Hubbard's Call


Tablet presented to historical society

                                    Voices from afar off call us
                                    To pause and listen.*
*Inscription on bronze tablet, rendered by Mrs. Julia Bracken Wendt, and presented to the Chicago Historical Society by Mrs. Hubbard shortly before her death in 1909. Giant oak trees frame Gurdon Hubbard’s portrait, in bas-relief.  Perhaps these oak trees suggest the very day when a young Gurdon Hubbard first arrived in the Prairie State.  Oak trees can also be read as a symbol of strength and endurance.

Happy 200 Years, Illinois!

Illinois’ Bicentennial celebration can be launched with the history of one man: Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, born 1802 in Vermont and buried 1886 in Graceland Cemetery.

Gurdon Hubbard first arrived in Chicago on October 1, 1818; the year Illinois became a state.  He was sixteen and newly employed as a clerk for the American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor.

When young Gurdon and the fur company’s “brigade” of twelve boats landed at Chicago that fall, he climbed a tree to better view the prairie “through the oak woods.” He later wrote, “The waving grass, intermingling with a rich profusion of wild flowers, was the most beautiful sight I have ever gazed upon.” A herd of wild deer and a pair of red foxes gave “animation to the scene” and looking north he saw the “whitewashed buildings” of Fort Dearborn.[i]

In reading Hubbard’s life story, we can envision Chicago and Illinois in their youth and more fully comprehend their transformations, from settlement and frontier to great metropolis and flourishing state. 

From our 2018 vantage, it is both difficult and enchanting to imagine Gurdon’s many thrilling adventures: viewing the untouched prairie; portaging Mud Lake; visiting the American Bottom; trading furs with Indians; forging trails in the wilderness; purveying as pioneer meat packer, plus an impressive number of other commercial and civic pursuits.

Fairly well known history is his establishment of a trading route from Vincennes, Indiana to Chicago, through Danville that on old maps was named “Hubbard’s Trail.”  Hubbard regularly worked this route in the 1820s and claimed that he once walked seventy-five miles in one day.  For this, Indians who knew him called him “Pa-pa-ma-ta-be” which means “The Swift Walker.”[ii]

Less known, yet particularly consequential to Illinois, is the role Hubbard played in the building of the Illinois Michigan Canal.

As a representative in the 1832-33 Illinois General Assembly in Vandalia, Hubbard introduced a bill for the construction of the Illinois Michigan Canal, which was ultimately defeated.  At every meeting of the legislature thereafter, he continued to urge passage of the canal bill until it successfully passed in the session of 1835-36.

At one point, in the planning of the canal, the location of its northern terminus was debated. Consideration was given to connecting the canal to the Calumet River rather than to the south branch of the Chicago River. On this question, according to Judge Henry W. Blodgett (1821 – 1905), Illinois is indebted to Mr. Hubbard.  The judge explained:

“After hearing the arguments upon this point, Mr. Hubbard took a map and called the attention of the members to the fact that the mouth of the Calumet River is within a few hundred yards of the Indiana state line, and suggested that it was expected that wherever the canal terminated a great city would grow up, and pertinently asked whether it was desirable that the coming city, at the terminus of the canal, should be as much of it in the State of Indiana as in Illinois, when the entire expense of constructing the canal would devolve upon Illinois. This practical business view of the question settled it, and the mouth of the Chicago was made the terminus instead of the mouth of the Calumet.
      So you will see that the State of Illinois is indebted to the sagacity of Gurdon S. Hubbard for locating this great city where Illinois gets the principal benefit of it.”[iii]

When digging the canal ceremoniously commenced July 4, 1836, Gurdon Hubbard spade up one of the first shovelfuls of earth.

Original marker 1834, replaced 1936

Memorials to Hubbard are few.  In downtown Chicago, we have the portrait tablet at the Chicago History Museum as well as Hubbard Street. * When “Hubbard’s Trail” became the basis for the first state road, today State Route 1, historical markers were placed to commemorate its history.  On Chicago’s north side, we have Hubbard’s tomb in Graceland Cemetery, Section D, Lot 50.

Through Gurdon Hubbard we better know and understand our great city and state.  Hubbard “was able to adapt himself to civilization, and to infuse into others something of the fire which burned within him.... If we have moved at a rapid pace, it is perhaps because that pace was set by Pa-pa-ma-ta-be, ‘The Swift Walker.’”[iv]

Hamilton, Henry Raymond. The Epic of Chicago, Chicago: Willett, Clark & Co., 1932.

Hubbard, Gurdon. The Autobiography of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1911

[i] Hubbard, The Autobiography, 32 - 33
[ii] Hubbard, The Autobiography, 142.
[iii] Hamilton, The Epic of Chicago, 346-347.
[iv] Hubbard, The Autobiography, x.

* I’m assuming the tablet is still in the museum’s collection.  I have submitted an inquiry via email, however it may take several weeks to receive an answer.

By Krista August, author of Giants in the Park: A Guide to Portrait Statues in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.


Grant Statue Honors More Than Grant

The Chicago Tribune reported that a quarter of a million people came out for the unveiling of Lincoln Park's Ulysses S. Grant statue on October 7th, 1891.* Twenty thousand patriots met first downtown and marched north to Lincoln Park in a parade celebrating Grant's life.

Chicago's Grant Statue Unveiling, October 7, 1891

Such a large turnout reflected Grant's enormous popularity. It also reflected the fact that the unveiling was the main event for the Twenty-Third Annual Reunion Celebration of the Army of the Tennessee (a union army in the Western Theatre).

Ulysses S. Grant, photo taken October 1861 at Cairo, Illinois

Included among the many assembled veteran groups were survivors of the Twenty-first Illinois Infantry, Grant's first regiment, who mustered into service on June 28, 1861. 

Although Grant commanded this nearly one-thousand-man regiment for only a few months prior to a promotion, the soldiers of his first command, the 21st Illinois Infantry, received special attention at the Grant statue dedication ceremonies.

The Chicago Tribune honored the men with special coverage:

"They numbered about two score. They are magnificent specimens of rugged age. Their step was steady, their eyes still bright. They carried proudly ... the tattered battle flag which they had followed on many a hard fought field. It was faded and torn to pieces by shot and shell and saber and bayonet thrusts. It is a flag of fragments. The remnants have been placed in position and sewed on a light fabric. It is thirty years old and it played a leading part in the desperate hand-to-hand fighting at Stone River, Chickamauga, and a dozen other bloody fields. Around it cluster deeds of deathless heroism."** 

Flag Photo Courtesy of the Douglas County Website page:
"The Grand Army of the Republic, IL Flags from the Civil War"

Mrs. Grant visited the Palmer House to meet with survivors of her husband's first regiment prior to the unveiling ceremony, where "she took each one by the hand, and each one gave his name."*** 

Julia Grant

The 21st Illinois Infantry was given a place of honor in the parade and at the undraping.  

They were recognized early in the dedication ceremony to rounds of cheers, upon which the old soldiers carried their war-torn flag up to the monument.  The multitude roared again in delight at the site of these heroes with their Old Glory.
October 7, 1891 Unveiling Ceremony

After the flags were dropped to reveal an equestrian Grant in bronze, Mrs. Grant was escorted forward,  to stand in full view of the throng, where she wept in gratitude.  The newspaper description continued,

"She looked directly down from the stand [to] where her husband's old comrades of the Twenty-first were gathered around their historical and tattered colors. With them also was the new flag presented them by the Nation for this occasion. They cheered Mrs. Grant, while many of the bronzed faces showed traces of the feeling manifest on hers."*** 
Mrs Grant 

July 23rd is the anniversary of Grant's passing. His death in 1885 inspired popular subscription for the Lincoln Park equestrian bronze which we all enjoy today. 

Studying the history behind Lincoln Park's Grant monument reminds us that the Grant statue honors more than Grant.  

"The word Grant meant more than the name of one man, however exalted; it meant the great Republic; it meant a continent free; it meant the new world's peace...

    The word Grant meant also other sons of Illinois, other sons of the republic--not so blessed by glory as their chief, but not missed by misery of war--sons who went out to sow in weeping, but came not back to reap with rejoicing the harvest of today.
    ... for the hosts of men and women both North and South who suffered and died that the world might be better worth living in... for the absent who outnumbered the hundreds of thousands who were present... the huge assemblage formed...." *** 

*Published estimates for number of spectators in Lincoln Park who witnessed the unveiling range from 100,000 to 500,000 people! 

**"The Were Comrades of Grant," Chicago Tribune 10/8/1891

***"In Honor of  Dead Hero," Chicago Tribune 10/8/1891


Pablo is a big fan of Ulysses S. Grant. "Let Us Have Peace" is one of his favorite bandanas. 



Wild Onions, Brotherly Love and Kindred Bronze*

       The oldest statue in Chicago's Lincoln Park commands a remote lakefront location, slightly north of Diversey Harbor. This life-sized, naturalistic bronze depicts an Ottawa family of Indians, the mother, the father and the baby with a wolf-like dog.**

An old photo shows that the bronze is not in its original form.

Feather forms once decorated the male figure's headpiece. A collar adorned 'his' neck, perhaps suggesting a necklace of bear claws.  Reportedly a tomahawk was held in hand, although old photos reveal what looks to be a peace pipe.

A handle or guard, barely visible in either image, was attached to the papoose. 

From my own visits to the statue, it's obvious the dog's tail is also broken off.

The Alarm was originally located in the area of our Lincoln Park Zoo.

Originally bronze bas reliefs, pictures that have sculptural form, decorated the base.  Three of these original reliefs were reportedly stolen.  Pink-granite incised reliefs replicate the original images and are titled The Corn Dance, The Peace Pipe, Forestry, and The Hunt.

One is likely surprised to learn that details are missing because it appears entirely whole and remains a dignified representation of a noble people who once inhabited this Great Lakes region.

The monument is titled The Alarm and was donated to Lincoln Park by Martin Ryerson (1818 - 1887), who commissioned New York-born artist John Joseph Boyle to honor his early friends.  As a young man, Ryerson had traded furs with the Ottawa Indians.  

In creating this commemorative art, Ryerson involved himself to ensure a sympathetic and historically accurate portrayal.

Ryerson spoke at the 1884 unveiling ceremony before one hundred of Chicago's early citizens and said in part:

      "I have caused the construction of this statue to commemorate the Ottawa race of Indians with whom I spent several years of my early manhood.  While with them I saw much that was good and noble and I looked upon them as my friends.  There are but few white people now living who understand that race as I did a half a century ago . . . I therefore hope ... that this statue will serve to show posterity for all time to come the opinion in which some of his co-existent white men held the Indian."

Sculptor John Joseph Boyle (1851 - 1917)

The success of The Alarm inspired Philadelphia to commission Boyle to create an Indian group for their fair city.  Consequently, he rendered The Stone Age, which depicts an Indian mother with two babes and a bear cub at her feet.

The Stone Age, completed 1887, graces Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Boyle’s original sketch for Philadelphia portrayed the Indian mother defending her family from a large eagle that flapped its wings while it struggled from a vulnerable position on the ground. The commissioning committee did not want the possibility of a political interpretation, e.g. the symbol of our nation in a weak position, and asked Boyle to edit this early concept.

Boyle did not just portray Indian subjects. Another
masterpiece is his glorious depiction of Benjamin Franklin
(1899) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Video designed and produced by Kristin Noelle Smith


*Chicago is derived from an Indian word meaning “place of wild onions.”

** The Alarm is also the oldest statue on Chicago Park District land, in terms of being the earliest installation. 


The Vanishing Beethoven

Forty-six years ago, this month, a Beethoven bust vanished from Chicago's Lincoln Park.  

In comparison to photo at end of blog, this image appears to show the pedestal to have been vandalized.

Prior to its mysterious disappearance, Ludwig's likeness had graced Lincoln Park gardens for seventy-four years, 1897 to 1971.

According to this postcard -- which features the Shakespeare statue at a distance -- this country-style garden was once named Hardy Flower Garden, although I have never seen this name used any other place.

The garden that the Beethoven bust once adorned is sometimes referred to as the English gardens and hosts a bronze of the English bard, the Star of Poets, William Shakespeare.

Photo from 1899 book has caption which reads "Country Flower Garden looking north."

Beethoven was purposefully placed close to and facing the Friedrich von Schiller statue (1886), which faces the Lincoln Park Conservatory and formal gardens.  A 'dialogue' between the two portrait statues was sought since Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" (written 1785) inspired Beethoven's final complete symphony, his Symphony No. 9 (composed 1824)

Both works rapturously celebrate the unity of all mankind.

Reportedly, the Beethoven bust had inscribed on its pedestal, "Alle menschen werden brueder," All men become brothers, words from the chorus of Beethoven's 9th symphony as well as from "Ode to Joy."

Bust modeled by Danish American sculptor Johannes Gelert, the same artist who sculpted Lincoln Park's Hans Christian Andersen statue.

The benefactor of the artwork was Carl Wolfsohn, a Chicago music teacher and conductor.  On the day of the unveiling on June 19, 1897 he spoke to the crowd and said,

"My heart is full of gratitude that fate has enabled me to give the city of my adoption and its people this gift.  Beethoven's genius has been the safeguard in my long musical career...I have felt it a thousand times what Beethoven said of his own music ...., 'I fear not the fate of my music; it cannot fare ill.  He who comprehends it will be free of all woe which burdens others."

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 — Ode to Joy (Excerpt)