Marking Veterans Day

Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I – at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month. Although today is a different combination of 11s, I wanted to mark the day by looking at a couple of examples of beautiful public art in our city honoring American veterans.

Rather than memorials to those lost in conflict (that’s for Memorial Day) these monuments honor all American war veterans. These are dedicated to the common people who served, not singular heroes of history. Here are three of my Philly favorites:


Since it is Armistice Day, we begin with World War I. At the corner of Spring Garden and 2nd Street, a Doughboy is leading the charge. The plaque reads: In memory of our boys of the sixth, eleventh, and twelfth wards who served in the great war of the nations 1914-1918. It is the work of John Paulding. Although the Doughboy has stood in this lonely patch of grass, his little park is getting a facelift as part of public improvements being made to the Spring Garden underpass and surrounding area.

All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors, 1934
(All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors, 1934)

All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned J. Otto Schweizer to create the the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldier and Sailors. Lady Justice is flanked by African American Soldiers meant to represent those who served in the “American Revolution, Civil War, Indian Wars” and “Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, World War.”  The main dedication reads:

To commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of all colored soldiers who served in the various wars engaged in by the United States of America that a lasting record shall be made of their unselfish devotion to duty as an inspiration to future generations this monument is dedicated May 30, 1934.

The monument was proposed by Samuel Beecher Hart, a legislator who had also served as captiain of the Gray Invincibles, one of Pennsylvania’s last “colored” milita units.  Though proposed to stand on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the memorial was installed in West Fairmount Park, but was moved to the Parkway in 1994 after a public campaign.

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, 1927
(Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, 1927)

The Sailors pylon on the southern side of the Parkway.
(The Sailors pylon on the southern side of the Parkway.)

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

These large pylons that serve as a Parkway gateway were commissioned by the City of Philadelphia during World War I. Hermon Atkins MacNeil was chosen to create these two marble pylons, which were dedicated in 1927.

The southern pylon, dedicated to sailors, has the inscriptions: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.” And at the base, “All who have labored today in behalf of the union have wrought for the best interests of the country and the world not only for the present”

The soldier’s pylon to the north’s inscriptions read:  “One country. One constitution. One destiny.“ And below, “Each for himself gathered up the cherished purposes of life its aims and ambitions its dearest affections and flung all with life itself into the scale of battle.”


What will we build to honor the veterans coming home from our current conflicts?

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