The first consideration of the sculptor was to convey that spirit of animation in which there may always be found a living interest in the statue. He has succeeded admirably in rendering its expression of pose and action so pronouncedly that one is at once impelled to name the picture "The Reconnoisance." This was the last soldier act of General McPherson, and Mr. Paulding has given to both horse and rider that alertness of attention which would belong to such an action. The pose of horse and rider expresses life, alertness and intelligence, and while at actual pause from action conveys a sense of immediate activity.
General McPherson gave not only his service, but his life, for his country, and the heroism of that death at once suggests the motive for the statue. Being asked to send troops into a certain terrain, he rode unattended and fearlessly to get a personal knowledge as to where best to place his men. During this brief reconnoisance he was killed. The sculptor's conception is that of the general advancing before his command, reconnoitering the line of battle, and the intensity of horse and rider fully portray the moment before the enemy bullet cut short this illustrious life.
Though splendidly expressive of history, the statue is nevertheless essentially a portrait statue. The likeness of General MePherson is excellently reproduced in bronze and is completely authentic even to clothes and accoutrement. The study of the head is perfect and the representation gives to future generations a correct and pleasing impression of the true nobility of the general and will tend to inspire respect for the man and the office he held.
He appears mounted on one of the finest examples of the thoroughbred saddle horse type. The "army horse" is not beautiful and it seems best to have in a work of art a beautiful horse. For that reason the sculptor followed the custom of the art world in choosing his type of horse. The general probably did not ride a stallion, but as a stallion gives a certain sense of life and vigor, it is almost always used for an equestrian monument. The trappings of horse and rider, however, are historically correct and one may feel certain of seeing the general as he appeared before his armed forces.
In order to heighten the effect of the statue and to give it a proper setting to complete the story of the group, that portion of Central Park in which it is to be placed has been prepared to carry out the conception of the sculptor. The rider is looking south down Walnut street. Directly behind him are the embattlements of his forces mounted by two huge cannon donated by the United States Government, and behind this fly the Stars and Stripes from a flag pole erected by the city. The entire picture splendidly carries out the idea of "The Reconnoisance."
The monster historic pageant which will close the program on the Fourth of July will be by far the most imposing thing of its kind ever attempted in the state and will be full of patriotism from one end to the other. It will not only depict historic events in a pleasing and instructive manner but it will teach a strong lesson of love for country that will be exceedingly appropriate in these troublous times.
The march of Coronado, his battle with the Indians, the establishment of the Spanish flag, will all be in the opening episode. Then will come General Pike, whose party will compel the lowering of the Spanish flag and the raising of the stars and stripes. The blazing of the Santa Fe trail, the Civil War period, the immigration of the state, the volunteers for the Spanish War, the progress of industry and lastly the entry of Kansas into the European struggle will all have conspicuous parts in the pageant,
Intersperced through all of this there will be many songs by the actors and the chorus, patriotic music by the massed bands, and finally the singing of a patriotic air by the audience of ten thousand people.
Likewise throughout the rendition of the pageant there will be intersperced a large number of interpretative dances, such as the dance of the winds, the sand dance by twenty little boys, the dance of the prairie fire. the sunset dance, the dance of the grasshoppers and a number of other interpretative representations of epochical topics. The gorgeousness of costume and colored light effects in these portions of the pageant will be some of the wonderful things which are seldom seen except in the largest cities.
The pageant is of such immense proportions and the expense of preparation and presentation so great that it was found there could be only one way of presenting it and that is under canvas. The different episodes of the pageant will be drilled separately at the home communities of the young folks participating and on the Fourth will be assembled in one great whole at the county seat for presentation. There will obviously be no ensemble rehearsal and it will likewise be impossible to postpone such an event in case of bad weather. For this reason it was found imperative to provide a way for presenting the pageant so that it could be given rain or shine. Thus it was decided to secure a big tent.
Arrangements have been made for the largest tent in the entire West. It will be 150 by 250 feet in size - a real circus tent, which will seat from eight to ten thousand people, depending upon the amount of stage room that will be required for the pageant presentation. The number of actors in the pageant will be twelve hundred, not counting the animals. The rental charge alone for this tent is $1,300 for one day. The owners say this is only the third time in two years that the tent was used - once in Minnesota and once in Texas.
Kansas has had as citizens more veterans of the Civil war than any other state in the union, and McPherson county shares in this reputation to a greater degree than most counties of the state. The Ashtabula colony of Ohio veterans founded the first town in the county and were citizens of the state before the county was organized. Consequently it was very appropriate that their wishes should be consulted when the county was named, and for that reason it was named for the beloved young Ohio officer who fell at the Battle of Atlanta. Not only is the county named for General McPherson, but also the county seat and the township surrounding the county seat.
Coronado discovered beautiful McPherson county and writes of the "Buttes" which he saw near the Smoky river. General Custer encamped for a long time on McPherson county soil in protecting the whites against Indian uprisings, and the ruins of his stockade are yet visible. The historic Santa Fe trail passes through the county from the eastern border to the western. The government made a treaty with the Indians on McPherson county soil. Early settlers were victims of Indian raids and recall herds of buffalo where now lie the paved streets and beautiful residences of the city of McPherson. With such surroundings, is it any wonder that its citizens should dream of commemorating the momentous events of the county's early life?
For years this dream was only a dream, but about four years ago the patriotic societies of the county got together and organized from their number the Gen. Jas. B. McPherson Monument Association for the purpose of erecting a suitable memorial to the general for whom the county was named. At first it was thought a small monument would be all that could be expected, but the efforts of the association were received with such hearty encouragement that plans were being considered for such a statue as nowhere existed in the state - a life-size equestrian bronze. Why shouldn't the first be in McPherson county? Price quotations from sculptors of fame were all around $30,000 and the association almost despaired. Through the suggestion of an artist friend the association began looking around for a young sculptor who had proven his merit but had not yet achieved that wide reputation that entitled him to spurs and liberal compensation. This man was John Paulding of Chicago, who had done very creditable work in various states, had assisted in the magnificent work of the Pan-American Exposition but had not been so fortunate as to be able to affix his name to some of this really very superior work.
Mr. Paulding at once entered into the spirit of the enterprise and has devoted nearly three years of very hard work but has produced an excellent piece of sculpture that while portraiture in nature is yet a very clever conception and well entitled to rank among the splendid works of the sculptors of America.
Patriotic citizens came to the aid of the association by donating private funds and two years ago the state legislature passed an enabling act under which McPherson county raised by taxation about half the cost of the monument. The balance was raised by private subscription, by Union veterans' organizations, by ladies' clubs and various other means.
Transcribed from Official Souvenir McPherson County, July 4, 1917 [n.p., 1917] 56p. illus.
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