Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Germania Statue

Germany did not exist as a nation until 1871, after the Germanic states defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War. To commemorate the Germanic victory and union, a massive monument was built overlooking the Rhine River. A 34-foot tall personification of Germania stood atop a pedestal. In one hand, she held the crown of the Holy Roman Empire; in the other, a Reichsschwert imperial sword.

(The defeated French, meanwhile, built another statue to honor American independence and Franco-American friendship. At 305 feet tall, Liberty Enlightening the World intentionally dwarfed Germania.)
A flood of German immigrants came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to escape the Revolution of 1848 and the persistent wars in Europe. One of them, George Brumder, flourished as a publisher of German-language newspapers and Wisconsin Lutheran Synod hymnals.
In 1896, he built his headquarters on Wells Street and called it the Germania Building. The entrance is framed by a three-story pedimented central pavilion. For its centerpiece and at a cost of $7,500, Brumder commissioned a one-third scale duplicate of the Germania statue in Germany.

In 1917, the United States entered the first World War on the Allied side. Seemingly overnight, Milwaukee’s Germanness became suspect. German names were changed, including the Germania Building becoming the Brumder Building.
Across the street from the Brumder Building, Canadian Lt. A.J. Crozier maintained a recruiting office for the British-Canadian war effort. He told the Milwaukee Journal, “The site of the statue at a time like this makes me see red.”
The wrath of the vocal Canadian was a problem. By this time, George Brumder has passed away and his son, William C. Brumder, headed the family business. He and his brother, George F. Brumder, decided to remove the statue before it could be vandalized. During nighttime hours, it was taken down and hidden in a corner of the Ornamental Iron Shop, the business of well-known metalsmith Cyril Colnik.
Alleged sightings were reported. Germania may have been loaned out for a convention in 1940 at the old Milwaukee Auditorium. At one time it came close to being melted down for scrap. But now? No one knows what became of the three-ton, ten-foot bronze work of art.

1 comment:

  1. George Brumder published the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod hymnals? I never knew this tidbit before. Where did you find this out? I'm sure it was German back then, but I can't imagine that could have made him very rich.