Ohio History Journal

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Professor of History, Rio Grande College


In the northwest corner of Cleveland's spacious Public Square,

amid the clatter and clang of passing streetcars and buses, sits a

bronze statue. The figure, a heavily built man with thinning hair

and firm features, rises six feet above the circular pedestal. He re-

poses comfortably in his easy chair and gazes reflectively out across

the nation's seventh city. The right hand clasps a small book, which

rests easily on the right knee. Those few who take the trouble to

investigate, learn that this unpretentious volume bears the name of

Henry George's great treatise, Progress and Poverty.

Thousands of hurrying Clevelanders daily rush past this statue,

never turning, never wondering. To them it is as commonplace and

as uninteresting as the corner lamppost. It has always been there and

no doubt always will, so why bother about it. Still, in the warm

summer evenings, people of varying stations foregather on the

pedestal to discourse on sundry subjects. Quite often an inebriate

may be observed sitting in the lap of the statue making amorous

propositions to it. In the wintry snows, the thin layer of white gives

it an almost celestial air. To that limited extent it is an object of

periodic attraction.

This monument of Tom Loftin Johnson was erected in 1912, the

year after his death, yet not many Clevelanders today can honestly

say they know of him, or can speak intelligently of what he did for

their city. For the first few years following his passing, it was cus-

tomary to hold memorial services commemorating his birth. But

gradually, as time went by, these occasions became more infrequent,

until finally they ceased to occur at all. As the last remnants of the

once famous "Johnson circle," the Witts, the Payers, the Gongwers,

and the Stages, take their final leave of the world, the spirit of this

momentous era is all but lost.

Cleveland cannot boast a more controversial figure than Tom L.

Johnson. And like all controversial figures, he became controversial