October 15, 1921: Dedication of Duluth’s Jay Cooke statue

On this day in Duluth in 1921, a statue of Jay Cooke—the man who had “resurrected the lifeless corpse of Duluth” in the late 1860s—was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of Cooke’s birth. The statue was the idea and gift of J. Horace Harding—Cooke’s business associate, son-in-law, and the executor of his will—who first suggested the statue in 1913. But little effort went into the idea until 1920, when Harding again offered to donate a statue that would stand in a triangular park near the Kitchi Gammi Club at Ninth Avenue East, where Superior Street and London Road converged until the 1980s. The statue, executed by artist Henry Shrady, was erected in 1921. Shrady, a New York artist, created the U. S. Grant Memorial that stands in front of the U. S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. as well as the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, NC, which was at the center of Civil War Monument controversy in October, 2017. The Cooke statue, placed on a granite base, depicts the Union’s Civil War financier sitting contemplatively on a bench, an unnamed collie at his side. His hat is on his knee and his cane at his side, and there is room on the bench at Cooke’s right side, as if he is waiting for a companion to join him. Mayor Sam Snively presided over the unveiling on October 15, 1921—the 100th anniversary of Cooke’s birth. The festivities included public addresses, “vocal solos and musical selections.” Speakers included Harding, Northern Pacific Railroad chairman Howard Elliott, and Oscar Mitchell, once the Duluth city attorney and at that time president of the Great Northern Power Company—and a close friend of Harding’s. They all praised Cooke for his accomplishments and, as the man they were honoring did so often, made lofty predictions of Duluth’s future. After construction rerouted London Road in the 1980s, the statue was moved a short distance, but still sits in front of the Kitchi Gammi Club just west of Ninth Avenue East. Read much more about Mr. Cooke here and here.

The Jay Cooke statue in Duluth, located along Superior Street at the foot of Ninth Avenue East. (Image: Zenith City Press)