Freethought Today · June / July 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Ingersoll statue restoration under way

A 105-year-old statue of one of America's most illustrious nonbelievers is set for a long-overdue restoration.

FFRF raised funds from donors across the nation to repair the historic statue of Robert G. Ingersoll in Glen Oak Park, Peoria, Ill. The restoration will cost Peoria taxpayers nothing, thanks to 248 donors from around the nation, representing many states and Puerto Rico, who contributed more than $35,000.

Ingersoll (1833-1899), a Civil War officer, prominent lawyer and attorney general of Illinois, was also a famed freethinking orator who settled for much of his life in Peoria. His speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000 more than a century ago. He once attracted 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago, which was 40,000 too many for the Exposition Center.

FFRF member Zenos Frudakis, an internationally acclaimed sculptor, has arranged to help the Laran Bronze Foundry in Philadelphia carry out the restoration.

Created in 1909 by Fritz Triebel in Genoa, Italy, the statue has a hole in the base and in the shoe, a seam in the right leg, poor patching, severely corroded iron armature, surface and interior corrosion of the bronze, and cracks in the granite base.

Ingersoll's speeches and writings fill 12 volumes, known as "The Dresden Edition," that are highly prized today. Among his pithy remarks:

• "All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom."

• "The hands that help are better far than lips that pray."

The base is expected to carry one of Ingersoll's more popular sayings: "Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."
This marks the first time FFRF, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has partnered with a city government on a public works project.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said local member Ken Hofbauer, who is part of the Peoria Secular Humanist Society, raised the alarm on the condition of the statue and worked with the Peoria city parks division to approve the project. She also thanked Jeff Ingersoll, a descendant of Ingersoll with the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee, for working with FFRF on the project. The new base of the statue will carry the names of donors who contributed at least $1,000.

"We're so pleased freethought will still play in Peoria," Gaylor added.

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