Legacy of John Plankinton

After Plankinton’s death, the Merchants’ Association of Milwaukee predicted his legacy would last for generations when they proclaimed, upon his death, “Upon every side stand the substantial monuments of his public spirit, which shall endure when other generations shall walk these streets and other merchants crowd these halls.” [1]John Plankinton’s name endures in his statue, his building, a Milwaukee street, and a small South Dakota town named after him; the Plankinton statue, the Plankinton Arcade, Plankinton Avenue, and Plankinton, South Dakota. His legacy endures in the fabric of the city he helped lead to growth and prosperity in the late 19th century. It is the man, John Plankinton, who is fading from memory in the street and halls of the “city, which owes so much of its prosperity to his name.” [2]


[1] Howard Conrad, History of Milwaukee Co: Settlement to 1895: Vol. II ( Chicago: American Biographical Pub. Co.,1895) 302.

[2] Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Representative Men of Chicago, Milwaukee and the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago: American Biographical Pub.,1892) 808.

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About RPJHistories

Graduate Student UW Milwaukee, studying Public History. Background in computer science, non-profit management, politics. Interested in Midwest history and using digital tools to produce and share historical information.
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7 Responses to Legacy of John Plankinton

  1. H. Dorfmeister says:

    I would like specific information about the artist, creation, installation, materials used of the John Plankinton statue.

    • plankinton says:

      The sculpture is R.H.Park. I believe it is a bronze statue. I’m still trying to confirm installation information, as some of the sources seem to contradict each other. One source indicates it was first installed in the Plankinton Hotel in 1886 before the death of John Plankinton in 1891. It was then installed in the Plankinton Arcade when it was built in 1917. I’ll add more detail to the site about the statue. R.H.Park is Richard Henry Park who was the sculptor for the George Washington Statue on Wisconsin Avenue.

      • Heidi D. says:

        Thanks. I’ll check the sculptor out. Will await further info.

      • plankinton says:

        Did you find the new information I posted which describes the statue? Let me know what you find. I am still searching for more information on this sculptor. Would appreciate a list of any resources you discover. Found one new piece of information today. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F6071EFB385F10738DDDAD0894D0405B8085F0D3

      • Heidi D. says:

        I specifically am interested in the construction of the pedestal with the statue after the building became what it is today. I assume when it was in the Plankinton hotel there was no pedestal ??? I received your info from June 5th and have looked up the artist. I wonder about the artist/craftsman who built the pedestal. It looks like fired clay and perhaps ceramic frogs/turtles on the bottom.

      • plankinton says:

        I’m still looking for detail about the statue when it was in the hotel, but haven’t found much. I did find these words on the top of the pedastal, where his feet are standing: “Cast by American Bronze Co., Chicago”. There are quite a few files on John Plankinton at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. The Milwaukee Public Library has a card catalog with a lot of references to news articles. In July, I will do a little more investigating of these sources. I’ll post a picture of the ‘pond’.

      • Heidi D. says:

        We are involved in a restoration project on the statue and pedestal thus the specific interest.

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