Gratitude to Eli Bates

Amputee, merchant,

Chicago philanthropist:

All hail Eli Bates

--David Ratowitz*


Considered the most successful portrait (statue) of Lincoln in existence, Lincoln the Man is set back, to dramatic effect, from Lincoln Park's southern boundary and entrance at North Avenue.

Standing Lincoln or Lincoln the Man by Augustus Saint Gaudens in Chicago
Circa 1900 to 1910

Gratitude to the monument's benefactor, Eli Bates, was expressed at the 1887 unveiling ceremony with a reading of Bates' biography, and in a permanent way with an inscription at the base, "THE GIFT OF ELI BATES."

Saint Gaudens Standing Lincoln commonly referred to as Lincoln the Man

Bates was a Chicago lumber merchant who left $40,000 in his 1881 will for a Lincoln statue for Lincoln Park.  In addition to funding important local institutions and charities, Bates' will also provided $15,000 for a Lincoln Park fountain. [amounts are roughly $1,000,000 and $370,000 in today's money]

Fountain in Chicago outside Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory
Bates Fountain (1887) is the centerpiece to the formal gardens outside Lincoln Park's Conservatory.

Chicago fountain outside Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo


The tragedy, referenced in this article, that Bates faced as a boy resulted
in his leg being amputated.  He lived the rest of his life with a cork leg.

Like Lincoln, evidence suggests that Bates was a man of great 


Ten years following Bates' death, a memorial tablet in his honor was erected in the Unity Church which he helped found.  

Cathedral near Newberry Library
Unity Church (1873) was rebuilt at same Dearborn St. location after its first structure burnt down in the Fire. Kitty-corner to the Newberry Library (1893), it is today the Chicago Cathedral location for Harvest Bible Chapel.

Since Unity Church no longer resides at this Dearborn location, the Eli Bates Memorial tablet is no longer there.  

Historic Chicago church near Newberry Library
Interior view of Dearborn Street church where Bates Memorial tablet was originally installed.

At some point, Eli Bates Memorial tablet was moved to the Second Unitarian Church at 656 W. Barry.

Interior of Second Unitarian Church Chicago

interior of Second Unitarian Church in Chicago
Exterior view of Second Unitarian Church on Barry Street.

So the benefactor behind the important "Standing Lincoln" was himself loved, honored and respected by his peers, so much so that he too was honored posthumously with an enduring, albeit mostly forgotten, memorial.

Eli Bates was laid to rest in Graceland Cemetery.

Giants in the Park books, lectures, tours, and art. 

Giants in the Park walking tour Chicgao

watercolor of Lincoln statue by Krista August

*Thank you to David Ratowitz for the haiku!

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