No. 53 on Main Street


I’ve been preoccupied lately with setting up an organizational structure for Jane’s Walk CHICAGO, so I haven’t been able to keep up with my blog posts the way I’d like. But here’s something I came across that’s really fun… and it makes me wonder if there are any “Indian Chiefs” still extant in Chicago? Or is there anything in your neighborhood that looks like it might have been made by Demuth, or other vendors of “civic art”?

The Myths of Main Street

I was at the Delaware Antiques Show a few weekends back and happened upon a 7’ tall carved wood “Indian Chief” (using the parlance of its time).  This guy was a beauty:  fully intact with no signs of damage with subdued bits of colored paint hinting at his glory days out in front of some cigar store on, you guessed it, Main Street.  He was selling for $80,000.  (I decided not to buy it…for obvious reasons.)

Although I hadn’t anticipated it, Mr. 80K Chief was just the beginning of several days in the Winterthur library and archives researching mass-produced statuary and emblems that began to furnish the commercial districts of American towns, both large and small, during the last decades of the nineteenth century.  Although various emblems including eagles, giant tools or notions, and Indian Chiefs have been around since the 1600s to signal to consumers that a shop was ready…

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