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Spanish-American War Memorial

Published onJan 26, 2022
Spanish-American War Memorial

Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961)

Spanish-American War Memorial, 1923


Located at Equality Park, Newport, Rhode Island

By 1923, statues of World War I soldiers were commonplace in American communities, as citizens expressed their gratitude to the doughboys. The Rhode Island veterans of the Spanish-American War, which had been fought for about six months in 1898, felt that their war ought to also be recognized.  They were proud of the fact that their all-volunteer force had not required a draft to serve their country, and they wished to emphasize that their war, while “brief,” was also “one where results were many, startling, and of world-wide meaning,” according to the monument’s inscription.  On the back of the granite slab was a plaque recording the places they had fought: Cuba, Porto Rico [sic], and the Philippine Islands.

As they discussed the kind of memorial they wanted, the Spanish-American War veterans decided they did not want a specific sort of soldier since they wanted to honor all the branches of the military. Petersen’s solution, then, was an over life-size classical figure of Victory (though many in Newport refered to her as “Liberty”) who holds a laurel branch aloft as she lowers her sword.  Beneath her left foot is a severed Medusa head which the local newspaper called the Greek god of oppression in order to characterize the triumph of America—not at that time regarded as a major military force—over the Old World power of Spain which had for centuries dominated much of the New World. “The volunteers

delivered such swift and telling blows that the world was amazed at non-militant America, as the United States was believed to be by other powers,” exclaimed the Newport News.




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