Gompers statue.

Samuel Gompers - Awful Statue

Field review by the editors.

San Antonio, Texas

In 1982. the AFL-CIO planned to host a national labor convention in San Antonio, and wanted to unveil a tribute to Samuel Gompers, who had gone from a humble cigar roller to the first president of the American Federation of Labor, championing higher wages, shorter hours, and collective bargaining (Gompers' most notable association with San Antonio was that he had arrived there by train and promptly died).

The original plan was for a small bust on a pedestal, but local artist Betty Jean Alden instead created a folk-arty full statue of Gompers out of "shellcrete," a mix of shells and sandstone. The city's Fine Arts Commission took one look at the statue and tried to stop it, but the unions had clout with the City Council and got it approved.

Activists of the people present a challenge for sculptors. The sculpture should be inspiring, particularly for those visiting on their hard-won vacation time, but if the statue is too big or heroic it looks like some captain of industry, built on the sweat of laborers. And a work of art derived from community input may end up as a muddled patchwork of good intentions.

Gompers statue.

So we're not quite sure why Gompers looks as strange as he does, but there's no doubt that he has an oversized head, no neck, and pipe-like arms and shoulders (He did not have those things in real life). And he appears to be giving a speech to a group of worker-midgets.

Samuel Gompers - Awful Statue

Address:
E. Market St., San Antonio, TX
Directions:
Downtown, east of Alamo St., north side of E. Market St. just west of where it crosses the river. Faces the street, so the tourists on the Riverwalk never see it.
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Menger Hotel Bar - Bullet Holes, Rough Riders, House of LordsMenger Hotel Bar - Bullet Holes, Rough Riders, House of Lords, San Antonio, TX - < 1 mi.
Graves of the Alamo CatsGraves of the Alamo Cats, San Antonio, TX - < 1 mi.
The AlamoThe Alamo, San Antonio, TX - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Buckhorn Saloon, Museum, and Texas Ranger Museum, San Antonio, TX - < 1 mi.

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