The Naked Truth

There is one permanent resident of Compton Hill Reservoir Park, always present and enjoying the pond and the beautiful architecture. She caused quite a sensation when she first arrived in St. Louis, because she’s, well, naked and remains that way to this day.

The controversial Naked Truth Memorial statue Resevoir Park, St. Louis, MO

She’s called “The Naked Truth” and is a memorial to three editors of a local German-American newspaper of its day. Another shot and some history after the jump…

In 1913, the Preetorious-Schurz-Daenzer Memorial Association, formed to honor three German-American newspaper editors, Dr. Emil Preetorious, Carl Schurz, and Carl Daenzer, held a design competition to commission a memorial statue to their three honorees. Sculptor Wilhelm Wandschneider submitted our lady here for consideration, with the statue designed to be carved in white marble. The figure itself represents Truth, her arms spread wide and her figure naked to demonstrate complete openness and transparency. Her torches represent the enlightenment of both Germany and The United States.

The Naked Truth Memorial statue and reflecting pool Resevoir Park, St. Louis, MO

The jury awarded Wandschneider the commission and cabled the sculptor to come to St. Louis to receive his award and oversee the installation of the statue. But Adolphus Busch, of Anheuser-Busch fame, was appalled by the statue’s nudity and demanded that the figure be draped. Busch felt he had the right, as he was the honorary president of the association and he was putting up $20,000 of the $31,000 purchase price. Wandschneider refused.

Busch, however, was not a man amenable to being refused and went public and vocal in his opposition – he pushed for a reversal of the decision, spearheaded a letter writing campaign, resulting in over 250 letters from concerned citizens offended by the nudity, and resubmitted a previously eliminated design by sculptor George Zolnay, who had worked for the “King of Beers” himself several times before. Busch was initially successful in having the award overturned, but Wandscheider and his wife were already on their way to St. Louis from Berlin.

Wandscheider and his wife toured the city while the jury deliberated the outcome of the controversy. Local newspapers were filled with stories about the charming sculptor and his outspoken wife, who was openly critical of Busch’s meddling in the affair. Wandscheider, having learned of the decision to rescind his award, quietly and effectively argued on its behalf.

After weeks of deliberation, the jury ultimately overturned its previous overturning of their original decision and awarded the commission to Wandscheider. The only concession made was to change the white marble to bronze, to de-emphasize her nudity. Busch decided to blame the entire controversy on newspapers and claimed that his original reaction had been based on a bad representation of Wandscheider’s work in an unnamed paper. When publicly shown the sculptor’s idea, Busch now declared it “pretty fair.”

The statue was originally at the corners of Lafayette and Grand Avenue and was unveiled on May 24, 1914. Speeches were given in German and English. Marches were held carrying German and American flags. But, with the advent of World War I, just a year later, sentiment towards Germany and German-Americans began to change and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the WTCU, asked that “immediate steps be taken… for the removal of this “gift” from Berlin… and be used for munitions purposes.” Fortunately, the city never got around to it and the statue avoided destruction.

In 1969, the statue was moved to its present location and declared a St. Louis City landmark.

Don’t you love history? And how it doesn’t really change much? LOL

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