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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The "Hey, How About A Bronze Statue" Story

This is an etching of the scene at Stevens' deathbed in Washington, D.C.
It was an ordinary day.  Just celebrated the anniver- sary of Thaddeus Stevens' death in Washing- ton, D.C. at the age of 76.  He died at midnight on August 11, 1868 at his home on South B Street which is located near the Capitol.  The original New York Tribune newspaper article which talked about his death was an extensive story on the front page of the newspaper on August 13. The article told that the house in which he died was "were born and matured most, if not all, of those important measures of legislation which have become woven into the history of the Republic, and which will remain a monument more enduring than bronze to the memory of the great Pennsylvania."  Only problem is ... there isn't a statue anywhere in Washington, D.C. to honor "The Great Commoner."  
Statue at Thaddeus Stevens College
of Technology in Lancaster, PA.
The only statue that exists, as far as I can determine, is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in front of the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.  The home and law office where he lived with his long-time housekeeper, before he sold an adjoining house to her, has been preserved in downtown Lancaster.  His housekeeper, Lydia Hamilton Smith, was a woman of mixed race which probably was talked about throughout his lifetime. It was said that Stevens', who was a champion of woman's rights and minorities, had a cistern behind his home that included a small passageway which was used for runaway slaves.  He also was said to have employed a spy who would learn the plans of slave hunters and pass the information on to those slaves. I should tell you that it was never proven that he did this, but I guess it was possible considering his views on slavery and minorities.  
A drawing of Stevens' home and law office in downtown Lancaster.
As a U.S. Represen- tative, Stevens played a crucial role in the abolition of slavery and was instru- mental in the creation and passage of three amend- ments to the U.S Constitution. So, why is there not a monument in bronze to honor Stevens?  There is a building, Stevens Hall, which is located at Gettysburg College, named for him in Gettysburg, PA with a statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of it.  
The bronze plaque that is
displayed at our new bridge.
Click photo to enlarge.
My goodness, Thaddeus Stevens had provided the land for Gettysburg College when it was founded in 1832.  You think they would at least put a statue somewhere on the campus.  After all, he was an avid abolitionist and supporter of freedmen during Reconstruction.  We at least have the only bronze statue in front of the college we named after him here in Lancaster, PA and have recently named a new bridge leading into the city of Lancaster from the north to honor him.  We recognize his value and importance to United States history, and will continue to celebrate, yearly, the anniversary of his death with a ceremony at his gravesite in Shreiner-Concord Cemetery which was one of the few cemeteries at the time in Lancaster that would allow people of color to be buried there.  He was truly "The Great Commoner."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

This is Stevens final rites at the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
A great etching of Thaddeus Stevens.  My youngest son was named after him when born in the Bicentennial year of 1976.

Stevens' granite stone in the cemetery at the corner of W. Chestnut and N. Mulberry Streets in downtown Lancaster.


  1. As a fellow Lancastrian and printer, I enjoy reading your blog each day. I am always fascinated by early photography and noticed that the photo you have indicated as Steven's lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda has a caption in the lower right corner identifying it as "Lincoln Lying at the Capitol" I curious which ID was correct? Regards...

  2. Dear Anonymous. First, thanks for taking the time to read my stories. Second, thanks for discovering what I thought to be a photo of Stevens lying in state. I never saw that reversed sentence on the bottom of the photo. It was taken from an old book written about Thaddeus Stevens. The book has been out of publication for years, so I have no idea who I should contact about the mistake. At least I will no longer be passing it along as fact when in fact it is not. As you notice, I have removed it from my blog. After almost 8 years of stories, I'm sure that was not the first mistake I made. You have good eyesight and a curious eye. Thanks for catching it for me so others don't pass it along as fact.

  3. LDub, Perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to doubt your initial post? Even though Lincoln was revered in life, I find it strange that the huge statue of him looming in front of his own casket would have been created prior to his death in 1865. With Stevens dying in 1968 a statue of Lincoln in the rotunda would be much more plausible. Who might solve the mystery??

  4. I enlarged the photo to more than twice the size and flipped it and it read: Lincoln lying at the Capitol with a neg. # next to it. I understand what you are saying, but until I can feel comfortable that it really is Stevens, I prefer to remove it. I wouldn't want someone else to copy it and place it in another document that may change history. You never know. I'll keep searching and see if I can find an answer.