The Lovejoy Monument

Alton, Illinois

 

In Gratitude To God,

And In The Love Of Liberty,

The State Of Illinois And Citizens of Alton,

Erect This Monument,

1896-7.

 

Image from the program of the Rededication of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Monument, Thursday, September 25, 1969
From the Collection of the Illinois State Historical Library

Events Leading to the Dedication of the Lovejoy Monument in 1897

It is said that time heals all wounds--in no city in America is this more evident than at the site of the Elijah Lovejoy Monument, erected in Alton, Illinois. For years after the death of Lovejoy, Alton paid the price for the actions of the mob. It existed in a kind of infamy throughout the United States as its reputation caused the river traffic so vital to its economy to move farther south to St. Louis. Land values in Alton dropped, and it seemed the very mention of the town caused people to shudder. In fact, the original program from the dedication of the Lovejoy monument in 1897 talks of this nation-wide attitude in a section entitled "Justice for Alton."

"For the space of nearly two generations the city of Alton has endured obloquy, scorn and contumely without limit because of the death of Elijah P. Lovejoy at the hands of a lawless mob. The city has been held responsible for the deeds of rioters acting in defiance of its laws and in defiance of the best sentiment of the community."

Since the moment of Lovejoy's death, the city of Alton struggled with both a negative public perception and how to honor the abolitionist's memory. What follows below is a timeline tracing both Alton's and the state of Illinois' efforts to properly remember the martyred life of Lovejoy. Follow the links to the development of the monument by clicking on the different blocks of years.

1837 1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s

 Structure and Dimensions of the Monument

Research by the Alton Area Historical Society indicates the design of the Lovejoy monument was done by R. P. Bringhurst, a St. Louis sculptor. After the approval of the drawings, Culver Stone Company of Springfield, Illinois, completed the construction of the edifice. The design attempts to convey the feeling of triumph for the cause for which the monument was erected. The winged statue of Victory crowns the main shaft and eagles mounted on columns on either side express the idea of a triumphant goal or consummation.

Structurally, the central massive granite column is 93 feet high, surmounted by a bronze statue 17 feet high, weighing 8,700 pounds. The shaft, in three sections weighing 16 to 22 tons each, is one of the largest columns in the country. The base consists of a round plinth, square cap die and base in the form of a seat. It stands in a center terrace 40 feet in diameter, surrounded on three sides by a granite exedra wall eight feet high on the outside and having a seat on the inside. The terrace is flared with six inch granite flagging and is reached by seven granite steps. Two large granite pedestals surmounted by ornate standard bronze tripods finish the exedra wall.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Blanchette, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

By the steps are two granite sentinel columns 30 feet high mounted by bronze eagles eight feet over the wings. On each side of the die is a bronzed panel, four in all, devoted to excerpts from the life of Elijah P. Lovejoy.

Monument Inscriptions

The program for the dedication of the Lovejoy monument indicates that the original idea of the monument association was to let Lovejoy speak for himself in his three occupations of editor, minister, and opponent of slavery. Accordingly, a writing from each capacity was placed on three of the four sides of the monument base. A fourth inscription honors the men who helped to defend the warehouse and press the night that Lovejoy was killed.

 

South Front

Elijah P. Lovejoy,

Editor Alton Observer,

Albion, Maine, Nov. 8, 1802

Alton, Ill., Nov. 7, 1837.

A Martyr to Liberty.

"I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessing of God, I will never go back."

North Front

Champion of Free Speech.

"But, gentlemen, as long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, to publish whatever I please on any subject--being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."

West Front

Salve, Victores!

This monument commemorates the valor, devotion and sacrifice of the noble Defenders of the Press, who, in this city, on Nov. 7, 1837, made the first armed resistance to the aggressions of the slave power in America.

East Front

Minister of the Gospel.

Moderator of Alton Presbytery,

"If the laws of my country fail to protect me I appeal to God, and with him I cheerfully rest my cause. I can die at my post but I cannot desert it."

Preservation and Rededication of the Lovejoy Monument

In 1969, a local civic group in Alton took over the responsibility of urging the State of Illinois to renovate the Lovejoy Monument and encourage the city of Alton, Alton Cemetery Board of Directors, and people living in the immediate area to participate in beautification programs around the grounds. The monument and the grave site of Lovejoy each received a thorough cleaning, and a large rededication ceremony was held on the grounds of the cemetery.

Winged Victory on top of Lovejoy Monument gets sandblasted by a workman on the scaffolding in preparation of the rededication ceremony, September 25, 1969.

Image from the program of the Rededication of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Monument, Thursday, September 25, 1969
From the Collection of the Illinois State Historical Library

 

A Second Rededication Ceremony Held in 1997

On November 8, 1997, a group of about 200 people met at the sight of the Lovejoy Monument in Alton to again rededicate the memory of Reverend Lovejoy. Speaker and Alton Township supervisor Donald Huber remembered Lovejoy by quoting from former Illinois Senator Paul Simon's book Elijah P. Lovejoy: Freedom's Champion. The keynote speaker was the Reverend George Humbert, pastor of College Avenue Presbyterian Church, the very same ministry that Elijah Lovejoy served over 160 year before. Newspaper reports mentioned the musical highlight of the ceremony was the signing of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Doris Frazier.

 

Directions to the Lovejoy Monument

From Springfield, Illinois to Alton

Greater Alton/Twin Rivers Convention and Visitors Bureau 1 (800) ALTON IL



 Images and texts on these web pages are intended for research and educational use only. Please read our statement on use and reproduction for further information on how to receive permission to reproduce an item or how to cite it. Thank you.