A few days ago, before this last blog mini-hiatus, I posted a 108-year-old item from The New York Times (“Forced to Drink Beer“). The story describes a couple of bar denizens as “laughing immoderately.” That phrase prompted Marie, a regular reader from Springfield, Illinois, to search for it in the Times archives and link to the search in a comment. I’m not sure what period she searched, but “laughed immoderately” appears 59 times. Looking through the list of those who expressed mirth or amusement in this rather unrestrained manner, I saw that one of those whose guffaws are memorialized forever in the Times archives is Governor John P. Altgeld (see the clip below).
In responding on Marie’s comment, I mentioned the governor’s 1893 cameo in the search results. I referred to him as John P. “Eagle Forgotten” Altgeld, the second-greatest man who ever lived in Springfield (OK — your mileage may vary). “Eagle Forgotten” is the title of a biography of Altgeld first published (I think) in 1938. The book takes its title from a Vachel Lindsay poem about Altgeld, “The Eagle That Is Forgotten.” After reading my comment, Marie posted the poem.
OK, now: Rob, a blogger near New Orleans who reads both Marie’s posts and mine, read the poem. He’s in the habit of citing a blog of the day, and after reading “The Eagle That Is Forgotten,” linked to a Vachel Lindsay site.
I just like the serendipitous nature of this exchange. To keep it going, here’s another item to check out: the sculpture “Eagle Columns,” by Richard Hunt, at the southwestern corner of Sheffield, Lincoln, and Wrightwood, about a mile south of Wrigley Field. I happened across it one day on a long walk up to my parent’s place. Weirdly, I can’t find a single decent image of this installation online. Anyway, here’s what The New York Times had to say about it recently:
“The inspiration for … ‘Eagle Columns’ (1989) …was Mr. Hunt’s interest in two Chicagoans of the 1890’s, the liberal Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld and the poet Vachel Lindsay. An ensemble of three soaring bronze towers, each surmounted by a fantastical eagle, commemorates the two: Altgeld, who pardoned three anarchists convicted of inciting violence during the Haymarket Square riot of 1886 on the ground that their trial was unfair, and Lindsay, who eulogized Altgeld in a paean titled ‘The Eagle That Is Forgotten.’ The monument is in a park across the street from Mr. Hunt’s Chicago studio.”
The park is Jonquil Park, and it’s in Altgeld’s old neighborhood. Also in the vicinity: his grave in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery. (And if you’re really in a mood to get out and see Altgeld-related sites in Chicago, try here and here.)