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The National Monument to Our Forefathers

Edited By Mrs. Paul H. Walker

Your editor decided to feature the National Monument to the Forefathers on the cover of this issue because a visit to it is often overlooked by tourists. Most people come to Plymout during the summer months, and are content to stroll the waterfront and visit the historical sites there, such as Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrim Mother's Fountain, and Mayflower II. They enjoy seafood in the restaurants and visiting the many shops with seaside and nautical themes. Then, they get in their cars and head for Plimoth Plantation--or if they had come from there, leave for their next destination.

The Forefather's Monument involves a short drive or vigorous walk up steep North Park Avenue (Route 44) to Allerton Street. A right turn, and upwards on Allerton to the monument on the left. It is on the highest ground in Plymouth. It is circled by a drive if you do not wish to get out. There is a big free parking lot and a small gift shop.

This monument is well worth your time. It is of heroic proportions, and is executed in the noble classic tradition. As the kids would say, "It's Awesome!" In fact, it is the largest granite statue in the world (says the guide book) and is made of Maine granite. It was designated by Hammett Billings and cost $150,000. A backround description and some statistics of it from an early Plymouth guide book follow.

Early in the last century the idea of building a monument to the Pilgrim Fathers was formulated in the minds of Plymouth citizens. It became a definite project with the incorporation of the Piligrim Society in Janurary 1820. The project was steadily maintained until its successful conclusion with the monument and grounds in place.

A brief description of it is here unfolded, which may help you keep in mind it's gigantic proportions:
--Height from ground to top of head, 81'
--Base is 45' high
--Faith, which stand atop the base, is 36' high. Length of her outstretched arm, pointing to heaven is 19'10 1/2".
--Head circumference at forehead is 13'7".
--Neck circumference is 9'2".
--Circumference of wrist is 4'
--Finger pointing upward is 2'1" long.
--The statue is 216 times life size and it was 180 tons.

The principle figure, which is Faith, was given by a native of Plymouth, Oliver Ames, and it cost $31,300. The total cost was $150,000, contributed by 11,000 people of the United States and other countries. It was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

As you walk around the monument, here are some things you will see, and the ideas the arrangement of the figures convey to the mind.

The plan for the main pedestal is octagonal with four large and four small faces; from the latter project four buttresses or wing pedestals. On each of these is seated a figure and they are symbolic of the principles upon which the Pilgrims proposed to found their commonwealth.

The first is Morality, holding the Decalogue in her left hand and the scroll of Revelation in her right one. She looks upward at Faith, the central figure on the top pedestal, which is the impersonation of the Spirit of Religion. Faith's upraised ar, and hand point to heaven. In a niche on one side of Morality's throne is a prophet, and in a niche on the other side of her is one of the four Evangelists.

The second seated figure is Law. One one side of its throne is Justice amd on the other, Mercy.

The third is Education, with Wisdom, ripe with years on one side, and on the other, Youth, led by Experience.

The fourth figure is Liberty. Peace rests on one side under its protection, and on the other Tyranny is overthrown by Liberty's power.

Below the seated figures are marble alto-reliefs, representing scenes from the history is the Pilgrims: the Departure from Delft Haven; the first Treaty with the Indians; signing of the Compact; and the landing at Plymouth.

On each of the four faces of the main pedestal is a large panel, curved at the top, for records. Three are inscribed. One expressed gratitude to our Forefathers by grateful people. Two others contain names of Mayflower passengers. The fourth is left plain for a future inscription.

A bolt of lightning ran down the arm and figure of Faith on August 23, 1912, splitting and displacing two blocks of the central section. Restoration to their original positions was accomplished without taking down the monument, thanks to the engineering skill of Mr. George W. Bradford of Plymouth.

The National Monument to the Forefathers is owned and maintained by the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth.

[from an old "Guide to Historic Plymouth" and a modern brochure of the Pilgrim Society, obtainable at the Monument's gift shop.]

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