Publication information

Architectural Record
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The American Architect and the American Public: The Case of the McKinley Monument”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: January 1908
Volume number: 23
Issue number: 1
Pagination: 1-4 (excerpt below includes only pages 2-3)

“The American Architect and the American Public: The Case of the McKinley Monument.” Architectural Record Jan. 1908 v23n1: pp. 1-4.
McKinley memorial (Canton, OH); Harold Van Buren Magonigle; McKinley memorial (Canton, OH: dedication).
Named persons
Harold Van Buren Magonigle; William McKinley; Charles Henry Niehaus; Theodore Roosevelt.
No text appears on page 4 of this article.

The article is accompanied on page 4 by a photograph, captioned as follows: “The McKinley Monument—President Roosevelt Delivering His Address at the Dedication.”

The American Architect and the American Public: The Case of the McKinley Monument

     The attitude of the popular periodicals towards architecture is of the utmost importance, because they, and they alone, are in a position to accustom public opinion to associate the name of a conspicuous building with the name of its designer. They, and they alone, are in a position to convert the architect from the position of a tail-ender into the position of a head-liner; and they can do so by the simple but efficacious means of putting his name in the headlines. They are under no compulsion to publish the pictures of buildings unless their readers are interested therein; but if they publish such pictures they should do so in a manner which is fair to the men who are responsible for their illustrations. They should do the architect the same justice that they do the painter, the playwright or the musician. A picture exhibition or a musical performance is reviewed even for the daily journals by men who do nothing else—by professional critics, who are supposed to know their subject and to follow carefully the work of all contemporary performers. The task of criticism may be well or ill done, but at least it is presumed to be a serious occupation, which deserves the services of an expert. But when a new residence or hotel is published, any ignorant reporter is supposed to have the information and the judgment sufficient to describe the building; and such a thing as criticism is, of course, not even considered. Instead of helping to popularize the architect and to bring about the association of his name with his work, the popular periodicals lend the influence of their hypnotic control over the popular consciousness to the perpetuation of the unjust and benighted popular attitude towards architectural work.
     One of the most flagrant instances of such injustice done to an architect was the treatment received by Mr. H. V. B. Magonigle, when the McKinley Memorial was dedicated. This dedication took place in the fall, and the ceremonies were attended by a large and representative body of spectators. The President of the United States delivered the address. Accounts of the ceremony, together with illustrations of the memorial, were published in all the important daily journals throughout the country. The whole affair was an impressive public tribute, evoked by the affection which the late Mr. McKinley aroused and by the distressing futility of his death at the hands of a crazy assassin. The me- [2][3] morial itself had been paid for largely by means of a widespread popular subscription, and on the day of the dedication the eyes of the whole country were fastened upon the ceremonies which were taking place at Canton, Ohio. It would seem as if the man who had designed this memorial should have received his share of popular attention; but so far as one could judge from the newspaper reports, his name was scarcely mentioned. The address of the President of the United States did not contain a reference to him and not more than a passing reference to his work. The newspapers published pictures of the monument, but for the most part they left the identity of its designer to the imagination of their readers. The writer examined all the published accounts of it which he could find, and the name of Magonigle appeared in so few instances that their influence was practically negligible. A man who was impressed by the beauty of the monument, and who wished to learn the identity of its author, would have had a difficult time in unearthing the information. Collier’s gave a certain prominence to the name of the sculptor of the figure of Mr. McKinley, Mr. Niehaus, whose share in the effect of the total memorial, was as one to one hundred; but it was silent as to the name of the really responsible artist. It looked almost as if there was a conspiracy on the part of the press to deny to the architect the recognition to which his work had entitled him.
     Of course, there was no such conspiracy. It was ignorance rather than malice which prompted this gross piece of injustice. The official speakers and the representatives of the press, like other good Americans, simply were not in the habit of associating the name of the architect with the enduring architectural monument: and as that name was one which is better known to the lovers of good architecture than it is to the general public, it did not strike them as important. But explain it as you will, the gross injustice remains. The monument designed by Mr. Magonigle is a noble and impressive piece of public architecture. It will not merely perpetuate the memory of the late Mr. McKinley, and testify to the affection which he aroused among his contemporaries, but it will by its simple and sober beauty, actually enhance for future Americans the lesson of his life and his death. The architect has in his memorial added something fine and enduring to the influence of the dead statesman, and the dedicatory ceremonies should have celebrated, not merely the memory of a man who had died in the service of his country, but also the creation of a work of living beauty. The McKinley monument is not merely a tomb. It is in its way a temple, which will arouse in the bosoms of future Americans an aspiration as well as a memory; and it is one of the very few public memorials of which such a statement can be made. If President Roosevelt in his address had enlarged upon this thought instead of pounding with his sledge-hammer upon the old anvil of corporate abuses, he would have been teaching the public a lesson which it needs even more than it needs the lesson of reform in respect to the public supervision of incorporated wealth. No doubt the American people really want heroic deeds and noble personalities properly perpetuated, but if so, they must be prepared to rear memorials which are worthy of the occasion or of the man commemorated: and about the poorest preparation they can make for such a consummation is the flagrant neglect of the men who are competent to build such memorials. While an artist does not need prizes, he does need recognition, sympathy and appreciation, and it is to be hoped that future Americans will testify to the enduring beauty of the McKinley Memorial by a contemptuous glance at the contemporaries who failed to recognize its adequacy to express the principles for which it stands and rewarded its designer with neglect.