November 22, 1909: Movement grows for statue of Duluth’s namesake by August Rodin

On this day in Duluth in 1908, prominent Duluthian and mining executive F. E. House of the Du Luht Monument Association expressed renewed enthusiasm to have a famous sculptor carve a likeness of the city’s namesake, Daniel Greysolon Siuer du Luht, out of Point of Rock. Month’s earlier Bishop James McGolrick had suggested that August Rodin, famous for The Thinker and The Kiss, should be given a commission to make a bronze likeness of du Luht to be placed in Duluth’s newly planned Civic Center. He called Rodin “the great master, who is now the Michael Angelo [sic] of the twentieth century.” Rodin was apparently open to the idea and had not only done research on du Luht but had “completed a general scheme for a statue, a monument over seven feet tall carved out of marble.” He also agreed to execute the piece for $30,000, a bargain considering he was making a sculpture of Shakespeare for $100,000. The plan also had the approval of former mayor C. H. Graves, who at the time was the American ambassador to Sweden. House had just returned from a trip to Chicago where he met with architect Daniel Burnham; Burnham suggested Duluth act fast, as Rodin was approaching 70. The statue, House and Burnham agreed, would make Duluth a mecca for art lovers. Despite much public enthusiasm for the plan, the project never materialized and was not mentioned in newspapers after November 1, 1909. In 1919, city leaders brought in Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum to blast Duluth’s Point of Rocks into the form of du Lhut, but the sculptor found the stone too hard to carve and refused the job. Today a 1965 statue of du Luht by Jacques Lipchitz stands at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Ordean Court. Throughout its coverage of the 1908 Rodin issue, the Duluth News Tribune referred to du Luht as “Jean” though that was never his name—find out why here.

Auguste Rodin.