SPRINGFIELD'S SCULPTURES, Carl and Roberta Volkmann
MONUMENTS, AND PLAQUES firstname.lastname@example.org
|LEONARD VOLK'S STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS
The history of the life-sized marble statue of
Stephen A. Douglas which stands in the rotunda
outside the House of Representatives in the Old
State Capitol is reported by James T. Hickey in The
Collected Writings of James T. Hickey. The
renowned Chicago sculptor Leonard Volk
(brother-in-law of Douglas) was commissioned by
former Governor Joel Aldrich Matteson to create the
statue for a specially made niche in his elegant
Springfield home. Vermont marble was sculpted for
six months by Joseph Ashford, assistant to Volk,
and Volk completed the finishing touches in July,
When it was delivered to Springfield, the marble Douglas was displayed at the Isaac B.
Curran jewelry store on the square across the street from the Capitol for six months.
From January to October in 1860, the statue accompanied Matteson on a political tour
of the South. On his return to Springfield, the former Governor placed the sculpture in
the front hall niche of his home.
On January 28, 1873, the Matteson house was destroyed by fire. The Douglas statue
was one of the few items rescued from the burning house. During the rescue, a finger
on Douglas’s right hand and the scroll held in his left hand were broken. Matteson died
shortly after the fire.
Although the Illinois House of Representatives debated a month on a resolution to buy
the statue from the Matteson family, there is no evidence that a purchase was ever
made. Since the State became the eventual owners of the Volk work, it is surmised
that the family donated it. Records show that the statue was displayed in the Illinois
State Historical Library until it was placed in its present position in the restored Old
The current location for the Douglas sculpture is appropriate since Douglas gave his
“Protect the Flag” speech in the House of Representatives on April 25, 1861. The
eloquent plea to put aside political differences to save the Union is one of the great
orator’s most famous speeches. Another Douglas statue by Leonard Volk can be
found in a niche on the second floor rotunda of the current Illinois State Capitol.