Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument
In the Winter 2012 semester, the Reuther Library worked with students in the Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration program at the Wayne State School of Library and Information Science to produce a series of student-written, guest blog posts.
Amy Seipke is a student in Wayne State's School of Library and Information Science.
Campus Martius has long been at the center of city life in Detroit. After a large scale, citywide fire in 1805, a location in Campus Martius was picked as the spot for Detroit’s “Point of Origin,” the place from which the coordinates of the city were laid out. This spot is marked today with a medallion embedded in the park at the junction of Woodward and Monroe. In this picture, taken in 1875, the Old Detroit Central Market can be seen in the background just North of Campus Martius.
Much like its namesake in Rome, Campus Martius, was originally used as a military training area. The First Michigan regiment can be seen in this photograph leaving Detroit from Campus Martius to fight in the Civil War on May 11, 1861.
To commemorate the soldiers of the Civil War, it was decided that the Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument should be erected in this location. A contest was held in 1867 to choose a sculptor and the commission was awarded to Randolph Rodgers. His sculpture is formed by four tiers, each holding several representational bronze statues. The first three levels each consist of four separate figures. The first level depicts eagles. The second level holds statues representing the branches of the military, separated by relief portraits of the Civil War’s military leaders. The third level features statues of female figures representing Victory, Union, History, and Emancipation. The top level is a single statue that is representative of Michigan; the female figure is attired like a powerful warrior, including winged helmet and raised sword and shield.
Since its dedication in 1872, this statue has witnessed many important events in Detroit’s history. The monument can be seen in the image above as a centerpiece in the citywide Automotive Golden Jubilee, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the automobile and the 150th anniversary of Wayne County itself. In this image, crowds can be seen gathering around the monument as they turn out to celebrate Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I in 1918.
The Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument is still standing in Campus Martius today, as it was during this visit by John F. Kennedy in September of 1960. In 2003, when the streets were reconfigured, the monument was moved slightly and given a new base. It is now 125 feet directly south of its original location, where it is sure to be witness to many more remarkable events as Detroit continues to make history.
More images of Campus Martius and the Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument can be found in the Virtual Motor City, a joint project from the Walter P. Reuther Library and Wayne State University Library System created by digitizing many of the Reuther's holdings from the Detroit News photograph collection. The Virtual Motor City provides an opportunity for much visual research into Detroit's history. Additional information on the Monument can be found in Art in Detroit Public Places third edition by Dennis Alan Nawrocki and at the Campus Martius website.