The Statue of the Republic, by sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was the largest and most symbolic of the Chicago Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1893, Irish-born Minnie Clark, who appeared in Life and other magazines as the original Gibson Girl, posed for the massive statue. Clark was called, ironically, the “typical American girl.”
A replica of French’s Republic statue was featured in 1896 at the fountain of the Siegel-Cooper department store—called “The Big Store,” when it was the world’s largest—located at 616-632 Sixth Avenue on Manhattan’s Ladies’ Mile. “Meet me at the (Republic) fountain” was a popular New York City phrase in the late 1890s and 1900s. The Siegel-Cooper store declared bankruptcy in 1915.
Wikipedia: Statue of the Republic
The Statue of the Republic is a 24-foot-high (7.3 m) gilded bronze sculpture in Jackson Park, Chicago, Illinois. It is a smaller-scale replica constructed in 1918 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the original statue was, and commemorates the Illinois statehood centennial. The statue was funded by the Benjamin Ferguson Fund, which commissioned Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the original 65-foot-tall (20 m) statue that stood on the grounds of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, to sculpt this replica. Henry Bacon, the architect of the Lincoln Memorial, designed the festooned pedestal for the replica statue.
The statue’s right hand holds a globe; an eagle with wings spread perches on it. The other hand grasps a staff with a plaque that reads “liberty”, partly obscured by an encircling laurel wreath. The original at the Exposition had instead a Phyrigian cap on top of the staff. The original was only partly gilded (no gold on the exposed skin of the head, neck and arms), but the new version is completely gilded.
Wikipedia: Siegel-Cooper Company
The Siegel-Cooper Company was a department store that opened in Chicago in 1887 and expanded into New York City in 1896. At the time of its opening, the New York store was the largest in the world.
The steel-framed construction of the “Big Store”, as it was called at the time, enabled the building to have large interior spaces with uninterrupted selling floors, and allowed for skylit courts. Siegel-Cooper took full advantage of the novelty – to New York City – of steel-framing by advertising the building as “the only and absolutely fire-proof and perfectly safe store in New York City.”
The store offered a wide variety of dry goods in its 18 acres (7 ha.), as well as other amenities such as a grocery department, barber shop, theatre, telegraph office, art gallery, photo studio, bank, dental office, a 350-person restaurant, and a conservatory which sold live plants. The main floor featured a copy of Daniel Chester French’s statue The Republic inside a marble-enclosed fountain. This was a popular meeting place, giving rise to the phrase “Meet me at the fountain,” which the store used as a slogan, along with “A City in Itself” and “Everything Under the Sun”.
Chicago (IL) Tribune Archives
29 December 1894, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. 16, col. 1:
A WHITE CITY MODEL.
WOMAN WHO POSED FOR THE STATUE OF THE REPUBLIC
Miss Minnie Clark in Great Demand by the Artists of the Academy of Design—Her Head Figures on the Form of Trilby—An Irish WIdow in Paris Weeps as She Poses for the “American Girl”—An Artist Who Chooses Himself as a Model.
Miss Minnie Clark is his (Charles Dana Gibson—ed.) chief model, and she is a most interesting young person. Her portrait at the great loan exhibition at the Academy of Design was more widely admired than any of the others. She is a professional and is acknowledged by artists to be the queen of head models in this country. She is an Irish woman, 28 years old, and a widow. She is tall and graceful and beautiful, with a slender plumpness and much charm of expression.
Portrait of Minnie Clark
J. Carroll Beckwith
In his tender portrait of Minnie Clark, J. Carroll Beckwith focused attention on his sitter’s graceful beauty and direct gaze by rendering her facial features in greater detail than the sketchy forms of her dress and the setting. Clark, a legendary artist’s model and close friend of Beckwith, also sat for Charles Dana Gibson (see Gibson’s drawing on display nearby).
ARTIST J. Carroll Beckwith, American, 1852-1917
MEDIUM Charcoal and pastel on blue-fibered, medium-weight, moderately textured laid paper
DATES ca. 1890s
10 October 1895, The Illustrated American, “An Artist’s Model” by Lillian Baynes, pg. 499, col. 1:
When the artists were preparing their work for the World’s Fair they found Miss Clark invaluable. Innumerable women with good figures flocked to the studios, but for a beautiful face the artists were at their wtis’ end. Miss Clark came to their rescue, and her well-shaped head was used to complete many masterpieces. Among the most famous of these was D. C. French’s statue of the Republic that still stands overlooking the ruins of the White City.
July 1898, The Writer, “Something about Illustrating,” pg. 102:
For instance, the Gibson girl that has become famous originated from a professional model—Mrs. Minnie Clark. She is an Irish woman about thirty years of age. She poses for all the artists, and was the original of the head for D. C. French’s statue of the Republic. Mr. French also used her head for the figure of “Death,” staying the hand of the sculptor. William M. Chase used Mrs. Clark for his face of the typical American woman, and the Academy ehibitions always contain portraits of her. Still she is not beautiful, and no artist considers her so. They all claim that she only suggests beauty, and that the underlined structure of her face is wonderfully modeled, that by using it as a groundwork for their paintings they are bound to bring out a work of art.
Library of Congress
Title: The Fountain, Seigel [i.e. Siegel] Cooper Co. Store, New York
Detroit Publishing Co. , copyright claimant
Detroit Publishing Co. , publisher
Date Created/Published: c1903.
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 8 x 10 in.
Reproduction Number: LC-D401-16730 (b&w film copy neg.) LC-DIG-det-4a11138 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-D4-16730
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
New York Heritage
Title Selling off the ‘Statue of Republic’ fountain at the J. B. Greenhut & Company (Siegel-Cooper) department store on Sixth Avenue, May 10, 1918. Photographed for Joseph P. Day.
Collection title William D. Hassler photograph collection, approximately 1910-1921
Item ID nyhs_PR83_6704.jpg
Date of original 1918
Creator Hassler, William Davis, 1877-1921
Institution New-York Historical Society
THURSDAY, MARCH 08, 2007
More real than the real thing
In truth, Minnie Clark was just another working girl. She was not even American, and, as a 28 year old Irish immigrant, she was hardly a girl any more. A widow, she modeled because she had no other skills with which to support her two children. She looked the very picture of youthful vigor, but she was in poor health and could not afford the medicines she needed. Her family lived in a series of tenement houses from which she moved frequently when the rent came due.
She was beautiful and in reasonable demand, but could only command $1.50 for a morning’s work from artists who had little cash. Occasionally, she found a job for as much as $30 a week, but mostly, the work was erratic and women like Minnie struggled to escape from it into more respectable occupations. Many others were forced to work as actresses or chorus girls to make ends meet. Eventually Minnie married an architect and vanished into the American middle class.
10 MARCH 2010
Siegel-Cooper’s Massive Bronze Columns
Grand Chicago capitalist Henry Siegel put his all into this block-long structure, building what was then New York’s greatest department store in five short months, and opening with much fanfare on Sept. 12, 1896. It was called “The Big Store—A City in Itself,” and the central fountain became a local landmark. A brass statue called “The Republic,” a replica of a sculpture at the Chicago World’s Fair by Daniel Chester French, was surrounded by spurting jets of water, which were illuminated by colored lights. “Meet me at the fountain” became a catchphrase. There’s the crazy fountain below.