Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

July 2009

Capitol Gains

The comings and goings of the populace is always of great interest to business people. Watching household formations, births, deaths, college applications, labor statistics, and all manner of census data are the tea leaves of economic forecasts. So recently, on the occasion of the unveiling of a statue of Ronald Reagan, I wondered what, if anything, could be interesting in the comings and goings of statues.

In the case of Reagan’s statue, it replaced the statue of a fellow whose likeness was placed there by the state of California. See, starting in 1870, states were allowed to place statues in the capitol building honoring a dead someone from the state who contributed to the greatness of the state — a two-statues-per-state limitation.

Vermont had one of the first statues put on display — that of Ethan Allen — in 1876, the year Sam Adams from Massachusetts was honored. In all, there were 25 statues in the collection by the end of the 19th century. All men, one religious — Roger Williams of Rhode Island — and obviously, not even the original 13 had maxed out the image allotment although Vermont already had its two.

As I looked over the list of honored citizens, I wondered how many were, like, natives. It’s an important little fact often added to one’s public resume. You know the old saw about the obituary of the 93-year-old woman who was born in New Hampshire but moved to Vermont as an infant? It started, “Although not a native, ...”

Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but of the first 25 statues on display, 12 had not been born in the states honoring them. Never one not to get ahead of myself, I checked out all 102 statues (two had been replaced, one by Reagan this year and the other by Ike in 2003).

Ohmygosh! Fifty-eight out of 102 were from “away”! At least the two retired statues were not natives. George Glick from Ohio was replaced by Ike from Texas for Kansas. Thomas King from New York was replaced by Reagan from Illinois for California.

Turned out neither of Vermont’s statues is of a person born here, Allen was born in Connecticut and Jacob Collamer was from New York.

Two Vermont-born folks are represented: Waitsfield’s Henry Rice holds down one of Minnesota’s slots, and Brigham Young leads the Utah contingent.

The most recent trend: Of the last nine statues installed (all since this magazine has been published —1984), three are of women, two of whom were Native Americans; and all but the two 20th-century presidents were born in the states they represent.

Check out the whole list at www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/.