Daniel Chester French

The Republic

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw an explosion of "world's fairs" and expositions, designed to bring the world closer to people and to be showcases for the latest technologies. These monumental events were temporary installations, designed to last from several months to a year or two, after which time all or most of the buildings and statuary constructed for the fair were destroyed and the landscape restored to the original or a new state.

The Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the "World's Fair of 1893" took place in Chicago, Illinois from May 1, 1893 - October 31, 1893. The fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in North America. 20 countries and 39 States were represented by pavilions. Large pavilions were devoted to various technologies including electricity, mines, machinery, agriculture, manufacturing and transportation. An art gallery (one of only two buildings that remains today, as the Museum of Science and Industry) and various forms of entertainment including a huge ferris wheel were also part of the Exposition. Central to the design of the grounds were several ponds and lagoons conected to Lake Michigan and the most stunning achievement of the Exposition, the "Court of Honor" and basin, that included dramatic fountains and sculptures.

The photos above give several views of the Court of Honor and basin and their most dramatic and striking component: a 65 foot high statue in plaster (covered in gold leaf with lights in the crown) by Daniel Chester French titled "The Republic." French's statue was the single most imposing construction at the Exposition, dwarfing all other sculptures and having pride of place at the eastern end of the basin, facing the Exposition's Administration Building.

After the closing of the Exposition, "The Republic", like most buildings and sculptures, was destroyed (some buildings were immediately removed, others fell into disrepair and still others, like "The Republic" succumbed to fire in 1896). In 1918, French was commissioned to make a smaller model of "The Republic" which was installed on the site of the Exposition's Administration Building during the 25th anniversary of the Exposition. The 24 foot high gilded bronze statue stands on a base made by Henry Bacon who would later callaborate with French as the architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Today the site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition is occupied by Jackson Park on Chicago's south side. As mentioned above, the Exposition's Palace of Fine Arts remains today as Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Baseball and Soccer fields stand where the Court of Honor and basin were located and a golf course is adjacent to the site of the Administration Building. French's statue of "The Republic", while only one-third the size of his original installation, stands imposingly at the intersection of Hayes and Richards Drives in Jackson Park. It was restored in 1992 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Henry Bacon's base is inscribed on both the front and the back. The front reads:

To commemorate the
World's Columbian Exposition

The back of the base contains a more detailed inscription:

The World's Columbian Exposition
authorized by Act of Congress and
generously participated in by the nations of the earth
was held here in 1893 to celebrate the
four hundredth anniversary of
the discovery of America.
On this site stood the Administration building.

At the front of the grassy area where "The Republic" stands, a newer plaque is set into the grass that tells more about the statue:

Gilded bronze sculpture by Daniel Chester French
Base by Henry Bacon
Originally dedicated 1918
To Commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
This permanent reproduction by the artist marks
The site of the World's Fair Administration Building
Restored 1992
Chicago Park District
B.F. Ferguson Fund, Art Institute of Chicago
Rededicated by Mayor Richard M. Daley
To initiate a Celebration
Of the 100th Anniversary of the Chicago World's Fair

For more information about the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, the book to read is Stanley Appelbaum's "The Chicago World's Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record" (Dover, New York. ISBN 0-486-23990-X). A great deal more information about "The Republic" (including detailed information about the original installation at the 1893 Columbian Exposition) may be found on a webpage sponsored by Jackson Park, titled "The Republic" In Jackson Park.

"The Republic" is located in Jackson Park on Chicago's south side, at the intersection of Hayes and Richards Drives, easily accessible from Chicago's Lake Shore Drive (Hayes Drive exit)

All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo in April 2005.

A view of "The Republic" from Hayes Drive, looking from east toward the west.

A closer view of "The Republic" showing the base by Henry Bacon and the setting of the statue. The green roofed building in the background is the pro shop and snack bar for the Jackson Park golf course.

A still closer view of French's "Republic."

This view of "The Republic" shows the statue holding a globe upon which an eagle is sitting, and, in her left hand, a staff. The staff has a cross at the top with the word "LIBERTY" inscribed upon it, draped with a laurel wreath.

This view of the front of "The Republic" (from below) strikingly shows the sword French has worked into the statue.

It's difficult to photograph the head of a 24 foot high statue from below, but this photo gives a clear look at the dramatic gaze of "The Republic."

With my daughters Robin and Linda standing in front of "The Republic," one can get a sense of the perspective and size of the 24 foot high statue. Keep in mind that the original "The Republic" for the 1893 Columbian Exposition was 65 feet high, not including the base (see the black and white photos above).

This photo shows the back of "The Republic." In an excellent integration of the statue with its base, the bottom of the statue's robe seems to hang over the top of the base. This is different than French's original construction (see the top black and white photo, above).

This photo gives a good view of the back of the head of "The Republic."

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