Why was the statue of a Germanic Chieftain built in Minnesota?
Negotiations between the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota tribes and representatives of the US government resulted in the Traverse Des Sioux Treaty of 1851 opening thirty-five million acres for settlement in Minnesota.
In 1854, Julius Berndt and other immigrants of the Chicago Land Association homesteaded along the Minnesota River near reserved lands of the Dakota Indians. Two years later, they were joined by members of the Turner Society of North America and the population of New Ulm grew to nearly 800.
East coast anti-immigration resentment and the Dakota Conflict of 1862 forged a strong bond unifying these early German settlers. These hard working pioneers appreciated the opportunities of owning their own land, businesses, and the freedom life in America offered. However, preserving their heritage, language, and culture as they settled in their new homeland was important to them. Hermann, a legendary Germanic freedom fighter symbolized strength and unity for the Order of the Sons of Hermann Lodges throughout the United States. Julius Berndt, a gifted surveyor, architect, and engineer drew plans for a monument similar to a massive Hermann Monument already under construction in Detmold, Germany.
Serving as the national secretary of the Sons of Hermann, Berndt sought funding to build a monument in New Ulm, Minnesota. Julius Berndt designed and built an ocatagonal base, pillars, and cupola funded largely by the Order of the Sons of Hermann.
The W.H. Mullins Manufacturing Company of Salem, Ohio was hired to manufacture the statue of Hermann (Arminius).
Julius Berndt (1832-1916) Architect and Builder of the Hermann Monument in New Ulm, Minnesota
Photo from the Collection of Brown County Historical Society, New Ulm, MN
Covering an interior steel frame, Alphonso Pelzer’s sculpted image of the Germanic hero featured copper sheeting to complete the thirty-two foot statue.
The statue was shipped to New Ulm in pieces on a rail gondola in July 1889. However, financial problems hindered completion of the base and the statue was stored in a shed for many years.
On September 25,1897, the Hermann Monumentwas dedicated before representatives from 23 states registered to attend the 21st National Convention of the Order of the Sons of Hermann. German heritage and culture were celebrated with poetry, music, song and dance, picnics and parades. A festival Hermann’s Brau beer was brewed for the occasion.
During the 1950's through 1970's numerous spot repairs were done on the statue's shoulder, wrist, and the hilt of the sword. In 1973, the Hermann Monument was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When 100 mph straight-line winds tore one of the wings off Hermann's helmet in 1998, city leaders formed the Hermann Monument Perpetual Maintenance Society.
Grants from the Minnesota legislature and Minnesota Historical Society and major fund raising efforts in 1999 supported renovation and removal of lead based paint on the base of the monument costing $960,000.
Julius Berndt's original plan had included sketched lions on pedestals on the base of the monument, however, funding for this project was not available until much later.
Four cast iron lions were shipped from China, painted, and placed on the pedestals marking the 104th Anniversary of the monument's dedication on September 25, 2001.
In 2004-2005, the statue of Hermann was removed from its pedestal for renovation. Interior framework was strengthened.