Birth of Monument Avenue

The origins of Richmond's most contested and beloved boulevard

Thomas Jonathan Jackson Monument (1920/1940) by unknownAmerican Civil War Museum

This exhibit is a partnership between the American Civil War Museum (ACWM), the Library of Virginia (LVA), The Valentine (VAL), and the Virginia Historical Society (VHS). Artifacts and photographs will be labeled with abbreviations throughout the exhibit to identify their source. (ACWM)

Spectator Broadside - Death of Robert E. Lee (1870-10-13) by Staunton (Va.) SpectatorAmerican Civil War Museum

The death of Robert E. Lee on October 12, 1870 marked the birth of Monument Avenue, but that cause and effect relationship was neither inevitable nor direct. Erecting the five Confederate statues on Monument Avenue involved countless decisions – and much internal wrangling – over fundraising, location, design, and inscription. The organizations that conceived and erected the statues consisted of Richmond’s white elite, primarily former Confederates who were unified in their belief that the city must honor the Confederacy and the men who fought for it. Moving from conception to birth of a statue consumed years, sometimes decades. During an era (1870-1929) in which much of the nation embraced Confederate military heroes as American heroes – and acquiesced to legalized segregation in the South – only a few voices publicly challenged the appropriateness of celebrating men who had fought to divide the nation. (ACWM)

The Artilleryman (1903) by William Ludwell SheppardAmerican Civil War Museum

Fundraising

The Confederate statues on Monument Avenue owed their existence to monument associations and to financial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond. To supplement public funds, the monument associations appealed to ex-Confederate patriotism, solicited token financial support from Virginia’s school children as part of a campaign to educate the next generation about their Confederate heritage, and resorted to a variety of grassroots fundraising efforts. The wives and daughters of Confederate veterans proved especially effective in those grassroots efforts. (ACWM)

The "lady managers" of the Jefferson Davis Monument Association produced several souvenirs to sell as fundraisers for the monument, including this set of prints by Confederate veteran and artist William Ludwell Sheppard. (ACWM)

The Infantryman (1880/1890) by William Ludwell SheppardAmerican Civil War Museum

"The Infantryman," by William Ludwell Sheppard (ACWM)

The Cavalryman (1903) by William Ludwell SheppardAmerican Civil War Museum

"The Cavalryman," by William Ludwell Sheppard (ACWM)

Confederate Bazaar (1892) by Richmond TimesAmerican Civil War Museum

The Jefferson Davis Memorial Association and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society hosted a "Confederate Bazaar" in 1903. Delegates from across the country came to Richmond to sell crafts, food, and books, while visitors danced, attended a "soap-bubble party," and were entertained by a sleight-of-hand artist. The Bazaar raised $23,013.38. Richmond Times Dispatch, April 16, 1863. (Newspapers.com)

Jackson monument circular to people of the South (1912) by Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson Monument CorporationAmerican Civil War Museum

In addition to soliciting funds from the Virginia General Assembly and the City of Richmond, the Jackson Monument Corporation issued successful public fundraising appeals to the "People of the South," to the "Teachers and Students of Virginia," and to "the Admirers of Stonewall Jackson Everywhere." (ACWM)

Jackson 5-1-14American Civil War Museum

As part of the continuing fundraising campaign for the Jackson statue, the Monument Corporation declared May 1, 1914 “Jackson Monument Flag Day” and sold small Confederate battle flag pins. (ACWM)

Jackson monument day lapel pin (1914) by Bastian BrothersAmerican Civil War Museum

Badge worn at the unveiling of the Stonewall Jackson monument. (ACWM)

petition (1904-04-12) by Veteran Cavalry Association of the Army of Northern VirginiaAmerican Civil War Museum

The campaign to erect a statue of J.E.B. Stuart that began in 1891 resurrected -- and exploited -- a promise that the Richmond City Council made to Stuart's widow days after Stuart's death. (ACWM)

Circular (1891-10-03) by Veteran CavalryAmerican Civil War Museum

Circular announcing the fundraising committee for the JEB Stuart monument. (ACWM)

Jubal Early's resolution (1870-10-24) by Jubal EarlyAmerican Civil War Museum

Location, Design and Inscription

Contrary to a common modern assumption, the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue are not a consciously planned set piece abiding by rules governing location, design, facing, etc.  The Lee, Stuart, and Davis statues were to be erected in other parts of the city before they landed on what became Monument Avenue. The designs and sculptors of all but the Maury statue were selected after long and often contentious competitions. The decisions on what to inscribe on the Davis and Jackson monuments also proved contentious. (ACWM)

Lee monument proposal detail (1876/1889) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

In 1878, Toronto-based sculptor Gilbert R. Frith submitted this heroic-scaled proposal for a Lee equestrian monument to be erected on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol. (ACWM)

Lee Monument pamphlet (1887) by Lee Monument AssociationAmerican Civil War Museum

Gilbert Frith was so incensed at the decision to award the Lee monument commission to Frenchman Jean Antonin Mercié that he published a critical history of the competition. (ACWM)

Statue proposal for Lee Monument (1880/1890)American Civil War Museum

Richmond sculptor Edward V. Valentine was one of three artists who submitted models for the first Lee monument design competition in 1877. All were rejected. (VAL)

Proposal for JEB Stuart memorialAmerican Civil War Museum

Silver albumen print of sculptor Frederick Ernst Triebel’s model (not selected) for the J.E.B. Stuart statue. (ACWM)

Richmond Times-Dispatch Souvenir Edition (1896) by Richmond Times-DispatchAmerican Civil War Museum

Chromolithograph printed for the 1896 UCV reunion in Richmond featuring the Jefferson Davis monument, for which the cornerstone was laid in Monroe Park. It was never built. (ACWM)

Gudebrod arch design of Jefferson Davis monument by Louis GudebrodAmerican Civil War Museum

Louis Gudebrod's winning design for a memorial arch to be built at 12th and Broad streets, ca. 1902. The Jefferson Davis Monument Association abandoned the design after Davis's widow publicly opposed it. (ACWM)

Proposed Jefferson Davis memorial (1907) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

Unattributed design for a Jefferson Davis Monument on Richmond's Franklin St. (later Monument Ave.), possibly dating to 1902-1903. (ACWM)

Article (1919-02-16) by Richmond Times DispatchAmerican Civil War Museum

Female members of the Stonewall Jackson Monument Corporation's board objected to the inscription, "Killed at Chancellorsville" as "untrue to history." (ACWM)

Article (1919-01-31) by Richmond News LeaderAmerican Civil War Museum

Others defended the proposed inscription. (ACWM)

killed at ChancellorsvilleAmerican Civil War Museum

The controversy became public. (ACWM)

Stonewall Jackson Moquette (1919) by Frederick William SieversAmerican Civil War Museum

Frederick William Sievers's plaster model, 1919, for his bronze statue on Monument Avenue of Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. (VHS)

Matthew Fontaine Maury statue (1929) by Frederick William SieversAmerican Civil War Museum

Components of the monument to Matthew Fontaine Maury in the studio of artist Frederick William Sievers. Sievers’ design emphasized Maury's fame as a national oceanographer over his service to the Confederate Navy. (VMHC)

Maury Monument_VHS_Mss3.M4486a1196American Civil War Museum

The globe installed above and behind Maury. (VMHC)

Robert E. Lee monument unveiling (1890-05) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

Unveiling

The ceremonial laying of cornerstones and unveiling of completed monuments were major public events, and provided opportunities for celebrating and vindicating the Confederacy and its heroes. The ceremonies typically included parades of Confederate veterans and modern military units, prayers, and multiple speeches about the worthiness of the men being commemorated and, through them, the nobility of the Confederate cause; the speeches were intended not only to inspire the assemble faithful, but to proselytize among new generations and outsiders. (VAL)

Robert E. Lee Monument Unveiling (1890-05) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

From the cornerstone laying in October 1887 to the unveiling on May 29, 1890, the rise of the massive Lee equestrian statue attracted enormous public interest and participation. (VAL)

Robert E. Lee Monument (1890-05-29) by A PhotographerAmerican Civil War Museum

Unveiling the Lee Memorial, May 29, 1890. (VAL)

Lee monument unveiling invitation from Lee Camp pristine cover AT VHSAmerican Civil War Museum

Invitation from R. E. Lee Camp, Confederate Veterans, to unveiling of Lee monument. (ACWM)

Archer Anderson speech (1890) by Archer AndersonAmerican Civil War Museum

The first and last manuscript pages of Archer Anderson’s address at the Lee monument unveiling. Anderson reportedly “had committed his address to memory, and did not refer to his manuscript.” (ACWM)

Speech (1890) by Archer AndersonAmerican Civil War Museum

Conclusion of Archer Anderson's keynote address. (ACWM)

Caroline Greys Regimental Flag (1860) by George RuskellAmerican Civil War Museum

Veterans of Corse's brigade of Pickett's Division marched in the parade preceding the Lee monument unveiling, accompanied by the painted silk company flag of the Caroline Greys they used during the war. (ACWM)

Collage of Ribbons and Medals from Robert E. Lee Monument Unveiling (1890-05-29) by Robert E. Lee Monument AssociationAmerican Civil War Museum

A selection of the wide variety of medals, ribbons, and badges produced to mark the cornerstone laying and the unveiling of the Lee monument. (ACWM)

Collage of souvenir rope and wood from Robert E. Lee UnveilingAmerican Civil War Museum

Souvenirs from the rope used to pull the statue from the railroad depot on May 7, 1890 and from the veil used during the dedication of the completed monument on May 29, 1890. (ACWM)

Unveiling of JEB Stuart Monument (1907-06-02) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

Although its pedestal bears the presentation date of 1906, the Stuart equestrian statue was unveiled before a large crowd during the United Confederate Veterans national reunion on May 30, 1907. (VAL)

Veil fragment (1907-05-30) by Virginia Stuart WallerAmerican Civil War Museum

Fragment of the veil that Virginia Stuart Waller drew from the statue of her father, J.E.B. Stuart on May 30, 1907. Found in family Bible of Nannie Woolfolk Samuel Jackson. (ACWM)

Stuart monument veil fragment (1907-05-30)American Civil War Museum

Note on the rear of Virginia Stuart Waller's card. (ACWM)

Rope used in Jefferson Davis memorial unveiling (1907-06-03) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

One of three pieces of a rope used by the children of Richmond to draw the monument erected in memory of President Jefferson Davis on June 3, 1907. (ACWM)

Unveiling of the Jefferson Davis monument, Richmond, VA (1907-06-04) by unknownAmerican Civil War Museum

The unveiling of the Jefferson Davis statue on June 3, 1907 may have been the largest public celebration of the Confederacy during the “Lost Cause” era, with an estimated 80-200,000 in attendance. (VAL)

Orders for Parade, Jefferson Davis Monument, Richmond, VA (1908-06-03) by Jefferson Davis Monument AssociationAmerican Civil War Museum

Orders for the parade marking the delivery of the completed Davis monument to the city on Davis's centennial birthday, June 3, 1908. (ACWM)

Unveiling of the Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson Monument, Richmond, VA (1921-10-21) by UnknownAmerican Civil War Museum

Facing north because all his campaigns were north or west of the city, “Stonewall” Jackson’s statue was unveiled at Monument Avenue and the Boulevard on October 11, 1919. (VAL)

Invitation (1929) by The Matthew Fontaine Maury AssociationAmerican Civil War Museum

Invitation to the unveiling of the Matthew Fontaine Maury monument. Unlike other monuments on the avenue, Maury's was unveiled a day not on the “Lost Cause” calendar, but on Armistice Day. (VHS)

Matthew Fontaine Maury Association Program (1929) by Matthew Fontain Maury AssociationAmerican Civil War Museum

Program for the unveiling ceremony of the Matthew Fontaine Maury monument. (VHS)

Richmond Planet, "Voice of the Colored Press" (1890-06-07) by John Mitchell, Jr.American Civil War Museum

Forging the Chains of the Past

The white elite who financed, designed, and unveiled the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue imposed their view of Civil War history on Richmond without consulting anti-Confederate white people or African-Americans. John Mitchell, Jr., editor of Richmond’s African American newspaper, the Planet, was highly critical of the Lee Monument.  Mitchell pointedly reprinted the opinions of other black newspapermen in the Planet’s “Voice of the Colored Press” column. Richmond Planet, June 7, 1890. (LVA)

Article (1890) by John Mitchell, Jr. and Richmond PlanetAmerican Civil War Museum

The dwindling number of black elected officials voted against local funding for the statues. While on the Richmond City Council, Mitchell voted against the use of local funds for the statues. He also registered his disapproval of the Lee monument in his weekly newspaper: “The South may revere the memory of its chieftains. It takes the wrong steps in doing so, and proceeds to go too far in every similar celebration. It serves to retard the progress in the country and forges heavier chains with which to be bound. All is over.” Richmond Planet, June 7, 1890. (LVA)

Credits: Story

The American Civil War Museum
Library of Virginia
The Valentine
Virginia Historical Society

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