Special statue dedication edition
"Men in pursuit of justice must never despair."
Thaddeus Stevens, May 8, 1866
Adams County courthouse, Gettysburg, PA
In this issue:
I. Schedule of events
II. The story of Thaddeus Stevens statues
III. Gettysburg statue donors
IV. The new Gettysburg statue
V. Major statue donor
VI. Sculptor inspired by Thaddeus Stevens
VII. Why I admire Thaddeus Stevens
VIII. Proposal for statue in nation's capitol
230th Stevens birthday celebration and statue dedication
Friday, April 1, Lancaster, PA
10 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Tour of Stevens house at corner of Queen and Vine Street, conducted by Thomas Ryan, chief executive of LancasterHistory -- Free
Noon to 2 p.m. -- Seminar at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, 750 E. King Street, Lancaster, PA. Ross Hetrick, president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, will speak on Stevens and the movies, from villain to hero. Bradley Hoch, author of Thaddeus Stevens in Gettysburg, the Making of an Abolitionist, will talk about Stevens involvement in the Buckshot War of 1838 where the Pennsylvania state government was taken over by mob violence. The seminar is free, but seating is limited and registration at firstname.lastname@example.org is requested.
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. -- Tour of Archives room at Stevens College. Event is free but registration at email@example.com is requested.
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- Graveside ceremony at Shreiner-Concord Cemetery at Mulberry and Chestnut Streets, Lancaster. -- Free
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- Banquet at Stevens College, 750 E. King Street. $50 per person.
9 p.m. -- Public showing of video about statue and Stevens at Stevens College. -- Free
Saturday, April 2, 2022 -- Gettysburg
10 a.m. to noon -- Seminar at Gettysburg Hotel, Lincoln Square, Stevens conference room -- Free, registration required. Featured will be Bruce Levine, author of the new Stevens biography, and Fergus Bordewich, author of Congress At War, who will talk about Stevens's critical role during the Civil War. Presentations will be by Zoom. -- free, but registration is requested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noon to 2 p.m. -- Free period. People can see Thaddeus Stevens artifacts at 27 E. Stevens Street or visit the Seminary Ridge Museum, 111 Seminary Ridge. Say you are attending the statue dedication for a 50 percent discount. Gettysburg Licensed Town Guides are also available to give 90-minutes tours that include information about Lincoln, the civilian experience and Thaddeus Stevens. They can be contacted at www.gbltg.com or 717-253-5737.
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. -- Dedication of Thaddeus Stevens statue, 111 Baltimore Street. Audience gathers from 2 to 3. Speeches and dedication at 3 p.m. – Bring your own chairs. -- Free
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- Free period
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- Banquet at Majestic Theater, 25 Carlisle Street -- $50 per person.
9 p.m. -- Public showing of new documentary about the statue and Thaddeus Stevens. In lot behind Transit Station, 103 Carlisle Street. Bring your own chairs. -- Free
Sunday, April 3, 2022 -- Caledonia State Park, Intersection of Routes 30 and 233, near Chambersburg, PA
10 a.m. to Noon -- Economist William A. Darity of Duke University, author of From Here to Equality, will talk about Stevens and reparations. A. Kirsten Mullen, co-author of From Here to Equality, a folklorist and founder of Artefactual, an arts-consulting practice, will talk on, "Finishing the job Thaddeus Stevens and the true Radical Republicans started," an examination of the material basis for black Americans' full citizen rights which Stevens, Sen. Charles Sumner and abolitionist Wendell Phillips recommended consistently from 1861 to 1866. -- Free. A light lunch will be served.
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. -- Thaddeus Stevens Society business meeting and tour of park's blacksmith shop.
Zoom presentation of seminars are planned. Register at email@example.com
The story of Stevens statues
By Ross Hetrick, president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society
When Thaddeus Stevens died in 1868, there was no doubt that there would be statues aplenty to the man who helped save the American republic and set it on a course towards a more equitable society. Major newspapers devoted their entire front pages to his life, he laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda and 20,000 people attended his funeral in Lancaster, PA.
"Monuments will be reared to perpetuate his name on the earth," said Horace Maynard, a Tennessee congressman on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1868. "Art will be busy with her chisel and her pencil to preserve his features and the image of his mortal frame. All will be done that brass and marble and painted canvas admit of being done."
Yet, 154 years after his death, there is only one Stevens statue and that only went up in 2008 at the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA. And now a second one is slated to be dedicated on April 2 in front of the courthouse in Gettysburg where Stevens lived from 1816 to 1842. Since his death in 1868, there have been five attempts to erect Stevens statues – two successful and three failures.
The first attempt to immortalize Stevens came from the beautiful and talented Vinnie Ream, a young sculptress, who was commissioned to do Lincoln’s statue that now stands in the Capitol Rotunda. Stevens took the 18-year-old Ream under his wing and got her the commission to do the Lincoln statue. In return, Ream did a plaster bust of Stevens with a Roman collar. While a picture of the bust exists, the actual bust has been lost to history.
Ream had a close relation with Stevens for the last three years of his life and in 1900 Ream offered to do a statue of Stevens in Lancaster, PA, for $25,000, according to an article in the New York Times. Then on January 12, 1903 there was a letter to the editor to the Lancaster Daily New Era from the Board of Trade that the group had been in correspondence with Ream, who wanted to do a Stevens statue under the condition the Board of Trade paid for casting and a granite pedestal, at a cost of about $5,000. The board agreed on the condition Ream give them a model of the proposed statue for approval. “In this she has failed, and a recent letter to her has remained unanswered.” said the Board of Trade and there was no further mention in newspapers of Ream’s desire to create a Stevens statue.
Sculptress Vinnie Ream, who had failed plans to do Stevens statue.
Plaster bust of Stevens done by Ream, but now lost.
Model of Stevens statue that would have been part of public school monument.
Public school monument model proposed in 1909 that included Stevens statue.
Button produced by school memorial group.
Stevens statue at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
But despite this great victory in recognizing Stevens’s importance, the following years were followed by disappointments as far as statues were concerned. In 2009 the Thaddeus Stevens Society was contacted by the development company Akridge in Washington, D.C. to support its plans to redevelop the historic Stevens school in Washington and to build an adjoining commercial building. To gain approval from the D.C. government, Akridge proposed including a a statue of Stevens and a story wall about the Great Commoner. The Society wrote letters of support for Akridge’s proposal, which were submitted to the Washington, D.C. government. After several years, Akridge plans were approved and the commercial structure was built and the school redeveloped, but there was no statue. Akridge blamed the D.C. bureaucracy for nixing the statue, but despite being in regular touch, Akridge never notified the Society of any hearing where the group may have been given a chance to defend the statue.
The Thaddeus Stevens school, which had been closed since 2008, was reopened in 2020 as an early learning center. Included on the campus is a perforated sheet of metal in the outline of Thaddeus Stevens with these words next to it: “ . . . A humble tribute of grateful remembrance to the late Honorable Thaddeus Stevens . . . the earnest champion of free and equal school privilege for all classes and conditions.” The Board of Trustees of Colored Schools of Washington and Georgetown in honor of Thaddeus Stevens 1792-1868Perforated metal sheet at Stevens school in Washington, D.C. instead of statue.
Another disappointment was in 2015 when Gettysburg College erected a statue in front of Stevens Hall. But the statue was not of Thaddeus Stevens, who the building was named after, but of Abraham Lincoln. This reflects the college’s constant emphasis on Lincoln, who played no part in the college’s history, while giving little attention to Stevens, who helped to establish the college and spent 34 years on its board of trustees.
But the incident did spur the Thaddeus Stevens Society to launch a campaign to raise $55,000 for a Stevens statue in Gettysburg, where he lived from 1816 to 1842. The effort reached its goal in 2018 when Michael Charney of Ohio pledged $39,500. A retired teacher and union official, he is a great admirer of the Old Commoner and even named a past dog Thaddeus.
After the goal was reached, a nationwide search was launched to find a sculptor and Alex Paul Loza, a Peruvian native who lives near Chattanooga, TN, was selected from 20 proposals. In preparing his submission, Loza researched Stevens and became a great admirer, resulting in him fashioning a small model of a dynamic Stevens holding a copy of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, one of his greatest works.
Then in 2021, as Loza was nearing completion of the statue, the Adams County commissioners approved an agreement with the Stevens Society to install the statue in front of the county’s courthouse on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg.
While this statue is a great accomplishment, there is so much more to be done. Restoration of Stevens’s house in Lancaster, PA, has been stalled for more than a decade. But planning and fundraising for the project started again in recent years and the project may be completed by the middle of this decade. There is also a great need to stabilize the condition of the Lancaster cemetery where Stevens is buried.
But as the Gettysburg statue campaign has shown, the determination of Stevens admirers will continue unabated and will result in Stevens sites being restored and monuments raised to the Great Commoner.
Gettysburg statue donors
Michael Charney John Lovell
Ross Hetrick Angela Powell
Bernistine Nabia Little Hilda Nitchman
Donald & Bobbie Gallagher Donald Rhoads
Steven Livengood Bradley Hoch
Wesley Foltz Frank Ninivaggi
Dale Hetrick Janice Smith
Carolyn Quadarella Beverly Palmer
Craig Howell Sam Mecum
Merry Stinson Ruth Hernandez-Siegal
Patricia J. Longenecker Marguerite Fabert Wilson
Al Massey Janet Landon
Randy Harris Rosalie Moore
David Atkinson Patricia E. Roche
Veronica Brestensky Kathleen Brestensky
Janice Grove Thomas Grove
John Buchheister, The Maryland Sutler
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Alumni Association
Susan Swope and Shirley Tannenbaum
Robin E. Sarratt and Thomas R. Ryan
The new Gettysburg statue
"Men in pursuit of justice must never despair." Thaddeus Stevens, May 8, 1866
The new Gettysburg bronze statue is titled, "Men in pursuit of justice must never despair," a quote of Thaddeus Stevens. It is Stevens's height of 6 feet and he is clutching a copy of the 14th Amendment, one of his greatest achievements. He is standing on a base in the shape of Pennsylvania.
A wayside sign next to the statue highlights Stevens's achievements and describes the map on the statue's base. A QR code is included to provide more information on the Thaddeus Stevens Society's webpage.
Map on base shows important locations in Stevens's life: York, Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Caledonia and Philadelphia.
Longtime Stevens admirer provides much of the money for Stevens statue
Michael Charney is the perfect example that there are people throughout the United States who recognize the greatness of Thaddeus Stevens and who are willing to make sacrifices to promote his memory.
The Thaddeus Stevens Society launched a fundraising effort in 2015 to raise $55,000 to erect a statue in Gettysburg. By 2018 the Society had amassed pledges of $15,500. Nice, but still far away from the goal. Then Michael, who lives in Ohio, stepped in. Already a lifetime member of the Society, he offered to pay the remaining $39,500, which made the statue possible.
A retired teacher, union official and longtime social activist, this is why he did it in his own words:
"Thaddeus Stevens is unlike any politician today. He did not consult the latest political opinion poll to determine what he would do.
Instead, Stevens held a principled anti-slavery position throughout his career.
But Stevens was more than an anti-slavery advocate. He was a pragmatic politician with a keen sense of overall strategy combined with a meticulous tactical sense to move his anti-slavery agenda.
He successfully pushed President Lincoln to a step by step support for using "colored" troops to fight for their own liberation, and use the role of his office to embrace the 13th Amendment, an important part of the Radical Republican program championed by Stevens.
And Stevens understood the importance of economic as well as political equality by proposing breaking up the largest slave plantations and distributing the land to the newly freed people.
That is why I named my dog Thaddeus so I could communicate the crucial role Thaddeus Stevens played in the struggle for African American political and economic equality."
Thanks so much Michael, you have done a great service to the memory of Thaddeus Stevens along with all the other members and supporters of the Thaddeus Stevens Society.
Michael Charney, retired teacher and union official
Artist inspired by Thaddeus Stevens
When artist Alex Paul Loza made a proposal in 2019 to create only the second statue of Thaddeus Stevens, he was surprised he had never heard of him
"The more I read about Stevens, the more I began to connect and related with him," Loza said. "And similar to Stevens's mother, my mother, Amalia Villafranca, relied on her faith, resilience and perseverance to support our household."
"I learned that Stevens utilized his knowledge and political influence to serve, defend and empower oppressed communities to bring equality and justice. As an artist, I use my artistry and voice to serve and empower unrepresented communities and tell their stories," he said.
Loza said his statue not only celebrates Stevens's life, but "reflects his tenacity and admirable beliefs that can inspire individuals to make positive changes in their communities by creating safe spaces and building alliances."
He is involved in many art projects in the Chattanooga, TN area, where he lives with his wife, Jocelyn Avendano-Loza and their two daughters, Emie, 11, and Ellie, 7.
Loza recently was commissioned to create the first ever life-size bronze sculpture of "Little Debbie" of snack food fame.
Sculptor Alex Paul Loza in his studio.
Why I admire Thaddeus Stevens
Below are essays by Thaddeus Stevens members and others on why they admire Stevens.
For me, "The Great Commoner" says it all. He was a champion for the common good! I propose making him the patron saint of activists! He certainly is a role model for public servants. We need to follow his example of reaching out and speaking for the marginalized. I take great pride that Thaddeus Stevens was a part of our community!
Kathleen Brestensky, Gettysburg, PA
Thaddeus Stevens: Equality For All, and Equality Above All
I admire Thaddeus Stevens because he dedicated his life to relentlessly advocating for racial equality and freedom—despite significant resistance and personal cost—and he did so with courage and conviction.
Born in 1792 and possessing a zeal for racial equality, Stevens was seemingly before his time. But he pulled history’s time forward, spurring the United States to more tangibly provide the protections and rights set forth in our country’s founding documents. He implored Lincoln to declare emancipation and his Congressional colleagues to pass the 13th Amendment, in addition to authoring the 14th Amendment.
With these endeavors, he translated lofty ideals into real freedom, equality under the law, and civil liberties for our most oppressed compatriots. He incurred steep financial losses and stiff political
pushback throughout his career due to his efforts, but his vision never wavered. Stevens also advanced the cause of equality by increasing access to education. He championed public
education in Pennsylvania, beating back a repeal bill poised to cripple the public school system, and was instrumental in establishing Gettysburg College. Thanks to his work, countless youth enjoyed upward mobility and better lives for themselves and their families.
In his death, as in his life, Stevens promoted equality, choosing to be buried in an integrated cemetery and concluding his epitaph with, “Equality of Man Before His Creator.” He was a singular force in
bending the arc of our country’s history more toward justice.
Dylan Waugh, Parkton, MD
Before President Abraham Lincoln, Congressman Stevens was deeply concerned about abolishing slavery. He initiated strategies that helped President Lincoln to bring about the end of the Civil War by mean of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that actually abolished slavery on January 31, 1865.
After the death of President Lincoln, Thaddeus continued to help right the wrongs of the country by passing the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which made all persons born or naturalized in the United States citizens. Moreover, he paved the way for the Fifteenth Amendment establishing voting rights.
Thaddeus Stevens strongly believed in equal rights for all, and he illustrated this in his death by being buried in an integrated cemetery and having an epitaph written on his tomb that reflected what he stood for in life.
In conclusion, the more I read about human and civil rights actions taken by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens from the Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles written by the president of the Society and lectures provided, as well as from the lecturers’ books, my admiration for the late congressman becomes even stronger.
It goes without saying, that Thaddeus Stevens was a champion of funding for public education. In April of 1835 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was considering to repeal a law that
established public education in Pennsylvania. Stevens argued against the repeal. “I will attempt to show that the law is salutary, useful and important; and that, consequently, the last Legislature acted wisely in passing, and the present would act unwisely in repealing it.” (The
Selected papers of Thaddeus Stevens, 1997 p.57, University of Pittsburgh, edit Palmer and Ochoa)
After addressing taxation in support of public schools and other issues, Thaddeus Stevens convinced the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to defeat the repeal. It is amazing that a
public servant that spent a lifetime supporting public schools is not more broadly recognized. Stevens’s name was maligned along with other abolitionists and Republican Reconstructionists by late 19th century racist writers like William Archibald Dunning and his supporters in the South and at Columbia. The time is right to expound on the positive accomplishments such as public education made by Thaddeus Stevens.
Mike Hall, Conroe, TX