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Origin of the “Y” Symbol
The Inter Ocean, January 7, 1892
The Inter Ocean, January 29, 1892
One of the queer phases assumed by Chicago’s all-embracing and insatiate ambition is the desire for for a typical figure which shall represent the World’s Fair city as Uncle Sam stands for the United States and Father Knickerbocker for New York. The Inter Ocean is so anxious that the lack of such an artist’s symbol shall be supplied that it has offered three prizes, the first of $200, the second of $100, and the third of $50, for the best pen and ink sketch of a male or female figure typical of Chicago. The drawings must be made on cardboard and sent to the director of the Art Institute at Chicago before March 1, 1892, and the name and address must in every case be furnished on a separate piece of paper.
So much having been stated for the benefit of ambitious artists in this part of the country, we might as well add a few suggestions concerning Chicago’s characteristics. One idea is found, readily enough in the map of the south division of the city, the portion containing nearly the whole business center. There is a showy head between the south branch, the main river, and the lake, narrowing, below a somewhat meager bust, to a rather slim waist, and then expanding into enormous feet, sprawling out into the marshes and water holes near the Indiana line. Let this outline be taken for a female figure, and then let the apparel of the “lady” be made gaudy, but not neat, put a flaming real estate “ad” in one hand and a Board of Trade circular and a poker deck in the other, and the result will be recognized everywhere as sufficiently emblematical of Chicago.
For a male figure, how would the following do? A raw-boned and swaggering man in his early prime, eager and avaricious in expression, large of mouth, hard and protruding as to cheeks, with ample ears, and shrewd, hungry eyes. A “plug” hat must find and uneasy resting place on a shock of unkept hair. Big diamonds and a ponderous watch chain, clothing that tells its own story in thunder tones, and excessive shoes, well polished in front but with heels as uncared for as the back wall of a Chicago stone front mansion, will help make the incarnation of the spirit of the Western metropolis complete. In one hand should be a cane with a massive, gilded head wrought in the image of a fat porker, snout rampant and bristles on end. In the other might be represented a newspaper, the enormous bulk of which would be eloquent of delinquent tax lists and news dumped in on the coal-chute plan, and the paper should be open at a “scare” head pertaining to anarchists, dynamite, and riots. Everybody would know such a figure as typical of Chicago, and no other city would ever infringe upon the copyright.
By all means let the ambition of the World’s Fair town be gratified in the matter of a “figger,” since so many striking points at once suggest themselves to anybody who knows the place. Chicago sees no reason why anything of that sort should be the slow outgrowth of time and history, when ruins and famous old buildings can be uprooted and transferred to her vacant lots for speculative purposes, and the more the whims of the city are humored in the name of “art” and “culture,” the more fun the rest of the world will get out of Chicago’s untamed ambition to “beat the record” in every direction.
A CHANCE FOR ARTISTS
Cincinnati Times Star:
A chance forn artists crops out of Chicago. That city has not yet been typified in a figure such as Uncle Sam for the United States and Father Knickerbocker for New York. The Inter Ocean offers three prizes, $200, $100 and $50, for the best pen-and-ink sketch of male or female figure typical of Chicago. Here is an opening for a happy thought. The sketch must be in black ink on cardboard 9×12 inches, and must be sent, under certain conditions, before March 1, 1892, to W. M. R. French, director of the Art Institute, of Chicago. The judges are Thomas Nast, Lyman J. Gage, Mrs. Potter Palmer, Miss Harriet Monroe, and Mr. French. It may be assumed that the successful artists in this competition must possess tact and graceful fancy. No goddess with wind-tossed hair and big feet will go.
INTER OCEAN PRIZE OFFER.
Chicagon dispatch to the Philadelphia Press:
The Inter Ocean offers three prizes, for the best pen and ink $200, $100, and $50, respectively, for the best pen and ink sketch of a male or female figure typical of Chicago, These prizes will be awarded March 1, 1892, by a committee of competent judges. These sketches must be in black ink on carbdoard 9×12 inches. The idea is to ordain a drawing to typify Chicago in a typical way, as Uncle Sam is used to symbolize the United Staes, Father Knickerbocker, New York, and William Penn, Philadelphia.
Chicago has nothing to typify her in a pictorial way, so The Inter Ocean offers three prizes of $200, $100, and $50 for the best pen and ink sketch of male or female figure typical of Chicago, some figure that will come into general use as personifying the city. The sketch must be in black ink on cardboard, 9×12 inches, and may be sent to W. M. R. French, director of the Art Institute, Chicago, before March 1. The name of the artists to be forwarded with the sketch, but on a separate piece of paper, The prizes will be awarded on March 15.
JOURNALISM AND ART.
Chicago’s enterprise in journalism and art finds one of its latest illustrations in The Inter Ocean’s offer of three prizes of $200, $100, and $50 respectively, for the best pen and ink sketch of a male or female figure typical of the great World’s Fair City. Everybody can compete—even the man from St. Louis—and the time limit is not reached until March 15.
A SOUTHERN SUGGESTION:
Birmingham (ala.) Age-Herald:
The Inter Ocean offers a prize for the most appropriate drawing of a figure representative of Chicago,. New York has her Father Knickerbocker, Philadelphia her William Penn, and Chicago wants some personification. How would the figure of a young woman with her hair flying in the wind and big web feet do? The flying hair would call to mind the high winds of the Windy City. The big, web-fotted feet are natural for Chicago is almost surrounded by water, and nature provides people with means of self preservation in an emergency. By the way, why not have a figure characteristic of Birmingham? Let us have a handsome young woman with a constitution of iron, hair of the blackest of coal, and eyes with the fiery glow of the furnaces.
The Inter Ocean, March 16, 1892
First Prize—Charles Holloway, Edgewater, Cook County, Illinois.
Second Prize—George H. Petet, No. 1168 Broadway, New York City.
Third Prize—Johannes Scheiwe, Ottumwa, Iowa.
These are the three prize winners in the competition inaugurated and carried to a successful close by The Inter Ocean, which offered three cash prizes for the best pen and ink sketches of a male or female figure typical of Chicago.
In offering the prizes, The Inter Ocean said to the artists of America that inasmuch as the United States has her Columbia, and her Uncle Sam, England her Britannia and her John Bull, New York her father Knickerbocker and Philadelphia her William Penn, it was hardly proper for the great city of Chicago to be left to the tender mercies of the imagination of any and all artists, serious or comic, who felt called upon to give some figure the name of “Chicago,” and who usually imagined to draw some caricature about as typical of Timbuctoo as of the great city by the lake.
Thanks to The Inter Ocean, Chicago can now be represented in cartoons and other illustrated work in a matter suited to the occasion. Out of the 300 sketches submitted in the competition three have been selected, and to the artists of the world
CHICAGO CAN NOW SAY:
“Here I am in three different characters, either of them well suited to me. Take your choice.”
For the best sketch The Inter Ocean offered a prize of $200; for the second best, $100, and for the third, $50. The rules and conditions under which the competition was governed merely required the sketch to be in black ink on a cardboard 9×12 inches. No names and addresses were to be on the sketch, but both were to be inclosed in a sealed envelope and sent with the sketch to the publisher of The Inter Ocean. The entries closed March 1 and the awards made yesterday.
The 300 sketches were all received at The Inter Ocean office. The publisher opened the packages, sent the sketches at once to the Art Institute, and placed the sealed envelopes in a vault in a vault in The Inter Ocean office, having obviously marked on each sketch and on the envelope accompanying it a number, accordingly to the rotation in which the package was received.
On Monday and yesterday morning the judges selected to make the awards met at the Art Institute, and decided who should carry off the prizes.
The judges were:
Mr. Thomas Nast, the famous cartoonist.
Mr. Lyman J. Gage, President of the First National Bank, and ex-President of the World’s Columbian Exposition.
Mrs. Potter Palmer, President of the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition.
Miss Harriet Monroe, author of the “Columbian Ode” to be rendered at the dedication of the Columbian Exposition.
Mr. W. M. R. French, director of the Art Institute.
The judges, after mature deliberation, decided that the sketch marked “No. 146” should have the first prize. That labeled “No. 117” was given the second prize, while the third award was made to “No. 172.”
Then the three envelopes bearing these numbers were opened and the successful competitors were known.
the artist, whose beautiful sketch is awarded first prize, is well known in Chicago. He is a graduate of the St. Louis Art School, and his best known work, perhaps, is the magnificent proscenium arch painting in the Auditorium. Of Mr. Petet and Mr. Scheiwe nothing is known at this time to The Inter Ocean, but from the character of their work they are evidently artists of talent, imaginative qualities, and excellent taste.
The first prize sketch is that of a female of heroic pose. Her classic draperies reach almost to the ankles. On her breast is cuirass, bearing the words “I will.” Her right hand rests on her hip, while the left bears a mason’s square. On the brow is a crown of flames, the whole being surrounded by a Phœnix.
Mr. Petet’s figure, which draws the second prize, is of an entirely different style. It is a picture of a prairie girl, clothed in buckskin garments, which reach her knees. On her dainty feet she wears boots and spurs. Pistols adorn a belt which encompasses her waist. A cowboy hat is on her head, while in her hand is borne a “quirt” with a rattlesnake’s head. Action, life, and a certain dashing and spirited bearing are all found in this figure, which really suggests the fearless, unconventional and go-ahead Western girl, whose beauty is in her health and strength, her rugged simplicity, and her dauntless bravery.
MR. SCHEIWE’S PICTURE,
the third prize winner, is complicated, but very beautiful. Every line suggests some Chicago attribute, the whole forming a wonderfully striking figure, standing amid emblematical signs of art, science, literature, commerce, music, and culture. In the background is a picture of a tower. The head of a the figure, a girl, is encircled by a laurel wreath, while a flowing veil drifts away behind her. In the outstretched right hand is borne a steamboat, while a locomotive rests in the left, which is held to the breast of the figure. The draping of the garments is classic, and however, rather adds to than detracts from the grace and refinement of the figure.
The committee making the awards, announced the decision in this form:
CHICAGO, March 15.—Mr. H. H. Kohlstaat, Publisher of The Inter Ocean, Chicago—
Dear Sir; We the members of the committee appointed to select a design typical of Chicago, in the competition proposed by The Inter Ocean, have examined all the drawings and presented and award:
The first prize to No. 146, the second prize to No. 117, and the third prize to No. 172.
LYMAN J. GAGE,
BERTHA HONORE PALMER,
W. M. R. FRENCH.
MR. NAST SAID:
We had a very nice collection to select from. There were very many good drawings, and I was well pleased to see that the artists responded so well to the suggestion and offer made by The Inter Ocean. I was really astonished at the display of artistic talent shown, and I must say that the idea was considered by me from the first as an excellent one indeed. It is a good thing at all times to encourage art, and in this competition The Inter Ocean has not only done a good thing for American artists in allowing them to compete in such a worthy contest, but it has also provided for them a figure or figures which they can henceforth use when called upon to typify Chicago.
If I should draw a cartoon and was to use a figure of this city in it, I should take the prairie girl, I think. To my mind that figure is best suited to a cartoon, as it does not possess the same dignified demeanor as the first prize picture and can be placed in different positions without a loss of its effectiveness and its picturesque grace. For serious drawing, however, the first prize picture will be the best of all. It is sim,ple enough in design to become very popular, and I expect to see it soon recognized as the ideal representation of Chicago, especially where a cartoon is not necessary or to be suggested.
The interest taken in the competition was very wide. Not only artists took part in it but I saw many pictures made by little children. Several of the sketches were very nicely drawn, but they did not present the right idea, and, of course, that was the very thing needed. Had a badly drawn sketch presented a super suggestion, why, we would have taken it, and rejected some which had poor ideas but good execution.
DIRECTOR FRENCH IOF THE ART INSTITUTE SAID:
The awards were, of course, all fairly made and the examination into the merits of each sketch was very thorough. All the committee saw the works, and there no honorary members. I do not think that any one of the committee knew a single drawing, and I would have been most likely to, but I did not recognize one. We, of course, suffered a little embarrassment, because a typical figure may be serious or humorous. We, however, entertained both ideas, and the result is that the first prize figure is serious and the second humorous. We considered the idea even.
Of course I can not say whether the figures we have chosen will become popular or not. At any rate, artists need not now be at a loss for a type suggestive of Chicago.
The character of the competitive sketches was very gratifying, indeed, as it was high. To be sure some of the designs submitted were too comical to be taken into a serious consideration.
Long John Wentworth was presented by several artists. Some of LaSalle were also turned in, and not a few showed pictures of Mrs. Potter Palmer, as typical of Chicago, thus doing a high honor to this lady and giving an evidence of the very high esteem in which she is held all over America.
MR. LYMAN J. GAGE SAID:
Out of the many hundreds of sketches submitted, the three selected seem to have in them some typical features. The first prize one perhaps commanded that award because of its simplicity and dignity. It shows, as you know, a strong female figure, representing the strength of our form of life. The noble countenance suggests the better aspirations, while the motto, “I will,” upon her breast shows the unconquerable spirit in which we claim to possess. The Phœnix surmounting her fire-crowned head, of course, is typical of Chicago arising from her ashes.
What the second figure lacks in dignity it makes up in a free and dashing spirit. Thus is popularly attributed to the great West with which our city is greatly identified.
This figure will probably be popular with New York cartoonists, even more so than the first prize picture.
It is too much to expect of the fancy, any figure however surrounded by emblems, will be really typical. The attempt, however, has succeeded much better than one might expect, and The Inter Ocean is entitled to gratitude for its enterprise in calling out so many expressions of artistic design.
MRS. POTTER PALMER SAID:
There were so many clever drawings in those submitted, but so very many of did not convey any special significance and did not represent Chicago in any possible manner. I like all three of the pictures for certain reasons, but I do not think that the Chicago public will care for the girl representing border life. Our city, however, to me is still on the border and until some more big cities spring up in the West and we are considered as being in the East, we must continue to play the role of the big girl in the prairie.
The competitive drawings were very satisfactory, and I think that The Inter Ocean is entitled to great credit for the enterprise which marks its connection with this worthy competition.
Miss Harriet Monroe was unable to submit to an interview last evening on account of the serious illness of her mother, but her judgement was passed with that of the other judges, and evidently her opinions would, if expressed, be similar in tone to that of the others.
The Inter Ocean, in its Sunday (March 20), issue, will present reproductions of the three successful drawings.
The Inter Ocean, March 20, 1892
The New York Times, March 28, 1892
(Reprinted in The Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1892)
The Inter Ocean at Chicago has awarded three prizes to Charles Holloway, George H. Petit, now of New York, and Johannes Scheiwe, now of Ottuma, Iowa, for their cartoons attempting to fix for Chicago a typical like “Uncle Sam” for the United States. Usually such figures grow without forethought and in an unconscious way out of a great variety of typical figures, or a satirical figure drawn by enemies is accepted and proudly worn, or some literary monument has established the type. But Chicago moves fast and hopes to do in a week what other peoples and cities have done in centuries. Charles Holloway’s figure is a sturdy young woman with feet well apart black stockings, right arm on hip, left hand holding a carpenter’s square, cuirass labeled “I Will,” and helmet decorated with a phœnix rising from flames. This took first prize. The second went to George H. Petit for a buxom girl, in sombrero and deer-skin hunting suit, who cracks a whip and displays pistols at her belt. Third prize went to a more conventional nymph, much draped and holding a locomotive in one hand and a canal boat in the other; at her feet are globe, wheel, lyre, ink stand, and palette, while a tower rises in the background. Conventional as it is, this figure, by Mr. Scheiww, is the graceful one. The two others are worse. The first prize shows a badly proportioned design and a swaggering pose; the second looks more like a joke on Chicago than a serious cartoon. Altogether 300 designs are said to have been sent in. The Inter Ocean had better try again on a different system. Mr. Holloway is a Philadelphian by birth, Petit, a Chicago man, and Schiewe a German. The winner of the first prize has passed many years in St. Louis, and since his emigration to Chicago has done much decorative work in stained glass and mural painting.
Chicago Commerce, April 30, 1915
The undersigned, happening to have played an essential part in the origin of what might be called an institutional feature of Chicago life, takes this opportunity, emphasized by the municipal events of this week, to write an historical note:
In the latter part of the year 1891 the writer was a member of the editorial staff of The InterOcean. The publisher of that paper was H. H. Kohlsaat, and its editor-in-chief was William Penn Nixon, now dead. To the writer came the idea that Chicago might profit by a figure typical of its spirit, in the same way as national communities find artistic and pertinent expression in such figures as Uncle Sam, Columbia, John Bull. Accordingly, it was proposed to Mr. Kohlsaat that the Inter Ocean offer a prize for a design typical of Chicago. The writer’s connection with, and development of, the project then ceased.
Mr. Kohlsaat Starts Prize Competition
Mr. Kohlsaat accepted and launched the idea through the columns of The Inter Ocean. Three prizes were offered, namely, a first prize of $200; a second prize of $100; a third prize of $50. It is to be remembered that the year 1892 was the building year of the World’s Columbian Exposition, an achievement of vision, idealism and optimism with out precedent in its class in all the world’s history. An extraordinary community, itself without civic precedent, was rising to deeds beyond its dreams and the expectations of mankind. A mighty spirit was aflame and in action. It was the hour for the project contemplated.
Mr. Kohlsaat, publishing his purpose, selected the following representative people as judges of the competition, the requirements to competitors being that drawings should be in black and white, 9×12 inches, entries to close March 15, 1892:
A Distinguished Jury
Thomas Nast, New York, America’s most famous cartoonist.
Lyman J. Gage, president of the First National bank, and former president of the World’s Colum
Mrs. Potter Palmer, president of board of lady managers, World’s Columbian exposition.
Miss Harriet Monroe, author of “Columbian\ Ode,” afterwards among the foremost of Chicago’s poets and art critics, and now editor of Poetry.
W. M. R. French, director of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Of this group of judges, Mr. Nast and Mr. French are now dead.
On March 15 The Inter Ocean announced the decision of the judges; on Sunday, March 20, it published the drawings of the three prize winners, together with thirty-three others. About 300 drawings from competitors in all parts of the country had been submitted.
The successful artists were:
Charles Holloway, Chicago, first prize.
George H. Petet, New York City, second prize.
Johannes Scheiwe, Ottumwa, Iowa, third prize.
The 300 drawings had been forwarded by The Inter Ocean to the Art Institute, and there assembled for review by the judges, who in their decision were governed by considerations of conception, drawing, practicability and permanence. Many of the drawings were crude, amateurish, whimsical and impossible, but the fitness of Mr. Holloway’s design, coming from a man of culture and imagination, is yet to be seriously challenged.
Who is Mr. Holloway? Mr. Holloway was born in Philadelphia, June 14, 1859. At the age of 11 he removed to St. Louis, eventually studying art in the art school of Washington university. In 1879 he came to Chicago and devoted himself to the art of stained glass production. Steadily he grew in scope and power as a designer, his work commanding more than comparison with that of Tiffany and La Farge of New York, and appearing, whether in the medium of glass or mural decoration, in such representative places as the homes of Potter Palmer and H. N. Higinbotham, in Garrett Biblical institute, Evanston; in the store of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., and in public edifices in Denver. But that work by Mr. Holloway most impressive and enduring in the eyes of Chicagoans was and is the noble decoration of the proscenium arch in the Auditorium, entitled the “Symphony of Time.” At this period he was associated with Louis J. Millet. Mr. Holloway’s skill also found appropriate opportunity in one or more of the buildings of the world’s fair.
Symphony of Time
Virtues of the Design
Mr. Petet, winner of the second prize, was born in Chicago, and at the time of the competition was, at the age of 28, a designer and illustrator in New York.
Mr. Scheiwe, winner of the third prize, then living in Ottumwa, Iowa, was born in Berlin in 1849.
And what further of the winning design which has come, in the usage of some, to be designated the “I Will Girl”? In latter years it seems to have come into greater vogue as an adaptable advertising device, and as an apt medium for the cartoonist, than it stimulated immediately after its publication. Open to criticism though it may be, no design has yet been invented incorporating so much of the resolution, power, courage of this city, unlike any other city, as is embodied in this unconventional young creature—discoverer, builder, poet of the civilization of the new world. And be this also said, with more than incidental emphasis:
The Artist’s Lasting Contribution
CHARLES HOLLOWAY WAS THE FIRST INTERPRETER OF THE GENIUS OF CHICAGO TO ASSOCIATE WITH AN ARTISTIC PERSONIFICATION OF THIS CITY AN EXPRESSION OF THE DOMINANT POWER OF ITS SOUL. IT SEEMS FAIR TO SAY THAT TO THIS MAN CHICAGO IS INDEBTED FOR A DECLARATION OF THE HIGHEST MORAL VALUE:
And what did the newspaper say which brought
this figure into being?
In descriptive comment on the figure, The Inter Ocean said:
Comment by The Inter Ocean
The strength, vitality and heroism of the conception that earned the first mention leaves nothing to be desired on the part of all who see in Chicago the type of American life. Free from confusing accessories to distract the mind from the true purpose of the pictorial representation the figure stands youthful, energetic and bold. The poise suggests the combination of steadfastness and progress that has made the city materially great, while the expression of the features, the forehead and far-seeing eye particularly, betoken the brain and mentality behind the intellectual development of the city.
The symbols, few in number, are all pregnant with suggestions. The leathern strap about the wrist is the device frequently resorted to by athletes for reinforcement of the muscles. The carpenter’s square held agains; the hip has in it the peaceful idea of the scriptural verse when the swords shall be beaten into pruning hooks; and the phoenix crest above the broadening brow recalls the seemingly hopeless cataclysm from which the new Chicago rose rejuvenate, like Herodotus’ fabled bird. Upon her breast the figure bears the simple legend, “I will.” Can it be that the artist had in mind the old saw:
When a woman will she will.
You may depend on it.
Chicago Tribune’s Important Service
Editorially the same day, March 20, The Inter Ocean, in part, said:
Of the sketch taking the first prize, it may be said that it is of the highest type of emblematic figures, expressing dignity, strength, purpose and energy—all that is involved in the motto, “I Will.” It may be used in any size—as a headpiece, a half length, or a full figure, and in every case will typify the “I will” spirit of Chicago. In connection with the above, it should be said that the Chicago Tribune, a few months afterward, produced a related design of much practical value, and now in constant use, namely, a device bearing within a shield a “Y,” that is, the Chicago river and its branches. In the course of time the elements of these simple arms came into admirable service aa seal for the Chicago Association of Commerce.
EDITOR OF CHICAGO COMMERCE.
1892 COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION
Patriotic Poster which resembles Johannes Scheiwe’s third place drawing.
1921 SEMI-CENTENNIAL OF CHICAGO FIRE
Fire Semi-Centennial Poster
Charles Daniel Frey Co.
1933 A CENTURY OF PROGRESS.
Chicago Tribune, January 2, 1932
Official poster of Century of Progress, which was designed by George B. Petty, 2609 Coyle avenue. Miss Chicago, with the city’s motto, “I Will,” on her head, invites the world to the exposition. The indian recalls the Chicago of 1833.