Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Carter Harrison Memorial


Carter Harrison Memorial, 1907
Frederick Cleveland Hibbard
Union Park
East of North Ashland Avenue and south of West Washington Boulevard

            This eight-foot tall bronze sculpture honors Carter H. Harrison, Sr. (1825-1893), a Chicago politician who served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and was elected to five terms as Mayor of Chicago. His first four terms, from 1879 to 1887, were witness to years of labor unrest, including strikes demanding the eight-hour workday. Harrison, known as the “people’s mayor,” was more sympathetic to labor issues than many others in the Chicago establishment and he was known to restrain police from intervening during strikes called by well-connected unions. After the Haymarket Affair in May of 1886, however, Harrison called a halt to meetings and processions associated with the labor movement.
            Harrison is depicted wearing his typical attire, including a bow tie, vest and overcoat, and he holds his felt slouch hat in his left hand. The mayor was fond of riding through the streets on a white horse and declared that his door was “always open.” He was elected to his fifth term as mayor in 1893 and he hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. On October 28th, after his last full day at the Exposition, Harrison returned to his South Ashland Avenue home, not far from Union Park, and he was confronted by a deranged and unemployed Irish immigrant named Patrick Eugene Prendergast, who was indignant at not having been appointed as the city’s chief attorney. Prendergast shot Harrison three times at point blank range with a .38 caliber revolver and the wounds were fatal.
            This statue was the first major commission for sculptor Frederick Cleveland Hibbard (1881-1950), a native of Missouri who studied with Lorado Taft at the Art Institute. The bronze was cast in Chicago at the American Bronze Foundry and the memorial originally included a bronze plaque on the granite pedestal with an excerpt from the speech he delivered on the day of his assassination, and two ornamental lights on either side. The plaque and lights have been missing for many years.

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