Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10, 1894 -- Art Institute Lions Unveiled

May 10, 1894 – The annual exhibition of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club begins at the Art Institute of Chicago, but that is not the big event of the evening.  At the front of the museum calcium lights shine on two sculptures “swathed in covers of dirty canvas” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 11, 1894], and at the appropriate time “ … a couple of institute employés seized the covers and quickly pulled them off … Under the light of the lamps the animals had a life-like appearance that was startling.  With low bent heads and eyes fastened on some distant object, they seemed looking through the darkness of the night to something far beyond.”  It is this evening that the Art Institute lions, the work of Edward Kemeys, “the nation’s first great animalier (sculptor of animals,”[] are unveiled.  According to the Art Institute, “Kemeys focused his talents on sculptural portrayals of North American wildlife, capturing such native creatures in anatomical, naturalistic detail.  For the Art Institute, he modeled larger-than-life African lions, the one positioned north of the steps ‘on the prowl’ and the lion to the south ‘in an attitude of defiance,’ in Kemey’s words … Each weighing more than two tons, the Lions were cast in Chicago by the American Bronze Founding Company.”

May 10, 1928 – After a delay caused by rain, combined with landing at the wrong airfield, the “Bremen airmen” touch down at Chicago Airport (today’s Midway) and are greeted by 5,000 Chicagoans who have waited for three hours in intermittent drizzle to greet them. Nearly a month earlier the three airmen had taken off in a Junkers W 33 airplane from Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland, arriving on Greenly Island, Canada on April 13, thereby becoming the first fliers to make a successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. The crew is made up of pilot Captain Hermann Köhl, a navigator, Major James Fitzmaurice, an Irishman, and the owner of the aircraft, Ehrenfried Günther Freiherr von Hünsfield. They leave for Chicago earlier in the day and stop in Cleveland in the early afternoon. Taking off from there at 1:52 p.m. they fight fog and rain and a 35-mile-per-hour headwind all the way to Chicago. They mistake a Maywood air strip for their destination because the map they are using indicates that it is the only air field in Chicago. Landing there causes further delay. But once they arrive at the Chicago Airport, they receive an exuberant reception, so exuberant, in fact, that the crowd has to be restrained. A procession of 40 cars decorated with flags of the United States, the Irish Free State and the German republic, carry the heroes along Sixty-Third Street to Kedzie with the roads lined with cheering crowds. The celebration moves up Kedzie to Garfield Boulevard and east to Michigan Avenue where the three men are delivered to the Stevens Hotel. “After an hour’s rest,” reports the Chicago Daily Tribune, “the trio emerged to be photographed and interviewed. The booming of flashlights was delayed for a moment while Maj. Fitamaurice, something of a dandy, smoothed back his pompadour with a comb borrowed from one of the camera men.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 11, 1928] The celebration continues into the next day when a two-hour reception is held at Soldier Field (pictured above) and Mayor William Hale Thompson holds a luncheon at South Shore Country Club to honor the city’s guests of honor.

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