Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leif Ericson

Leif Ericson, 1901
Sigvald Asbjørnsen
Humbolt Park
West of North Humbolt Drive and north of field house driveway

Born in Norway, Sigvald Asbjørnsen (1867–1954) received a scholarship to the Royal Art School of Christiania (Oslo) at age 16. He arrived in the United States in 1892 and made his way to Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition, making the city his permanent home. He produced portrait busts, medallions, and other artworks for parks, libraries and museums. In 1900, he was tapped by Chicagoans of Norwegian decent to create a monument to Norse explorer and adventurer Leif Ericson (c. 970–c. 1020). Many believe he reached North America before Christopher Columbus and would be the first European to set foot on the American continent. 
The board of directors of the Leif Ericson Monument Society unanimously adopted Asbjørnsen’s original sketch and offered nothing but praise for models he created even though there was debate whether the piece should be nine or ten feet. The final nine-foot piece cost about $10,000 to produce. On a rainy October 12, 1901, fifteen different societies participated in a parade and tens of thousands of Scandinavian-Americans were on hand during the “colorful affair,” celebrating the monument’s unveiling during a two- hour ceremony in Humboldt Park. The president of the Leif Ericson Monument Society claimed that the "Leif Ericson's statue seems to me one of the finest ever cast in bronze.” In 1950, the statue was moved approximately 250-feet from its original location to the current site, making it more accessible to the public. On “Leif Ericson Day” of that year, 83-year-old Sigvald Asbjørnsen was among those in the large crowd that gathered for the rededication ceremony.


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