Hermann the German
New Ulm, Minnesota
Hermann the German has brandished his Teutonic battle sword over New Ulm since 1897. New Ulm was settled by a large contingent of Germans in the 19th century, and Hermann is modeled after a similar monument near Detmold, Germany. New Ulm extolled Hermann as a freedom-fighter, and built the statue to counter Prohibitionists who claimed that Germans only loved beer.
Hermann was a slave chieftain named Armnius the Cherusci (He was much later re-named "Hermann" by Martin Luther). In the year 9 Hermann turned against his masters and led a ragtag army to victory over three Roman legions, thereby saving Germania from conquest. Rome was out, thanks to Hermann the German.
New Ulm's 32-foot-tall rendition of the warrior is the third largest copper statue in the United States (after the Statue of Liberty, then "Portlandia" in Portland, Oregon). The monument, which features Hermann atop a pedestal above a cupola supported by ten columns, is 102 feet tall. A spiral staircase winds around a 70-foot-tall center iron column up into the cupola.
After a century of harsh Minnesota winters, sharpshooting vandals, and a freak windstorm that sheared off one of his helmet wings -- which miraculously landed in the back yard of the mayor -- Hermann was suffering from battle fatigue. In 2003 the statue was taken down and refurbished, at a cost of $600,000. It was back in place by the end of 2004.
In 2013 New Ulm's Chamber of Commerce "discovered" a giant footprint that it said was made by Hermann, and mounted it to its outside wall. The footprint was obviously an exaggerated fake -- a classic roadside photo-op -- but the town promoted it too vigorously, and then had to admit its deception when the story went national.
Visitors to New Ulm should also plan to swing by the giant glockenspiel at N. 4th and Minnesota Streets -- a 45-foot-high tower with clockotronic characters. It bangs out carillon tunes daily at noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm.