Under the cover of darkness in the wee hours of the morning of August 16, 2017 a piece of history was removed from Wyman Park Dell in Baltimore’s Charles Village.
The offensive statue had resided in the park since 1948.
Commissioned in 1928, it was the first double equestrian statue in the United States; World War II delayed its completion and dedication for twenty years.
Much has been said about the fact that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s father, The late Thomas D’Alesandro, JR, former Baltimore Mayor, dedicated the statue with the words “Today, with our nation beset by subversive groups and propaganda which seeks to destroy our national unity, we can look for inspiration to the lives of Lee and Jackson to remind us to be resolute and determined in preserving out sacred institutions. We must remain steadfast in our determination to preserve freedom, not only for ourselves, but for the other liberty-loving nations who are striving to preserve their national unity as free nations.”
He added, “In these days of uncertainty and turmoil, Americans must emulate Jackson’s example and stand like a stone wall against aggression in any form that would seek to destroy the liberty of the world.”
But let’s not dwell on that, nor the fact that Representative Pelosi now finds the statues so offensive. I don’t harbor every treatise and belief of my parents either.
The fascinating story about this piece of art, and I will to my dying day declare many of these statues art, is once again, the story of the artist.
Laura Gardin Fraser was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1889. The Civil War had been over for 24 years, she was from the Nawth, and I doubt she grew UP dining at the table of the Lost Cause.
She married sculptor James Earle Fraser. But we’ll not give him press today other than the fact that he was her teacher and they fell in love and married.
In 1931 she won the competition to design a new U.S. coin, a quarter with George Washington on the obverse. Her winning design was ignored by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. Mellon selected a different design by John Flanagan.
Alas, the glass ceiling was not shattered.
In 1999, her design was coined as a commemorative five dollar gold piece.
Though she is most well known for her many designs of medals such as the commemorative Oregon Trail Half Dollar, she did win commissions to do heroic-sized statues.
Henry Ferguson, the owner of Colonial Trust, donated $100,000 for a monument honoring the final meeting of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville.
The meeting occurred the day Jackson would be struck down by mistaken friendly fire.
The competition for the commission was tough. Held in 1936, six noted American sculptors were invited to submit designs. Lee Lawrie, Paul Manship, Edward McCartan, Hans Schuler, and Frederick William Sievers, who would go on to create the magnificent monument to Matthew Fontaine Maury in Richmond, Virginia, and Fraser all competed for the job.
Fraser was the only woman invited to compete, and was the first woman to win a major sculpting commission from a municipality.
The future of the statue is in limbo as the city tries to find a new home for it. If we are looking for accuracy and political context, Chancellorsville Battlefield sounds like a good place for the work of art.
The removal of the dual equestrian statue has cured no ills; it has only proceeded to eradicate a piece of Women’s History.
Though there are many reasons espoused for removing or contextualizing the statues, no one seems to be thinking about all of the history they represent.
Well, no one other than me, I suppose.