Striking Balance; Monument Relevance in Contemporary Times

Following the nationwide protests over the past few years’ racial and police reforms, significant monuments’ relevance and suitability have come into question. Statues and monuments have been toppled and torn down, scrutinized and reviewed, and new ones erected in an attempt to capture our current culture. One might reasonably ask where we draw the line. The surface-level question, “how do we strike the balance between removing disconcerting monuments and preserving a trace of them” comes to the forefront, but there is a deeper underlying cultural-historical balance that needs to be addressed. How do we compromise the commemoration and preservation of our historical lessons with the current public perception of monuments and the present cultural values?

Flyer advertising rally at Haymarket Square
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

On May 30, 1889, a commemorative nine-foot bronze statue depicting a Chicago policeman was unveiled to honor the policemen’s sacrifice who lost their lives the night of the 1886 Haymarket Affair. What started as a peaceful protest the evening of May 4, 1886, transformed into chaotic violence. Workingmen met for a rally in response to the striking of workers at the McCormick Harvester Works, creating a platform to advocate for labor rights. Although intended as a peaceful demonstration, flyers advertising the gathering were dispersed with the line, “Workingmen arm yourselves and appear in full force” [1]. Towards the end of the Haymarket Square rally, a group of policemen advanced to disperse the crowd and were attacked by an explosive thrown by an unidentified individual. The police opened fire, and chaos ensued; seven police officers, and at least one civilian, were killed, and many more were injured [2].

Three years following the riot, the Haymarket statue of the policeman was commissioned and installed. Funded by the private funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago, the statue was designed by Frank Batchelder and sculpted by Johannes Gelert [3]. The statue would become the first known monument in the United States honoring police officers [4] and has been moved seven times. Much like the statue’s commemorative inspiration, its history is one of violence.

Haymarket Memorial Statue at Randolph Street and Kennedy Expressway

The original Haymarket statue was placed in the middle of Randolph Street on a marble pedestal engraved with the last command of Captain William Ward delivered in the Haymarket riot. “In the name of the People of Illinois, I command peace” [5]. However, due to vandalism and interference with traffic flow, the statue was moved for the first time to Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue near Union Park. In 1903, the seals located on the statue’s pedestal were stolen and had to be replaced.

On the 41st anniversary of the Haymarket Affair, a streetcar, driven by William Schultz, jumped its tracks and crashed into the statue’s pedestal, causing the figure to fall off the base. The city had the statue restored and moved to Union Park. The statues’ third move was in 1957 due to the Kennedy Expressway’s construction, causing the placement of the statue to be moved to Randolph Street and the Kennedy Expressway. On the 82nd anniversary of the riot, the monument was vandalized with black paint, and soon following this event, the statue was destroyed by an explosive placed in between the legs of the figure in 1969.

The first explosion, which may have been a symbolic reenactment of the original Haymarket protest, was credited towards Weather Underground members, otherwise known as Weatherman, who had had other altercations with the police throughout Chicago [6]. The statue was rebuilt and replaced in May of 1970 but was blown up again in October of the same year. After the second explosion, an individual called several news outlets to declare that the Weatherman did the bombing to “Show our allegiance to our brothers in New York prisons and our black brothers everywhere. This is another phase of our revolution to overthrow our racist and fascist society. Power to the People” [7].

 Despite these attacks on the Haymarket monument, the city continued to take care of the statue. It had the statue repaired again and was moved to the State Street Chicago Police Headquarters Building in 1972 [8]. For over four years, the statue remained there before being relocated to the courtyard at the Chicago Police Training Academy. However, the statue did not stay at this location and was rededicated to its final (current) destination. In 2007 the statue was rededicated at Chicago Police Headquarters and placed on a new pedestal where it remains presently.

As the turbulent history of this one monument demonstrates, no monument is a neutral marker of an event; the interpretation of the artist and intent of the commissioning source, as well as prevailing public sentiment, shape the ultimate product. It would be naïve to claim monuments, such as the Haymarket statue, are only about the “past”; they are politically potent in the present. The concerns and views of the times are continually applied as a litmus test of public acceptability.  It is our responsibility as a society to ensure we balance the historical significance and our shared cultural journey with the intended commemoration and conception. In many cases, this could be accomplished through the introduction of additional contextual information surrounding the monument, providing that bridge between contemporary social norms and mores to the period in which the monument was erected.  The Haymarket monument represents and commemorates the lives of the policemen lost during the Haymarket Affair; perhaps, some of its tumult of being rebuilt, removed, and rededicated could have been avoided if a more balanced presentation had been offered.  The monument does have the benefits of preserving both the art and the historical bearing and should be weighed in a careful manner so that we do not regret the loss of critical journey markers of our spurtive societal growth. This is not to say that some monuments have outlasted their relevance, and need to be updated or replaced.  But given the highly charged political and emotional atmosphere of this year, we need to entertain a more considered approach when we contemplate removing historical monuments.

Isabelle Sapienza, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Flyer advertising Haymarket Rally, Printed at the Office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1886.

[2] Brian Duignon, “Haymarket Affair; Unites States Hstory, 1886”,

[3] Wendy Koenig, “The Police Monument”, Chicago Public Art,

[4] “Haymarket Memorial Statue”,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Richard M. Sommer, “Dyn-o-Mite Fiends; The Weather Underground at Chicago’s Haymarket”, January 10, 2008.

[7] John Kifner, “Ominous Threat in Attacks on the Police,” New York Times, September 6, 1970.

[8] “Haymarket Statue Moved” Chicago Police Star Magazine, March, 1972, retrieved from

The Ugly Duckling Shines in Lincoln Park: The Rich Meaning of the Hans Christian Andersen Monument in Chicago

From The Little Mermaid to The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tales are known high and low around the world. His stories have graced pages of books, poems, and art as well as the big screen with movies, TV shows, and even plays and Broadway musicals. The Hans Christian Andersen monument located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois pays homage to the innovative writer from Denmark [1]. However, the famed Danish man known by many did not start out as a lovely swan. Much like his story The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen had to go through a rough life to get to the fame and glory he has now that inspired a group of Danish immigrants to create a monument to represent their country and heritage.

Thora Hallager, “Hans Christian Andersen,” October 1869.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark to a poor shoemaker and a washerwoman [2]. The creator and storyteller inside Hans came out at an early age as he was known to tell stories to other children in elementary school [3]. However, Hans had family issues that made him scared to dive completely into his mind of wonder and fantasy. His grandfather, an actor, had gone mad, and Hans was waiting for his time to come where he too would run around the streets in flowers singing at the top of his lungs [4]. His mother, seeing Hans worried and anxious, decided to try to cure him of his worries. She did everything from taking him to a religious well to bringing him to a wise woman who made him wear a bag around his neck “containing some churchyard earth and a mole’s heart” [5]. After his father had died, his step-father, a dull grey man compared to the bright book-loving man his father was, found no use for Hans as he was becoming more in his head as he grew older [6]. Luckily for Hans, a fortune-teller came by the family’s house and read his fortune as: “‘Something great and fine in the world. The time will come when all Odense will be illuminated for him’” [7]. After hearing this, at the ripe age of fourteen, Hans set off to Copenhagen to try to make a mark on the world with his creativity and imagination [8].

While in Copenhagen, Hans tried his luck at almost anything that had to do with the arts. It wasn’t until he met “Jonas Collin, a benevolent Director of the Royal Theatre and one of the King’s Councillors” that Hans’ life in Copenhagen started to look up [9]. Collin had received a grant from the king to send Hans to “the Latin School at Slagelse under Simon Meisling” [10]. At school, Hans learned Latin, German, and French and continuously read in Danish, German, French, and even some English [11]. Hans also continued to write and create stories in his head at school.

After he graduated school, Hans went back to Collins’ family, but ended up traveling around Europe after the king granted him a traveling stipend [12]. When he returned to Denmark, Hans questioned whether he should continue writing or stop for a normal job that would bring him a consistent living. Collins encouraged Hans to continue writing, and after two years, he published his first “Fairy Stories,” a pamphlet containing four stories that would eventually be the first stepping stone on his path to greatness [13]. Hans’ writing only continued from the first pamphlet as his stories exploded onto the writing scene. Eventually, after his famous works of today like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Nightingale, and more were published, the king of Denmark gave Hans a fixed income for his contribution to the writing world in the name of Denmark [14]. In his old age, Hans returned to Odense to find that the town had transformed into a beacon for him, just as the fortune-teller had predicted when he was fourteen [15]. Finally, the ugly duckling had become the swan he was destined to be.

The monument in Lincoln Park pays homage to Hans and represents more than just his literary mark on the world. After the American Civil War, monuments and statues of influential people were being put up in remembrance and honor of heritage [16]. Immigrants started doing the same as they wanted to remember their homeland and heritage that they had left behind [17]. Danish immigrants were no exception to this, especially as a huge influx of Danish Americans came to Chicago in 1891 [18].

While the Danish immigrants started thinking about ideas for the monument’s specifics, they knew they wanted to place the monument in one of Chicago’s beautiful parks as they had a desire to “give a good account of the culture of their homeland in America” [19]. Hans Christian Andersen was, of course, the first idea that popped into the immigrants’ heads as someone to represent their homeland of Denmark. Not only was Hans an influential writer in Europe, but also in America as his stories had spread across miles of the Atlantic Ocean to grace American homes and libraries [20]. He was the perfect person to showcase and honor Danish heritage and culture, but with the overwhelming certainty that the immigrants, and future immigrants, would keep their culture in America as well as America accepting their culture in return.

In 1981, a committee named “The Hans Christian Andersen Monument Association” was created and set forth on creating the monument that would be a symbol of Danish pride [21]. The committee chose Johannes Gelert, a sculptor who, like Andersen, moved to Copenhagen around the age of fourteen, as the artist for the monument [22]. However, a large problem arose with the monument. As one can expect, an eight foot tall bronze statue on a large granite pedestal is no cheap endeavor [23]. The committee had been getting small donations from Danish circles all across America and even small school-aged children donated with the change they had, but it was not enough and the monument was postponed indefinitely [24]. This did not stop the Danish-American community in Chicago from giving up. New ways to get money for the monument, like bazaars and concerts and new subscription lists, were thought of and executed ending in a possible date for the monument to be announced [25].

Finally, on September 26, 1896, the Hans Christian Andersen monument in Lincoln Park was unveiled to the public [26]. The statue of Hans is made out of bronze, and is a beautiful piece of art. Hans is sitting on a tree stump with a book on his lap. His finger is tucked inside it to hold his place as he looks out into the park. Beside him is a majestic swan. The statue sits atop a large granite pedestal that bears the letters “HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN.”

Wikimedia Commons. Accessed November 15, 2020.

The monument is an impressive and beautiful reminder to the Danish-American community in Chicago that they did not leave their heritage in Denmark when they left for a new life in America. It was the opposite in fact. Similar to a lot of monuments, this one stands as a physical reminder of something that cannot be seen outright. Sure heritage and culture can be seen from the food that is on the dinner table or the traditions families follow each year, but heritage and culture are like love, sometimes we need a physical reminder that we have it, and it cannot be taken from us. The Hans Christian Andersen monument stands as a beacon for current and new Danish-Americans that they did not leave anything but a country behind. Their costumes, traditions, and way of life are always ingrained in their bodies and minds. Similar to Hans’ story of the ugly duckling, the Danish immigrants felt as if they were an ugly duckling in the country of America in the late 1890s, but it was the opposite. They had finally become the beautiful swan they were meant to be in a new land that promised them a new and better life. The monument reminds them every day that they are not the ugly duckling, they are just like their Danish national treasure who they memorialized in bronze, a swan who needed to break free and soar to reach the place where their inner beauty, imagination, and happiness can shine.

Keeley Shoudel, Loyola University Chicago

[1] Elizabeth Belloc. “Hans Christian Andersen.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 41, no. 161 (1952): 55.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 56.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 57.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 58.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 60.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Larsen, Birgit F. “Hans Christian Andersen’s Statue In Lincoln Park, Chicago.” The Bridge 22, no. 2 (1998): 84.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., 85.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 86.

[23] “Hans Christian Andersen Monument.” Chicago Park District. Accessed November 15, 2020.

[24] Larsen, “Hans Christian Andersen’s Statue In Lincoln Park, Chicago,” 88.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 89.