Monthly Archives: August 2018

And the answer is…French!

In a post on December 29, 2010 (at I asked how these two pictures were related to the creation of Minneapolis parks.

Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. (Jeff Kubina)

Minute Man, Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts

Nobody has come up with the right obscure answer! So I’ll tell you.

The photos are of the most famous works of American sculptor Daniel Chester French. (The best example of French’s work in Minneapolis is the statue of John Pillsbury at the University of Minnesota, although he also created several works for the Minnesota capitol building in St. Paul.)

Here is the connection—and the key word is “related”: Daniel Chester French’s older brother was William Merchant Richardson French.

Their father was Henry Flagg French who was the number two man in the U. S. Treasury Department in the 1880s. For eight months in 1881 he worked under Secretary of the Treasury William Windom, a U. S. Senator from Minnesota who resigned his Senate seat to become Treasury Secretary for President James Garfield. After those eight months, Windom resigned his cabinet position and was elected to fill his own open seat in the Senate. He served as Secretary of the Treasury again from 1888 until his death in 1891.


French’s carte de visite, 1864. (From the author’s collection.)

The important connection of William French to Minneapolis parks is that after graduating from Harvard and studying engineering at MIT he moved to Chicago to work with a man in the new and unusual profession of landscape gardening. In 1870 William French became the partner of a man thirty years older than he was, an old friend of his father’s. That pioneering landscape architect was Horace William Shaler Cleveland.

Of course, young William, who was eager I’m sure to earn his keep with his much more experienced partner, went through his list of connections to identify potential clients. He likely recognized that one name on his list might provide useful contacts in a young city west of Chicago: Minneapolis. That contact was his cousin, George Leonard Chase, who was rector at the episcopal church in the small town of St. Anthony, which was springing up beside the falls of that name. Now it just happened that Chase had married one of the Heywood girls, Mary. And that was a funny thing because Chase’s best friend married Sarah Heywood, Mary’s sister. He and his best friend had lived together while they were students at Hobart College in New York. In fact, Chase apparently had some influence with the regents of the University of Minnesota when they were hiring the university’s first president in 1869. Chase’s friend and brother-in-law by marriage was hired for that job. His name was William Watts Folwell.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized