissioned renowned sculptor Lorado Taft to design the monument. With celebrated sculptures across Illinois, including Chicago’s Fountain of Time, Taft was passionate about the project because of his American Revolutionary ancestors [6]. Fearing possible anti-Semitic attacks, Hodes strongly urged Taft to craft the statues in a way that protected Salomon [7]. Taft gave the monument a profound but straightforward design: the three bronze patriots holding hands in patriotic unity atop a large rectangular stone base. Engraved on the base’s front are the patriots’ names and a powerful quote from Washington condemning bigotry and offering protection to all citizens who stand by the American government [8]. The base’s back has a bronze plaque with an image celebrating America’s tolerance of ethnic diversity. The plaque depicted an enthroned Lady Liberty, reminiscent of New York City’s Statue of Liberty, extending her welcoming arms and torch over the masses seeking America’s shores. While Taft died before its completion, he crafted a monument that unequivocally displayed Chicago’s values of patriotism, unity, and tolerance of all peoples.

The seated Lady Liberty plaque on back of the Heald Square Monument.
Rossfishman123, Bronze plaque showing Lorado Taft’s seated Statue of Liberty, Atlas Obscura, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/heald-square-monument.

After five years of fundraising and sculpting, Chicago’s citizens dedicated its Morris-Washington-Salomon monument on December 15, 1941, the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Adding significance to the day was Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor the week before. Chicago and the rest of the nation would be entering another world war. The monument was placed in Heald Square, named after Nathan Heald, a heroic American officer during the War of 1812 who commanded Fort Dearborn, formerly found in the area [9]. While the fort is gone, Chicago’s financial district has since taken over, and the Heald Square Monument was given a prominent location on Wacker Drive on the Chicago River’s south side. The “great triumvirate of patriots,” as President Franklin Roosevelt called the monument [10], were calling Chicago’s citizens to join in the upcoming fight against fascism and graciously receive people of diverse identities seeking American freedoms.

While Hodes and the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago designed the Heald Square Monument to convey patriotic unity and tolerance, it also imparts a subtle exclusionary message. In their selection of Morris, Washington, and Salomon, they made clear that the ideal American patriots are privileged white men in positions of wealth and power. Both Morris and Washington owned slaves who were forced to work on their plantations for their economic benefit [11]. They expected Salomon, the lone non-Christian, to bear the full weight of showing American tolerance for immigrants. They chose to commemorate American tolerance as the American government detained Japanese American citizens on baseless racial fears in detention camps. The Heald Square Monument’s provoking expression of patriotic unity and tolerance is confounded due to its commemoration of three privileged white men and its ignorance of the United States’ long history of racial intolerance.

The Heald Square Monument and its inspiring yet questionable message has been caught up in the recent highly politized atmosphere. Given its historical importance, the City of Chicago has owned Heald Square since 1959, including its monument, which the Chicago City Council selected as a Chicago Landmark in 1971 [12]. During the nationwide police brutality protests in May 2020, the Heald Square Monument was graffitied with offensive racial slurs that attacked the statues and their tolerant message. [13]. When the monument’s damage was discovered, some Chicagoans, out of respect for the three revolutionary patriots, quickly washed away the hateful slogans [14]. While Hodes was concerned about possible anti-Semitic attacks on Salomon’s statue, he never feared for Morris and Washington’s statues. The Heald Square Monument, with its optimistic portrayal of patriotic unity and tolerance, resonates today while raising doubt if the United States has acted on those principles. 

Hodes and the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago believed that the noble patriots of the Heald Square Monument would encourage the people of Chicago to follow their example of patriotic unity and tolerance. These noble patriots have become problematic given their status as privileged white men. The Heald Square Monument reflected Chicago’s political and business leaders and the white middle class who funded it. By honoring Morris, Washington, and Salomon, they disregarded how bigotry and prejudice have been sanctioned throughout American history and snubbed people of color and women’s contributions to the country. Patriotic unity and tolerance are admirable ideals that Americans should strive to live by as they grapple with their heroes’ complex reputations.

The 11-foot-tall statues of Robert Morris, George Washington, and Haym Salomon in a pose of patriotic unity and tolerance.

Photo taken by Jennifer Barry on November 9, 2020.

Meghan Flannery, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Harry Barnard, “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), 17.

[2] Christopher J. Young, “Barnet Hodes’s Quest to Remember Haym Salomon, the Almost-Forgotten Jewish Patriot of the American Revolution,” The American Jewish Archives Journal 63, no. 2 (2011): 44, http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/journal/PDF/2011_63_02_00_young.pdf.

[3] Young, “Barnet Hodes’s Quest,” 54.

[4] Young, “Barnet Hodes’s Quest,” 48.

[5] Barnard, “This Great Triumvirate of Patriots, 50.  

[6] Barnard, “This Great Triumvirate of Patriots,81.

[7] Young, “Barnet Hodes’s Quest,” 51.

[8] George Washington, “From George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 18 August 1790,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed November 1, 2020, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-06-02-0135.

[9] Neil Gale, “The History of the Heald Square Monument at Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois,” Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal, The Living History of Illinois and Chicago Community, last modified January 7, 2018, https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/2018/01/heald-square-monument-chicago-illinois.html.

[10] Barnard, “This Great Triumvirate of Patriots,95.

[11] “Updated Robert Morris,” The Founders & Slavery: Contradictions of Liberty: Created by Students from Marywood University’s HIST 399: Slavery and Abolition in the Atlantic World, last modified April 19, 2015, https://foundersandslavery.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/updated-robert-morris/#:~:text=Even%20though%20Robert%20Morris%20actively,who%20worked%20as%20household%20servants.

[12] Gale, “The History of the Heald Square Monument.”

[13] CWBChicago (@CWBChicago), “The Heald Square Monument—George Washington and the two principal financiers of the American Revolution,” Twitter photo, May 31, 2020, https://twitter.com/CWBChicago/status/1267285376055554051.

[14] G Picks (@picks996), “There was some good people cleaning this off yesterday, here is a picture,” Twitter photo, June 1, 2020, https://twitter.com/picks996/status/1267533887422566401.

Bibliography

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.

Gale, Neil.“The History of the Heald Square Monument at Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.” Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal. The Living History of Illinois and Chicago Community. Last modified January 7, 2018. https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/2018/01/heald-square-monument-chicago-illinois.html.

Rossfishman123. Bronze plaque showing Lorado Taft’s seated Statue of Liberty. Atlas Obscura. Accessed November 1, 2020. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/heald-square-monument.

“Updated Robert Morris.” The Founders & Slavery: Contradictions of Liberty: Created by Students from Marywood University’s HIST 399: Slavery and Abolition in the Atlantic World. Last modified April 19, 2015. https://foundersandslavery.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/updated-robert-morris/#:~:text=Even%20though%20Robert%20Morris%20actively,who%20worked%20as%20household%20servants.

Washington, George. “From George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 18 August 1790.” Founders Online, National Archives. Accessed November 1, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-06-02-0135.

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 63, no. 2 (2011): 43-62. http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/journal/PDF/2011_63_02_00_young.pdf.

Daphne Garden: Confined into a Spirit Tree

Monuments are a showcase to commemorate anyone who has had a direct impact on history. They allow us to continue to remember what they have achieved or what they want us to learn and imbibe in our life. Moreover, monuments can teach us lessons of history’s past and apply in the present and future. Thus, monuments continue to hold significance. As observers, monuments allow us to become more aware of the progress communities have made towards changing their views. Monuments also enable observers to do some introspection of their lives and realize what things hold more importance in our life.

The monument of Daphne Garden is currently in Chicago, Illinois. This monument was part of the Art in the Gardens temporary exhibit in 2004, as seen in Figure 1. At first, the monument’s location was at East Roosevelt Road and South Michigan Avenue. Many visitors and native Chicagoans loved the monument, so the Chicago Park District decided to permanently install it at the Northerly Island Visitor’s Center in 2006. [1]

Figure 1. Photograph of Daphne’s monument on Northerly Island in Chicago, Illinois.

Dessa Kirk created Daphne’s monument. Initially, she hails from Alaska but came to Chicago to attend the School of Art Institute. [2] Kirk aimed to show how Daphne’s myths explored the theme of exploitation among women and discuss different themes and emotions after learning the various myths about Daphne’s story. Kirk had been given the opportunity to create an artwork for The Union League Club of Chicago. In the past Kirk had created similar artwork related to female figures such as Magdalene in Grant Park. [3]

Anyone who has an interest in ancient Greece can associate Daphne as a part of Greek mythology. She was worshipped by many in ancient Greece during 1600 B.C.E. There are several different versions of Daphne’s myth. The Thessalian myth claims Daphne to be a Greek dryad or a tree sprite. She is the daughter of Penus, the river god. Her mother’s name is unknown. One day Apollo, the God of hunting, mocked Eros the God of Love for his lack of archery skills. Eros, enraged with anger, shot an arrow at Apollo, who became filled with an uncontrolled amount of lust for Daphne. Eros also shot an arrow at Daphne, which made her reject all romantic gestures. Daphne continued to run away from Apollo, as seen in Figure 2. She came to see her father, who helped her escape from Apollo. Daphne right there had escaped by turning into a laurel tree. [4]

The second version of Daphne’s myth is that she is the daughter of Ladon by Earth. As stated in the first version similarly, Apollo continued to make advances towards Daphne. However, she continued to resist his advances. Daphne came to her mother, Ge, who then turned her into a bay tree. Both myths agree that Apollo kept the tree close to him. [5]

Figure 2. Apollo chasing after Daphne.

The third version of Daphne’s myth is similar to the previous myths. In this version, Leucippus, the son of Oenomaüs, is the King of Pisa. He was in love with Daphne and took the disguise of a maiden to stay close with her. Both would go hunting together. Apollo, overcome with jealousy, had Leucippus killed by nymphs. To escape from Apollo, her father transformed Daphne into a laurel tree, as seen in Figure 3. Even though having several different versions of Daphne’s myth, all agree that Daphne had turned into a tree. [6]

Figure 3. Apollo and Daphne right before she transforms into a laurel tree.

Daphne’s monument represents many emotions that can easily be applied today with women being exploited, especially with the MeToo Movement. Looking closely at Apollo, one can describe him as Daphne’s stalker and unable to stop his sexual desires for Daphne. However, Daphne does not want to give in to his desires and wants to hold onto her virginity and retain her chastity like many women in today’s’ culture. Another emotion that can be showcased is the feeling of being protected by our parents. Daphne’s father helped her transform into a laurel tree; thus, Daphne could remain chaste and escape Apollo. Being chaste is another theme that observers can look at in her story—Apollo’s lust for Daphne versus her desire to remain chaste. Women from different cultures hold this notion of being chaste very close to them, thus believing to be pure.

Through Daphne’s monuments and stories, many can relate to today in how everyday women continue to face exploitation, whether in their personal or professional lives. Daphne’s story is here to remind women that they are not alone in their difficult challenges. Just as Daphne went to her parents for help, women have a support system around them to help in any situation. It also reminds women that they are not alone, and they can overcome any obstacle in their way. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many women do not feel protective in their personal and professional life. That is a notion that has to be changed.

Daphne’s monument hopes and continues to inspire societies to change their notions about women. Communities should not look at women like objects and prizes. Many communities should give women respect for their ability to handle any situation at any given time. Daphne’s monument hopes to empower women and let them take control of their lives and should not have to change their lives according to others.

Even though Daphne’s’ monument has no relation to Chicago, it can showcase how this monument can allow women to be more open and control what goes on in their lives. While there are different versions of Daphne’s myths in three different ways, all can agree she ultimately transformed into a tree and became a part of nature to get away from Apollo. Daphne’s monument represents how women can take control of their life in today’s time and should not have to feel alone. Another way Daphne’s monuments empower women is through challenging traditional notions of women. Just as Daphne went to her mother for help, women can always go to their mother.

Janki Patel, Loyola University Chicago

Citations:

[1] Chicago Park District. “Daphne Garden.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/daphne-garden.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Daphne.” Brooklyn Museum: Daphne. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/daphne.

[5] Martin, H. M. “The Apollo and Daphne Myth as Treated by Lope De Vega and

Calderon.” Hispanic Review 1, no. 2 (1933): 149-60. Accessed November 13, 2020. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0104%3Aentry.

[6] Martin, The Apollo, 157.

Citation of photographs in order:

“Apollo and Daphne: City of Fremont Official Website.” Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.fremont.gov/1349/Apollo-and-Daphne.

“Apollo Chasing Daphne Who Throws Her Arms up, in the Background at Right Shows the

Moment She Turns in a Laurel, from The Story of Apollo and Daphne.” metmuseum.org.

Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/364068.

Chicago Park District. “Daphne Garden.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/daphne-garden.

Tentative Schedule for Conference 2021!

Responding to Crisis tentative schedule
Note: All times are in Central Standard Time (Chicago, IL).

February 20th, 2021

February 21st, 2021

Opening Ceremonies: 9 AM – 9:30 AM

Session One: 9:30 – 11 AM

Tales from the Windy City: A Panel on Chicago History

OR

Activism and Identity: Pushing Against Racial Inequality in America

Digital Humanities Discussion: 11:15 AM – 12 PM

Lunch 12 – 1 PM

Public History Roundtable: 1 PM – 2:15 PM

Career Diversity Panel: 2:30PM – 4 PM

End of Day Remarks: 4 PM – 4:30 PM

Opening Ceremonies 9 AM – 9:30 AM

Session Two: 9:30 AM – 11 AM

Social Crises and Shifting Religious Geographies

OR

Redifining Identity in Times of Crisis: Gender and Sexuality History

HGSA Presidential Address: 11:15 AM – 12 PM

Keynote Address: 12 PM – 12:45 PM

Lunch: 12:45 PM – 1:45 PM

Career Diversity Panel: 2 PM – 3:30 PM

Session Three: 3:45 – 5PM

Evolving Methodology: The Role of Public History Today

OR

A Global Stalemate: A Panel on Cold War History

Closing Ceremonies: 5:15 PM – 5:30 PM

Collaborating to Commemorate the Suffrage Centennial

This summer, PhD candidates Cate LiaBraaten and Sean Jacobson created a video series for the Frances Willard House Museum’s commemoration of the 19th Amendment Centennial. This series, Suffrage Sundays. explores the connections between the temperance movement and the suffrage movement. In this blog post, Cate and Sean discuss working on a public history project collaboratively. To view the Suffrage Sundays video series, please visit the Frances Willard House’s Youtube Channel. For more information on the intersection of temperance and suffrage, please see this blog post Cate wrote. Additionally, check out another project from the Frances Willard House: Truth-Telling project: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells.

Cate: Since I reached out to you about joining me on this project, what made you say yes? That is, what do you look for when taking on a new project, especially a collaborative one?

Sean: Honestly, the public history scene has felt pretty moribund since the pandemic. I had been hoping to get involved in volunteer work at public history venues during the summer, but when so many places closed, I had given up on things for a time. So when you reached out to me about Suffrage Sundays, I was thrilled to be a part of another collaborative project and apply skills I’ve gained both from my public history coursework and my training in video production. When taking on new projects, it’s always important to me that I’m doing something that either expands my historical knowledge or advances skills. Doing collaborative work is also helpful practice for anyone wanting to work in public history!

Cate: When it comes to technical skills, how much experience do you think emerging museum professionals need to have before taking on a project—is there room for learning on the fly?

Sean: I think technical know-how is becoming more important in making history accessible to younger generations. The pandemic has made this all the more relevant. That being said, the technology we have now on smartphones is to the point where you don’t need expensive equipment or a formal training in media studies to create good products. I think it behooves historians to pick up on basic video or editing skills because, not unlike writing books or creating exhibits, video production has largely to do with telling narratives. I think historians can overcome some of their intimidation by thinking about gathering footage, recording audio, and editing as analogous to stages of research. You can absolutely learn skills on the fly, especially if you pay attention to some basic tips and strategies (e.g., NEVER shoot in “portrait” mode on a smartphone, record human voices with an isolated audio track, etc.). There are tons of tutorials on YouTube. The best way to learn skills is actually by doing.

Cate: Sometimes it’s challenging for emerging professionals to do projects outside of a school setting or a highly formalized work setting. What are some ways you think people can make collaborative projects work when there’s no clear leader—no boss directly involved or professor?

Sean: I think what we did was delineate specific roles based on what each person’s strengths are. Since you know more about women’s history and the Progressive Era, I trusted your judgment when it came to what to include in the scripts, the images you wanted to include, and the overall purpose of the videos. Likewise, you trusted my judgment when it came to what B-roll footage to include, how to record your voiceover, and the inclusion of music tracks. It certainly helps that we already had that personal rapport with each other since we’re in the same PhD cohort! It’s definitely trickier when you’re collaborating with people you don’t know, so that’s why it’s important to articulate from the start what particular roles each participant has. When it’s a group of 3 or more, I think it’s always helpful to designate someone as a “project manager” to facilitate both internal and external communication. I also believe having a shared project folder in OneDrive or Google Drive is a must!

Okay, now my turn to ask you questions. What inspired you to undertake this Suffrage Sundays project in the first place? And why did you decide on a video series as a medium?

Cate: At the Willard House we’ve been planning on doing something to commemorate the 19th amendment centennial for a long time. We had a series of events for summer 2020 in the works and were kicking off Women’s History month in March when the COVID-19 pandemic really changed everything. I wanted to do some suffrage related programming that could be accessible to people at home. I considered building an online exhibit or website, but one of the Willard House’s most recent projects, Truth Telling, (led by Loyola PhD Candidate Ella Wagner) is on a digital platform, and I wanted to do something totally different–especially because that project already fits its medium so spectacularly! When trying to decide what to do, I came across a video series from the Smithsonian called “Light Talks” –two-minute videos about birds. I loved the two-minute video series format! 

Sean: How did you go about selecting topics and featured items for the episodes? Would your process have been similar or different if you were choosing items to exhibit in a museum display?

Cate: I think it was very similar to creating an exhibit. I came up with a broad theme first: that suffrage work and temperance work were overlapping areas of women’s activism and leadership. Then I thought about what artifacts we had that tell that story. Some things I knew I wanted to use immediately, like the suffrage map. Other things, like the Lucy Stone letter, I found after our archivist, Janet Olson, directed me to suffrage-related materials in the archives. 

Sean: What about writing the scripts? How did your previous public history training come into play when trying to write scripts for short videos?

Cate: Writing the scripts was both like and unlike other projects. In a way, I thought about what I would include when writing object labels–a balance of generalized information and information specific to the item. I also thought about giving tours of the house museum–what would I say (or have I said) to visitors about the specific objects if we were seeing them together and in person? I think teaching experience helped too, because there’s never enough time to say everything you want to say! 

Sean: What did you learn from this project, and how would you do anything different for a similar project in the future?

Cate: I’ll start with the second question–one thing I might do differently is give more overview information upfront. Most of the audience of this series will likely already know what temperance is and who Frances Willard was. In a similar project I would likely broaden the scope.  One thing I learned from this project was the power of networking (for lack of a better way to describe it). When I decided I wanted to do this project, I knew I didn’t have the videography skills needed to create as high-quality videos as I wanted, and fortunately I already knew you! I liked thinking of this project as an opportunity to highlight the strengths of a colleague as well as the story itself. I could have done the videography myself, but it would have turned out worse and taken more time! It was really nice to see what using different people’s skill sets can produce.

New Book Reveals Whaling in Chicago and Questions of Public History

By Daniel Gifford

Imagine a museum dedicated to whaling, set on a venerable old whaling ship from New Bedford, floating majestically in Chicago—first at the foot of the State Street Bridge, and later in the gleaming White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Whenever I tell people this is the subject of my new book, The Last Voyage of the Whaling Bark Progress: New Bedford, Chicago and the Twilight of an Industry (McFarland Press, 2020), they invariably say how cool it all sounds.

Figure 1: The Progress in the South Pond of the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893. Book of the Fair, Fin de Siècle Edition, Section Three. Hubert Howe Bancroft. (Chicago: The Bancroft Company, 1893).

The Progress was conceived as New Bedford’s paean to American whaling. Thousands turned out for her departure from the Massachusetts city as she began her journey across North America to Chicago. On that blustery day in June 1892 few would have questioned the assumption that the whaling industry would be gloriously represented and lauded at the most important world’s fair in the nation’s history.

Instead, the Progress was a failed sideshow of marine curiosities, a metaphor for a dying industry out of step with Gilded Age America, and an unmitigated disaster. The enterprise lost her investors a significant fortune, especially Chicago coal baron Henry Weaver. The Progress became a running joke in the final years of the nineteenth century. At one point the once-proud whaling bark was advertised for sale in the classified ads of the Chicago Tribune, just above the notice, “Wanted—A well trained driving goat.” Fire and dynamite eventually sent her to the bottom of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Calumet River.

What does it mean to transform a dying industry into “a museum piece”? That ultimately was the question I kept returning to as I researched and wrote about this strange moment when the history of the American whaling industry intersected with the 1890’s most celebrated freshwater metropolis. It remains a decidedly relevant question today as modern museums strive to preserve, interpret, and contextualize industries such as coal, steel, and manufacturing. Like those industries now, whaling was not dead by the 1890s, just greatly reduced. But it did still continue, remaining a way of life for a cadre of men and their families.

Discovering the ignominious fate of the Progress in Chicago thus opened doors to a decidedly contemporary set of lessons for museum practitioners today. What, exactly, went wrong? And what, if anything, can we learn from those failures over 100 years later? To answer those questions, I realized that I needed to go back much further than the heady months of the Columbian Exposition. That is why my book starts in 1850s New Bedford—the golden age of American whaling. Just like many industries and communities today, New Bedford had developed its own historical memory around whaling’s place in the American narrative. In the case of New Bedford, this blossomed into a literal religious zeal for the industry. The illuminative products of whaling—lamp fuel, lighthouse oil, clean-burning candles—became infused with the Quaker faith, built upon a foundation of light-versus-dark metaphors, beliefs, and practices. When New Bedford’s motto declared Lucem Diffundo— “we diffuse light”—it was both a civic statement and an evangelical claim.

This sort of industrial pride can be incredibly useful for conceiving and executing a museum. That instinct fed the idea of a whaling museum at the Columbian Exposition. The problem is that it can also create blind spots and tunnel vision. Over and over I found a disconnect between New Bedford’s inherent belief in whaling’s relevance and romance, and the way the trade was perceived by others. This included the Chicago syndicate that ultimately funded and ran the museum.

As the Progress journeyed across North America to Chicago via a network of rivers, canals, and finally the Great Lakes, she made a series of intermediate stops as a ticketed attraction. Curious sightseers in Montreal, Buffalo, Racine, and Milwaukee all got a chance to visit the whaling museum before her grand debut in Chicago in July 1892. Tracing that journey as a public historian was especially illuminating because it also showed how the museum changed the further away from New Bedford it went. Today, public historians take it as an article of faith that a museum needs to be connected to its community. The Progress is a terrific case study in this concept, or more accurately, its opposite. The further from whaling’s heart the bark traveled, the more it was severed from its community—a community that was already a shadow of what it had once been.

Figure 2: “The Arctic Whaler Progress.” G.A. Coffin. “There She Blows. (Chicago: Arctic Whaling Exhibit Co., 1893).

Each stop on the way to Chicago seemed to push the Progress further and further away from the concept of a faithful representation of whaling and the whaling industry. When the whaleship arrived in the waters of Lake Michigan, the transformation into a museum of exotica, curiosities, and maritime hodgepodge was nearly complete. By the time she was moored on the Chicago River, even her New Bedford whaling crew had been replaced with freshwater sailors from Chicago’s schooners. My book explores this tension between an educational experience emphasizing completeness and authenticity, and an entertaining experience emphasizing crowd-pleasing spectacle. This push-and-pull dynamic from more than a century ago is surely not lost on museum practitioners today.

Figure 3: Cover, Souvenir Brochure, State Street Bridge, Chicago. 1892.

The Progress’ years in Chicago up until the fiery dynamiting in 1902 are filled with stories both hair-raising and sad, all of which I trust will be fascinating to any Chicago history aficionado. She sank in the Chicago River with 200 schoolchildren aboard. (Spoiler alert: they escaped!) She sat encased in ice on the Columbian Exposition fairgrounds while workers built the White City around her. Henry Weaver—whose coal money brought the Progress to Chicago and funded the eventual “Arctic Whaling Museum and 10,000 Marine Curiosities Between Decks”—went into receivership. The brand-new Field Columbian Museum bought and displayed the Progress’ vast collection in its first year, only to have museum curators rebel and unceremoniously kick the whaling artifacts out of Chicago at the first opportunity.

By the time I had worked my way to the end of the story, I was fully conscious of the temptation to point fingers and cast blame. Was Henry Weaver the villain here, or perhaps Chicago itself? Did the city’s Gilded Age love of everything modern and profitable make a whaling museum doomed from the beginning? Ultimately, I leave it up to the reader to decide, but I believe simple answers are elusive. Instead, I hope that my book sparks conversations about how to honor communities that may not be ready for their final eulogy or want a museum to become their mausoleum. The story of the Progress is a microhistory for those interested in commemoration, speaking to us over a hundred years later about how to value an industry. All we need do is listen.

The Last Voyage of the Whaling Bark Progress: New Bedford, Chicago and the Twilight of an Industry by Daniel Gifford is available on Amazon.com and other online vendors: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08945YF7F/

Daniel Gifford, Ph.D.’s career spans academia and public history, including George Mason University, George Washington University, and the Smithsonian Institution. A scholar of American popular culture and museums studies, he currently teaches at several universities near his home in Louisville, Kentucky.