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Columbus in Statuary

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By Dick Perue

With the world gone nuts tearing down statues, we present excerpts from a feature story in the Sept. 28, 1912, issue of the Thermopolis Record which touts the pride of erecting statutes to our founders. In part, it reads:

There can be no denying the fact that the recognition of the great achievement of Christopher Columbus has been tardy. It is well known, however, often the delayed judgment of history alone awards to great men the honor they deserved. 

We are all so familiar with the story of Columbus, as it has been handed down to us, there is no need here to recount the many injustices which be suffered at the hands of his contemporaries. The salient fact he was shorn of his honors and returned laden with chains, proves conclusively the cruel contempt with which the fearless navigator was treated in his own day. 

Time rectifies many misjudgments, and it has done so in the case of the discoverer of America. The wonder of his achievement is universally recognized and the worlds, both old and new, have testified in many monuments to the respect and honor in which they hold Columbus. 

The custom of preparing effigies in stone, so the names and achievements of a nation’s heroes may be passed on to posterity, finds its organ in most ancient times. It is but natural this custom should have been followed in the case of Columbus. 

Today, we have statues erected to the discoverer in Italy, Spain, France and nearly all of the countries of the new world.

In the new world, nearly every country has testified in recognition of the deed of Columbus by the erection of some character of monument. From the magnificent effigy which graces the center of Columbus circle in New York to the simple shaft which marks the spot of the supposed first landing on Watlings Island, we find a great number of statutes erected in honor of the discoverer.

Throughout Latin America the veneration for Columbus is universal, and we find his memory honored in cities of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and other Pan-American states.

It is curious to note it was a Latin, a Frenchman, who erected the first monument in the United States in honor of the achievement of Columbus. In Baltimore, there still stands a monument erected over a century ago in honor of the first discoverer. It is said to be the original monument erected on the continent to commemorate the achievement of Columbus.

A new Columbus statute was unveiled in Washington on June 8. This marks the first great memorial, which the United States government has erected to Christopher Columbus. 

There has long been a feeling this country has not had a really worthy monument to the man who is primarily responsible for the existence of the nation. This feeling took concrete shape when, in 1906, a bill was introduced appropriating the sum of $100,000 to be used for a Columbus memorial. Congress passed the bill, and it was signed in 1907 by President Roosevelt.

The fountain is semi-circular, 70-feet wide and 65-feet from front to rear. The balustrade, which half encircles it, bears the effigy of a heroic lion at either extremity. The salient feature of the memorial is a splendid stone shaft surmounted by a globe. Before this shaft, which rises in the center of the fountain circle, is a statue of Columbus.

The globe, which surmounts the shaft, indicates the contribution the discovery of Columbus was to the science of geography. This globe is supported by four massive eagles with outstretched wings. 

Upon it, in high relief, are cut the topographical features of the new world. At either side of the shaft there appear figures portraying the sculptor’s conception of representative types of the new and old world. 

The figure of an American Indian, energetic in pose, one hand reaching over his shoulder and grasping an arrow from a quiver, represents the new world, while the statue of a patriarchal Caucasian of heroic proportions and thoughtful mien, typifies the old world. 

More photos and the complete story can be found by visiting newspapers.wyo.gov/ and calling up the 1912 Thermopolis Record.

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