Hiawatha and Minnehaha Do Chicago

The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago hosted the debut of Minneapolis’s most famous sculptural couple, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, in 1893.

The Minnesota building at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 featured Jakob Fjelde's sculpture of Hiawatha and Minnehaha in the vestibule.

The Minnesota building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 featured Jakob Fjelde’s sculpture of Hiawatha and Minnehaha in the vestibule.

Zoooom.

Zoooom.

Hiawatha and Minnehaha greeted visitors to the state’s pavilion in their modest plaster costumes nearly two decades before sculptor Jakob Fjelde’s pair took their much-photographed places on the small island above Minnehaha Falls in their bronze finery in 1912.

Hiawatha and Minnehaha in their customary place above Minnehaha Falls. I chose this pciture not only because Hiawatha is climbing a huge pile of rocks, unlike today, but also because ithis is a Lee Bros. photo, the same photographers who shot the photo of Fjelde below.

Hiawatha and Minnehaha in their customary place above Minnehaha Falls. This photo, from a postcard, was probably taken in the 1910s. I chose this picture not only because Hiawatha appears to be climbing a mountain of rocks to cross the stream, unlike today, but also because it is a Lee Bros. photo, the same photographers who shot the photo of Fjelde below.

Jakob Fjelde, Lee Bros., year unknown. I like the cigar. (Photo courtesty of cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com)

Jakob Fjelde, Lee Bros., year unknown. I like the cigar. (Photo courtesy of cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com)

Jakob Fjelde was largely responsible for two other sculptures in Minneapolis parks. He created the statue of Ole Bull, the Norwegian violinist, in Loring Park in 1895. He also created the drawing that Johannes Gelert used after Fjelde’s death to sculpt the figure of pioneer John Stevens, which now stands in Minnehaha Park. Fjelde also created the bust of Henrik Ibsen, Norway’s most famous writer, that adorns Como Park in St. Paul. Fjelde’s best-known work other than Longfellow’s lovers, however, is the charging foot soldier of the 1st Minnesota rushing to his likely death on the battlefield of Gettysburg.

Fjelde's simple salute to the sacrifice of Minnesota men at a pivotal moment in the Civil War.

Fjelde’s simple commemoration of the sacrifice of Minnesota men at a pivotal moment in the Civil War. The sculpture was installed in 1893 and dedicated in 1897. (Photo: Wikipedia)

These thoughts and images of sculpture in Minneapolis parks were prompted in part by my recent post on Daniel Chester French, but also by another letter found in the papers of William Watts Folwell at the Minnesota Historical Society. Just two years after Fjelde’s successes with his sculptures for Gettysburg and Chicago, he wrote a poignant letter to Folwell in July 1895 seeking his support for an “extravagant” offer. Fjelde proposes to the Court House Commission, which was developing plans for a new City Hall and Court House, that he create a seven-foot tall statue of the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Marshall, and a bronze bust of District Court Judge William Lochren, both for the sum of $1,400. Fjelde calls the price of $1,000 for the Marshall statue “1/3 of its real value.” He explains his offer to Folwell:

“Anyone who knows a little about sculpture work will know that the sums above stated are no price for such a statue but as I for the last six months have been unable to get any work to do at all and have wife and four children to take care of and in spite of utmost economy, unable to make both ends meet, I am obliged to do something extravagant, if only I can get the work to do.”

Fjelde adds that $400 for a bronze bust of Lochren would only pay for the bronze work, meaning that he would be creating the bust free. He writes that he is willing to do so because by getting Lochren’s bust into the Court House, “it might go easier in the future to get the busts of other judges who could afford to give theirs, so I would hope that would give me some work later on.”

He concludes his plea by noting that with his proposition, “The Court House would thereby get a grand courtroom hardly equalled in the U.S.”

Although I have not searched the records diligently, I have not come across anything to suggest that the Court House Commission accepted Fjelde’s offer. That may be because barely two weeks after writing his letter, the Norwegian Singing Society, led by Fjelde’s friend, John Arctander, began to raise money for a statue of Ole Bull. Fjelde began work on that statue in 1895. When all but the finishing touches were completed on the image of the Norwegian maestro the next spring, Fjelde died. He was 37.

I can’t leave another sculpture story without returning a moment to Daniel Chester French. In a longer piece on French a couple of weeks ago, I noted that when his Longfellow Memorial at Minnehaha Falls didn’t materialize, he moved on to create an enormous sculpture for the Chicago World’s Fair. Here it is in its massive splendor. It stood 60 feet tall,

Dnaiel Chester French's enormous Republic looms over the central pool at the Columnian Exposition in 1893.

Daniel Chester French’s Republic looms over the Columbian Exposition.

French’s Chicago sculpture was much larger than Fjelde’s, but Fjelde’s sculpture eventually found a home at Minnehaha Falls, where French’s proposed sculpture of Longfellow did not.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2015 David C. Smith

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