Benjamin Franklin Monument, 1896 (relocated 1966)
Richard Henry Park
East of North Stockton Drive and north of West La Salle Drive
Joseph Medill, founder and editor of The Chicago Tribune, in conjunction with the Old Time Printers Association, commissioned Richard Henry Park (1832-1902) to create “as faithful a reproduction of the features and form of this great American as the best talent can make.” Although Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) may be honored for his various contributions in politics, philosophy, publishing and science, Park’s depiction of the founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence focuses upon his interest in electricity. Shown in characteristic Colonial breeches, waistcoat and long jacket, Franklin appears as if giving a speech to an audience of scientists on his famous kite-flying experiments. During the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Franklin’s role in laying the theoretical foundations for electricity as a statue showing his holding a kite was placed near the “Electricity” building at the fair. At the time of the dedication of this statue, in 1896, electricity was being introduced into homes and businesses across Chicago.
Originally unveiled near the entrance of Lincoln Park Zoo, the nine-foot-six-inch tall bronze statue and white granite pedestal were moved to their present location in 1966 when the Zoo was expanded. Other works by Richard Henry Park in the area include the now-removed Michael Reese (1893), as well as the Drake Fountain (1893) and a monument for Charles J. Hull in Rosehill Cemetery.