by Samuel D. Gruber
[updated Jan. 9, 2016]
all photos by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) Continuing the theme of Jewish Revolutionary War heroes and their monuments and markers, mention must be made of the large sculptural group of George Washington and his two financial advisers and go-getters: Robert Morris and Haym Salomon. Historians differ on the exact role and relationship between the English-born Morris and the Polish-born Salomon (born in or near Lezno in 1740). Did Salomon do Morris's bidding, were they equal partners in securing funds for the new United States, or did Morris follow Salomon's lead? Here, in this monumental grouping in downtown Chicago, along Wacker Drive beside the Chicago River between State & Wabash, they are given equal billing next to their Supreme Commander - George Washington.
Polish-born Salomon has been dubbed “the financier of the Revolution,” and especially elevated by American Jews as a emblem of essential Jewish qualities - brains, loyalty and self-sacrifice. This statue was erected in 1941 - and though it was not commissioned by Jews - its installation provided important validation for Jewish Americans on the eve of World War II. The figures are literally presented as larger than life. The dimensions of the bronze figures are approximately 11 x 12 x 4 ft.; base: approx. 6 x 15 x 5 ft. Salomon's virtues were later celebrated in the then-popular (now largely forgotten) historical novel by Howard Fast, Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty, published in 1944, which animates the figures on the statue.
Again, quoting my (highly unoriginal) notes in my report for the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad on foreign born heroes of the American Revolution, "After [Salomon's] escape from a British prison in New York he worked tirelessly to raise money for the army and the Congress. Salomon negotiated many loans for the Colonies from France and Holland, but never took a commission for himself. The Revolutionary leaders' diaries testify "that when money was needed for the Revolutionary War, you went to Haym Salomon." Salomon died in 1785, probably as a result of illness contracted during his imprisonment and the subsequent strain of his work.
Salomon was honored by a U.S. Commemorative stamp in 1975 in the “Contributors to the Cause" series. The stamp is inscribed “Haym Salomon, financial hero.” On the back of the stamp is printed “Financial Hero - Businessman and broker Haym Salomon was responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance the American Revolution and later to save the new nation from collapse.”
According to the Inventory of American Art (where one can read more about he statue), "Chicago lawyer Barnet Hodes commissioned the sculpture in the 1930s to pay tribute to these patriots. He formed The Patriotic Foundation and raised the necessary 50,000 dollars. When Taft died in 1936 after completing only a small study model, his associates at the Midway Studios were given a new contract, and three of them, Nellie Walker, Mary Webster, and Leonard Crunelle, each enlarged one of the figures."
The inscription on the statue reads:
Symbol of American Tolerance and Unity and of the Cooperation of People of All Races and Creeds in the Upbuilding of the United States. / This monument designed by Lorado Taft and completed / by Leonard Crunelle was presented to the city of / Chicago by the Patriotic Foundation of Chicago (followed by list of names) Dedicated on the 150th Anniversary of the Ratification of the American Bill of Rights / December 15, 1941. On plaque on middle step of base in inscribed: Rededicated by American Mason Heritage Council October 6th 1962. On the front of the base: Robert Morris . George Washington . Haym Salomon / The government of the United States / which gives to bigotry no sanction to the persecution / no assistance requires only that they who live under/its protection should demean themselves as good citizens / in giving it on all occasions their effectual support / President George Washington 1790.The use of Washington's phrase "gives to bigotry no sanction," ties this monument in with the contemporary efforts to make the Touro Synagogue in Newport a National Shrine to religious tolerance, a project of the Roosevelt administration, and one that takes on new life this summer (2009) with the pending opening of the new visitor's center at Touro that is explicitly devoted to presenting this theme (see my earlier post).
To my knowledge there is no monument or marker to Haym Solomon in Poland. Now that democracy and liberty have taken hold there, perhaps this is the time to remember Solomon's contribution to liberty on his home soil. I think Polish and American national hero General Kosciuszko would agree. It would also foster in Poland the idea of "to bigotry no sanction."
To read more about the contested history of Haym Saloman, especially among American Jews themselves, see chapter 5 of Beth S. Wenger's History Lessons: The Creation of American Jewish Heritage (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2010), "Sculpting an American Jewish Hero: The Myths and Monuments of Haym Salomon,", pp 179-209.