By Trish Long
El Paso Times
Would you consider writing about the Statue of Liberty of El Paso, Texas? I believe an article appeared in El Paso Herald on July 22, 1918.
Ms. Martha Kuykendall
El Paso Catholic Historical Archives
The article you cited was titled "Unveil Statue On Labor Day," and it reported, in part:
"The Labor Day celebration being planned by the Central Labor Union promises to eclipse all other patriotic demonstrations of the year, according to the union men's committee. Every effort is being made to have every labor, fraternal, war work and military organization in this city take part in the parade, which will mark the opening of the demonstration. The unveiling and dedication of the Liberty statue on Pioneer Plaza will close the day's activities. ...
"The Statue of Liberty, a replica of the famous statue in New York harbor, was hoisted to its pedestal in Pioneer Plaza on Sunday morning at 11 o'clock by volunteer manpower. ...
"All of the work, including the final bronzing of the statue, is being donated by the Central Labor Union of this city. The men engaged in the work are bing paid by the union body.
"The statue faces west on San Francisco street, and can be seen from the Union Depot. When complete and the lights installed, it will be a beacon readily seen by incoming passengers as soon as they emerge from the depot building."
And indeed the statue was dedicated on Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1918, and, as promised, thousands turned out to see the parade and dedication of the statue.
"With thousands thronging the streets to watch the mammoth Labor Day parade and Liberty statue dedication, El Paso celebrated on Monday the biggest display of the kind in the history of the city. Bands played and the Stars and Stripes were conspicuously hung from most of the windows and stores in the downtown section. Residences in various parts of the city displaced the national colors and the crowds on the street mingled with the khaki-clad boys of the military and the spirit of 'win the war,' the slogan of the labor organizations, was everywhere in evidence.
"The Statue of Liberty, erected in Pioneer Plaza, was draped in streamers of red, white and blue, and thousands congregated around this statue to witness the unveiling which occurred shortly before noon. ...
"Decorations along the line of march were completed before Sunday noon. Over the City Hall, the colors of the allies were flown, while the porches of the buildings were adorned in red, white and blue. The Popular and White House and other places along the line were similarly adorned.
"Liberty statue itself was adorned with American flags, and presented a beautiful appearance."
The first speaker of the dedication ceremony was Frank Balt, president of the Central Labor Union who presented the monument to Mayor Charles Davis. After a short speech, Davis presented the statue to the Council of Defense. Joseph M. Nealon accepted it on the council's behalf.
The dedication ceremony closed with the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
On Feb. 10, 1919, in a special meeting of the City Council, it was decided to turn the statue over to the Boy Scouts.
"The matter of donating the statue to the use of the scouts was first taken up by the council one week ago, and in order to complete it, a special meeting was called Wednesday, with Mayor Pro Tem J.P. O'Connor presiding. The Boy Scouts were represented by Glenn O. Everman, who called the attention of the council to the necessity of providing some place in which to exhibit relics of the great war. The location of the statue in the center of the city, and the fact that it could also be used as headquarters for the scouts, were taken into consideration by the council.
"According to present plans, all relics and souvenirs of the Great War donated to the city will be placed on exhibit in the big room of the statue. This includes helmets, pieces of shrapnel, chevrons or shoulder straps of Germans and anything that is of value as a relic, according to alderman R.C. Semple.
"The statue will be open all hours of the day as a war relic exhibit."
Sometime before Nov. 17, 1920, the statue lost its arm. This mention appeared in "The Plaza Knocker" column that day, "It's about time the Goddess on top the Boy Scout building had an arm to hold up a torch with. She's a beautiful statue with it; she's a mutt without it."
About that time, a petition to remove the statue from the plaza was being circulated by Downtown businessmen. It was decided that the statue would indeed be moved from the plaza, and the city sent building inspector Percy McGhee Jr. to check the statue. The following ran on Dec. 3, 1920.
"Liberty, on top of Liberty statue in Pioneer Plaza, cannot be saved.
"Percy McGhee, Jr., city building inspector, made a careful examination of the statue, at the suggestion of Mayor Charles Davis, with a view to ascertaining if it could be saved and placed on Scenic Point on the Scenic Drive, but reported that it would not be worth moving.
"The statue is constructed of lathe and plaster, he says, and the elements have weakened it so that the inspector does not believe it would stand removal. If this were possible, he says, further exposure to the elements would soon cause it to crumble. Consequently, it would not be worth the cost of a pedestal to set it up against."
•If you want to know about El Paso's history, send Trish an email at ‹a href="mailto:tlong@elpasotimes"›tlong@elpasotimes. com or comment at her blog by visiting elpasotimes.com/blogs
Trish Long is the El Paso Times' archivist and spends her time in the morgue, where the newspaper keeps its old clippings and photos. She shares some of this history in her blog, Tales From The Morgue.