Years ago, thanks to the influence of Thomas Keith, a Burnsian friend in New
York City, I became interested in visiting as many locations with statues of
Robert Burns as possible. This week was no exception as Susan and I boarded
the Green Line train in downtown Chicago for a twenty-minute trip to
It had not been easy task to uncover information about this particular
statue. Internet articles seem to be repetitive and very similar with the
only the barest of facts. The City of Chicago Official Tourism site states
that Governor Charles S. Deneen dedicated the Burns statue, sculpted by
William Grant Stevenson of Scotland, on August 25, 1906, culminating an
effort that began in 1880 by the Burns Memorial and Monument Association.
The Chicago statue is bronze and originally had four bronze bas relief
plaques on each side. Stevenson was a well regarded sculptor in Scotland and
his work was highly valued. A similar statue can be found in Milwaukee only
it does not include the plaques.
Susan and I have visited Burns statues and memorials throughout the United
States from California to New York, and we have traveled the width and
length of Scotland visiting various ones as well. Statues of Burns are
numerous in America. Authors Robert Crawford and Christopher MacLachlan
reveal on the back cover of their new publication, The Best Laid Schemes,
that there are more statues of Robert Burns in the United States than there
are of any of any American poet. It is well known that Andrew Carnegie
provided 3,460 busts of Robert Burns to the libraries he built in the United
States. No wonder Burns can be referred to as the man who became a statue.
A common factor on the nearly two dozen statues we have visited in America
and Scotland is that they are well kept and are a focus of pride by the
cities which received them. Only one other of which I am aware has been as
desecrated as Chicagos Garfield Park statue which appears to be abandoned
and is a monument stripped of its virtue. Sure, we had the Kilmarnock
vandalism incident a few years back, but the good folks there put everything
back even better with added protection. As far as I have been able to
determine, nothing has been done to replace the plaques by any group of
Burnsians or the city of Chicago.
It is the missing plaques in
Chicago that prompt this article. Sometime back they were stolen, but I have
been unable to determine when. A search of Chicago newspapers has been
fruitless thus far. So my search needs to be refined and I am asking you,
the readers of this article, to assist me and let me know the year the
plaques were stripped from the base of the statue. This knowledge will allow
me the opportunity to seek out articles in the Chicago papers. I can
follow-up with another commentary about this beautiful statue of Robert
Burns that now stands disgraced, defrocked of its plaques. Or if you have a
newspaper article with the details, please share it with our readers.
One cannot help but ask why something hasnt been done to replace the four
bas relief plaques. If tombstones can depict scenery, so can this plinth. I
will always remember how shocked, appalled, and angered I was at seeing our
Bard disgraced with nothing being done to replace the stolen plaques. If it
is money that keeps the statue from being repaired, Ill make a donation as
I am sure any Burnsian worth his salt would do to repair the statue base.
Your comments, pro or con, will be appreciated and shared with our readers
in a follow-up article. (FRS: 10.08.09)
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