SPRINGFIELD'S SCULPTURES,            Carl and Roberta Volkmann
MONUMENTS, AND PLAQUES              cvolk@aol.com
Government Buildings
Yahl-jeeji commissioned a carver, Thleda, to make a totem pole commemorating the
event.  It was to have the clan emblem, the raven, at the bottom and a white man at the

The carver needed a model for the white man.  Someone in the village produced a
picture which had been given to him by the commanding officer of the Army Post on
Tongass Island from 1868 to 1870.  There is little doubt that this picture was one of
Abraham Lincoln.

To preserve the emblems of the Proud Raven pole, an Indian carver in the 1930s made
three reproductions.  The pole standing [in front of the Museum] is a fiberglass cast of
one of those reproductions which was presented to the Museum in 1945.  The carved
sections are on display on the second floor.”

Springfield native Charles Chapin, however, recalled that his father, Roger E. Chapin,
told a different story about the origin of the totem pole.  In his weekly letters written to
his sons who were serving in World War II, the senior Chapin described the
involvement of his good friend and State Historian Jay Monaghan in the acquisition of
the Proud Raven totem pole.  Following are excerpts from two of those letters:
May 7, 1945:
“Jay Monaghan, who published the book ‘Diplomat in Carpet Slippers’ which I
mentioned to you last week, left Saturday  night for the Aleutian Islands to acquire from
an Indian tribe a 150 foot totem pole with a likeness of Abraham Lincoln carved on it.
The ancestors of this tribe had been captured and taken into slavery by another Indian
tribe at the time of the Civil War. Shortly after the capture, Lincoln issued his
Emancipation Proclamation and when the captors learned about it they thought it
applied to their Indian slaves and promptly released them. In memory of their liberation
they erected this totem pole and the carving on it was the first statue to be erected to
Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Monaghan will get the details of the story on his trip and if he
succeeds in bringing the trophy home with him I will report on it later to you. “

October 1, 1945
“”The totem pole with the statue of Lincoln on top arrived some time ago and last week
was formally unveiled in the Hall of Flags in the Centennial Building. Sunday I took
Grandmother down to see it. Originally it was a 46 foot pole. The lower 8 feet were
devoted to the usual totem pole carvings, the top 8 feet is said to be a statue of Lincoln.
The shaft between was plain. In the Aleutians where the pole came from it was a
corner post to a building which from the picture must have been an Indian night club or
something on that order. Here in the Centennial Building they have cut off the top and
bottom sections, displaying each in a glass cage. The center part has probably been
sold to the telephone people. The statue of Lincoln looks like he had had Indian
ancestors on both sides. In fact, he looks like old Chief Rainwater himself-
masquerading as Lincoln. The statue has a closer resemblance, however, than the
Amish fakir I told you about last week.”

The plaque on the wall outside the Museum adds more detail to the Proud Raven story.  
It reads:

“Replica of the 51 foot tall Proud Raven commemorative pole erected in the mid 1880s
in a Tlingit Indian village on Tongass Island, Alaska.  Although the original pole
deteriorated, the Tlingit had several copies carved.  One of these, acquired through the
efforts of W. C. Hurst and Jay Monaghah was presented to the Illinois State Museum by
the Mid-Day Luncheon Club of Springfield in 1945.  The fiberglass replica erected at the
entrance to the Museum in 1966 is an exact copy of the original pole.  The figure at the
top was carved after a photograph of Abraham Lincoln.  The figures at the base of the
pole are a bear’s head and the winged figure of the Proud Raven and his son.”

The top and bottom sections of the donated pole referred to by Roger Chapin remain in
the collection of the Illinois State Museum.
The stories of the origin of the Proud Raven totem pole
which stands outside the Illinois State Museum vary.
The August 26, 1983, State Journal Register says:

“[Tlingit Indians on Tongass Island, Alaska] often
erected poles to mark special events…..So it was with
the Proud Raven pole.  Yahl-jeeyi, a Tlingit chief of the
Raven clan, was very proud of the fact that one of his
family had been the first in the area to see a white man,
probably an explorer or a trader.  In about the year 1883