The question of whether or not the New York City Art Commission took a justified course of action in its refusal to permit the Federation of Polish Jews in the United States to erect in Madison Square Park a monument to Haym Salomon, the Polish Jew who helped finance the American Revolution, continues to occupy the attention of the metropolitan press.
The Federation of Polish Jews has started a campaign for a fund of $75,000 to erect the monument, but permission to do so was declined by the New York City Art Commission in September, 1925. The issue centered around the contention of the Art Commission that there is not sufficient historical proof of the role which Haym Salomon played in the financing of the American Revolution. Neither the Art Commission nor the Federation of Polish Jews made a public statement to that effect until now, in view of the fact that since the burden of proof was placed on the Federation of Polish Jews, the sponsors of the monument, new research into the records is being carried on.
The question was publicly raised last Monday, when the Executive Committee of the Jewish Council of Greater New York, an organization affiliated with the American Jewish Congress, issued to the press the text of a resolution it adopted, which criticized the Art Commission, charging prejudice.
This charge was answered yesterday by Robert W. DeForest, who is chairman of the Municipal Art Commission.
“Prejudice did not enter into the rejection of the plan,” he stated. “The Art Commission gave very careful consideration to the proposed statue to Haym Salomon. Their final disapproval related chiefly to the site proposed and the disapproval was without prejudice to resubmission for another site.
“The careful consideration given this matter by the Art Commission is illustrated by the report of its committee which was adopted and which forms part of the Art Commission’s files.”
The claim is still unproved, according to Mr. DeForest, but the matter is not necessarliy closed. The statues in Madison Square Park, according to the committee’s findings, are of men whose names are widely known, while the claims of Mr. Salomon are regarded as obscure.
Examination of the minutes of the meeting of the Municipal Art Commission held on Sept. 15, 1925, discloses that before the meeting, at which the project was turned down, the Commission had cooperated with the Federation of Polish Jews and had suggested changes in the design for the memorial.
It was only after the campaign for a $75,000 fund was well under way, a competition for the design concluded and a contract signed with Anton Schaaf, the winning sculptor, that the commission began to have doubts that Salomon really was entitled to immortality through a monument in Madison Square. This question had not been passed on previously. The matter will rest until those who believe Salomon did great service to the Colonies can produce documentary proof of his work. This is virtually impossible, because of loss of the records in the invasion of Washington by the British in 1814.
The minutes of the Art Commission show the original design was disapproved June 9, 1925 and that June 24 a new design was submitted by the Federation of Polish Jews. This was satisfactory enough to justify erection of a replica, full size, of the statue on a site facing 23rd Street in Madison Square Park on July 30, the members of the Art Commission visited the replica and the same day met to consider the matter. It was at this meeting that for the first time the question of the worth of Salomon arose.
A decision was made to consult authorities on history. Victor H. Paltsits, head of the Manuscript Division of the New York Public Library, an authority on the sources of American history, was asked for an opinion. Being away at the time, Dr. Paltsits suggested that the commission get in touch with Worthington Ford of the Massachusetts Historical Society, who had studied the subject. Dr. Ford reported Aug. 29 that in his opinion claims made in behalf of Salamon were without proof.
“…. the various supporters of the Salomon story,” he wrote, “have produced no evidence in its favor…. no one who has studied the finances of the Revolution has recorded or knew of such evidence … the story itself is incredible. What documents have been brought forward are of no value, and in default of proper documents the tradition is too exacting to be acceptable, and I see no reason for connecting Haym Salomon’s name with the Nation’s history, and only as an estimable merchant has he claims to any recognition.”
A committee, whose names are not revealed in the minutes, handled the matter for the Art Commission, which decided the claim of Salomon’s proponents still was unproved. The application for a monument was denied “without prejudice to its renewal for another site upon clear proof that Haym Salomon is entitled to this degree of recognition in New York.”
Historians are agreed that little appears in the records or in early histories regarding Salomon. This is attributed to the fact that the Federalist Party was anxious to have credit given to Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton. According to Madison C. Peters, who has written a brief history of Salomon, both Morris and President Madison mentioned Salomon frequently in their letters. For a time, according to these sources, Salomon paid the salaries of several Virginia members of Congress.
His place in history was indorsed by the Committee on Revolutionary Claims in the Senate in 1865, according to Mr. Peters. He is said to have lent, without security and without interest, sums totaling as much as $600,000 to the new nation. Of this not a cent ever was paid. S. Stanwood Menken of the National Security League is a lineal great-grandson of the financier. He has been one of the contributors to the monument fund.
DR. LVOVITCH SAILS
In appreciation of the many services rendered by Dr. Lvovitch to the American Ort, the Executive Committee tendered a luncheon on the eve of his departure for Europe. Dr. David Lvovitch, who sailed Friday night, spent a few months in the United States on behalf of the European Ort.