firm active: 1907-1921

minneapolis, minnesota :: chicago, illinois
philadelphia, pennsylvania :: portland, oregon

Navigation :: Home :: Writings and Publications :: Special Features
The Lincoln Memorial controversy

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was still a popular gratitude toward Abraham Lincoln for saving the American union of states.  The movement to build an appropriate memorial moved slowly, but gained strength by the 1910s.  The proposal to fit this man of democracy into a Greek temple, however, distressed the Progressives, particularly Purcell and Elmslie.  Purcell responded with enthusiasm to an editorial that appeared in the February 8, 1912, issue of The Independent, while pointing out that the elitist establishment of the Eastern seaboard was a clubhouse affair unlikely to produce anything remotely resembling a fresh and democratic form worthy of Lincoln's memory. This sally occasioned further letter writing to prominent architects, such as William Channing Whitney.  Eventually the whole bruhaha crested in a nationally syndicated article that appeared in several newspapers.  Purcell himself put together this sequence of documents and numbered the order they should be read--unfortunately the document set is missing a page in the middle of The Independent editorial (which is being sought at the present time).

Purcell's "exhibit"

Additional documents

A nationally syndicated newspaper article, featuring the work of Purcell, Feick and Elmslie as well as that of Gutzon Borglum, that contributed to the controversy surrounding the proposed neo-classical Lincoln Memorial design.  Purcell is the chief voice quoted throughout the course of the piece, which was illustrated with the Stewart Memorial Church and the First National Bank in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

research courtesy mark hammons