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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why We Need to Look at Public Monuments

I have focused on a variety of memorials to Revolutionary War military leaders; in Chicago is one to two of its civilian leaders who helped finance the revolution.  Sculpted between 1936 and 1941 is the Heald Square Monument to Robert Morris and Haym Salomon, together with Washington.  Its architects were Lorado Taft and Leonard Crunelle, and it was named a Chicago Landmark on September 15, 1971.

According to the National Park Service page on Salomon, he was arrested in 1776 as a spy, pardoned by the British and utilized as an interpreter, but he aided the American cause.  He was arrested again in 1778, when he escaped to Philadelphia.  A broker, his French connections helped with that financing, and he subscribed to the Bank of North America established by Robert Morris.  The Encyclopedia Britannica notes the debt at more than $600,000, and "[g]enerations of his descendants tried in vain to collect some portion of these loans, which had helped to impoverish Salomon in his last years." He died destitute at in his mid-forties.

I have read that the paperwork was conveniently "lost" by the United States when presented in the 19th century, with shades of anti-Semitism behind it.  Regardless, Salomon's story is not as well known as it should be.  It is another example of the mosaic of the Revolution and the "want of a nail" nature of so many pieces of the story.

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