Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monuments
The Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monuments in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) are replicas of the Statue of Liberty. They were erected in the 1950s as part of a patriotism campaign conducted by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Boy Scouts were incorporated on February 8, 1910, bringing to America a program begun in Great Britain by Robert S. S. Baden-Powell. By 1912, Boy Scouts were enrolled in every state in the Union. The Boy Scouts, with their famous motto “Be Prepared,” participated in local and national efforts to offer assistance in patriotic campaigns. The Cub Scouts, enrolling younger boys, were established in 1930, and by 1935, there were 1,027,833 active Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in the United States.
As the fortieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America approached, Jack P. Whitaker, Scout commissioner of the Kansas City Area Council in Missouri, conceived of a program to “impress upon the general public the citizenship training values of the Boy Scouts and to reawaken Americans to their heritage of freedom.” The mechanism for this program was placement of small-scale replicas of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s Liberty Enlightening the World, better known as the Statue of Liberty, across the country. Whitaker’s crusade to “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty” kicked off in February 1949 with a ceremony at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The first of the small-scale, copper replicas produced through the program was dedicated on November 20, 1949, in Kansas City, Missouri.
The statues were produced by the Friedley-Voshardt Company of Chicago, Illinois, a firm that specialized in metal ceiling manufacturing but also devised a method of assembling forty-two sheets of stamped copper around interior braces to create replicas of Bartholdi’s famous work. They were sold for $300 to $350 each, and fund drives often combined Scout troops with adult service organizations. Ultimately, around 200 of the statues were erected, the vast majority in the Midwest. Though a few were installed later, most were in place by the end of 1951. The 1990s Save Outdoor Sculpture! program identified about 100 surviving statues, about half of which were in serious need of repair.
The first statue erected in the South as part of the Strengthen the Arm of Liberty movement was placed in Pine Bluff as the result of a joint effort of local Boy Scouts and the Pine Bluff Kiwanis and Lions clubs. Senator John McClellan was the main speaker at the October 7, 1950, dedication ceremony, and the Kiwanis and Lions presented the statue to the Boy Scouts, who in turn donated it to the City of Pine Bluff. An estimated 1,000 people attended the dedication and watched a parade of 200 Boy Scouts and four marching bands.
The Strengthen the Arm of Liberty monument stood in front of the Pine Bluff Library on Fifth Avenue from 1950 to the mid-l960s, when the library and the Pine Bluff city offices moved to the new, Edward Durrell Stone–designed Pine Bluff Civic Center. The statue was moved to the center of a grassy median adjacent to the Civic Center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 1, 2000.
Fayetteville’s Strengthen the Arm of Liberty monument was erected in 1951, culminating fundraising efforts by Washington County Boy Scout troops and such groups as the Rotary Club of Fayetteville and the “Americanism Committee” of the American Legion. Members of Scout troops 99, 100, 101, and 104 of Fayetteville, who dug and poured the concrete footing for the sculpture on the grounds of the Washington County Hospital, performed the site work for the statue. The Fayetteville monument was dedicated on February 10, 1951. Originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, the monument was removed from the register after it was moved to the grounds of the new Washington Regional Medical Center in 2009. The Fayetteville monument was re-listed on the National Register on July 31, 2012.
The Strengthen the Arm of Liberty crusade ended in 1951, with the Boy Scouts of America reporting a thirty-three percent increase in membership, to a total of 2,942,779 active Scouts.
For additional information:
Boy Scouts of America Annual Reports. On file at National Scouting Museum, Irving, Texas. Selected pages in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Dedication Set for Scouts Replica of Statue of Liberty.” Northwest Arkansas Times, February 6, 1951.
“F’Ville’s Statue of Liberty.” Northwest Arkansas Times, July 3, 1986.
Fact Sheets on “Strengthening the Arm of Liberty” Program. Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American Art, Washington DC.
Sherwood, Susan. “Searching for Lost Ladies of Liberty.” Save Outdoor Sculpture! Update 10 (Spring 1999): 3.
“Statue to be Erected at County Hospital.” Northwest Arkansas Times, January 9, 1951, p. 6.
“Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monument (Fayetteville).” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/WA1168S.nr.pdf (accessed October 13, 2021).
“Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monument (Pine Bluff).” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/JE0544S.nr.pdf (accessed October 13, 2021).
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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