A Man, a Monument, and a Cause

Photographed June 10, 2013, Chicago.

George Washington flanked by Robert Morris (left) and Haym Salomon (right). Photographed June 10, 2013, Chicago.

The Great Triumvarite monument at Wabash Avenue and Wacker Drive in Chicago stands prominently in the landscape, but at the same time it fades from public attention. Traffic whizzes by on Wacker. Passersby today are drawn more toward the nearby memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War, and the life-size sculpture of three Revolutionary-era figures is a bit lost as it overlooks above the hubbub. Still, I sought it out during my recent visit to Chicago because this monument represents some of the key motivations behind American enthusiasm in the competition to become host city for the United Nations at the end of World War II.

The man behind creation of the monument, Barnet Hodes, also was one of the champions of Chicago’s bid to become the Capital of the World. As corporation counsel for the city in 1945, he presented Chicago’s case to the United Nations in London. He did not speak then of his project at Wabash and Wacker, but the monument speaks today of his motivations. Dedicated in 1940, the monument depicts George Washington, Robert Morris, and another figure who may be less known to many: Haym Salomon, a Jewish immigrant born in Poland who played a role in financing the American Revolution. Hodes’s particular goal was to place Salomon (sometimes spelled Solomon) on an equal plane with Washington and Morris, as the monument by Lorado Taft demonstrates. He launched the monument project while co-chairman of the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago and explained his interest in a January 4, 1940, statement that survives in his papers at the Chicago History Museum:

America on this day pays tribute to Haym Salomon, unselfish and far-seeing Patriot of the American Revolution, who symbolizes the historical fact that men of all creeds and nationalities contributed toward the creation and progress of the United States.

Today marks the one hundred-fifty-fifth anniversary of the death of Haym Salomon, and this year marks the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. We have double reason, therefore, to commemorate the life and activities of this Patriot whose participation in the American Revolution has made all Americans more conscious of the enduring democratic principles of religious freedom and civil liberties upon which our nation was constructed. It serves, also, as a constant reminder that tolerance is the creed of America and that intolerance and bigotry are alien doctrines on American soil.

Because this year is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Haym Salomon, the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago is erecting a memorial conceived and executed by Lorado Taft and his Associates, depicting George Washington flanked by Robert Morris and Haym Salomon. This memorial will be erected in Chicago in the spring or early summer as a permanent tribute to our first President and two of the leading figures of the American Revolution.

On the back of the monument, twentieth-century resonance of the American Revolution.

On the back of the monument, twentieth-century resonance of the American Revolution.

The themes of this statement appear frequently in booster campaigns for the Capital of the World, formulated during the transition from war to peace in 1945-46. The booster campaigns, like Hodes, and the monument, often stressed patriotism, democracy, and tolerance as attributes of the local campaigners and the nation. We see an image of the global reach of these ideals on the back of the Great Triumvarite monument, which displays a plaque featuring a seated Statue of Liberty with arms outstretched, welcoming the world. This image, facing away from Wacker Drive, speaks to the connections felt by the monument sponsors between the Revolutionary-era figures above and their own times. Barnet Hodes, through his efforts to bring the United Nations to Chicago, carried them into the future and onto a world stage.

Read more about the monument in the article by Christopher J. Young, “Bernard Hodes’s Quest to Remember Haym Salomon: The Almost-Forgotten Jewish Patriot of the American Revolution,” American Jewish Archives Journal (December 2011): 43-62. (Link to PDF)