The Lewis and Clark monument was the first sculpture that Paul Goodloe McIntire gave to the city of Charlottesville and in doing so, honored the western expedition of William Clark that spanned the years between 1803 and 1806. Since McIntire allocated the necessary funds, all that remained was the selection of a sculpter to construct a proper image of the explorers.
At the suggestion of the mural painter, Duncan Smith, McIntire contracted Charles Keck to construct the monument. Keck was a promising and talented sculptor and a member of the influential National Sculpture Society. His credentials included an education at the Arts Students League in New York and the awarding of the First Prix de Rome in 1899. In 1905, he opened a studio in New York. Keck's work properly reflected the historical and allegorical interpretations so vital to the National Sculpture Society during the City Beautiful movement. He possessed a reputation for presenting his subjects in an accurate and lifelike manner and over the course of his career, this reputation lead to many great commissions around the world. Many prestigious museums displayed his sculptures, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Before his Lewis and Clark commission, he produced an admired statue of Muhammad for the facade of the Brooklyn Museum and the Washington Monument in Buenos Aires, Argentina.(Parks 8-4)
No documentation exists describing the negotiations between McIntire and Keck over the design for the Lewis and Clark monument. However, when asked how he had constructed the plans for the monument, McIntire replied that Keck agreed to specify a description of the pedestal and the figures. The agreed price was $20,000. On November 12, 1917, Keck wrote to McIntire's trustee, W.O. Watson to inform him that the contract had been signed and the first payment due him had been made,"...signed contract and a check for $2000...Mr. McIntyre [sic] mentioned the fact that I had neglected to stipulate the size of the monument - not less than eight feet, group approximately ten feet." (Keck to Watson 11-12-17) It was customary to make an inital payment at the time the contract was signed, another when a sketch for the sculpture was accepted, a third when presented a one-fourth or one-third size clay model of the sculpture. (Parks, 8-5)
Preparations for the statue proceeded without incident and Keck produced a small model of the Lewis and Clark monument around February of 1918. The statue was to be set in a pink granite base with Lewis in the foreground, Clark behind him standing on higher ground, and at the left of these two figures, their Indian guide, Sacajawea . For sheer poetic imagery, Keck's imagery presented unmatched artistic ability. (Marshall 1) Keck had obviously put in a tremendous amount of historical research into his interpretation of the explorers. The design of the statue is from the romantic school of sculpture. The proportions of the figures were perfect and the simple design, examined closely revealed a wealth of beautifully executed detail. The location of the statue also fitted perfectly into the final design. (Marshall 2)
The inscription on the front face of the pink granite base contains all the necessary information including the following inscriptions: BOLD AND FARSEEING PATHFINDERS WHO CARRIED THE FLAG OF THE YOUNG REPUBLIC TO THE WESTERN OCEAN AND REVEALED AN UNKNOWN EMPIRE TO THE USES OF MANKIND. Incised lines representing a river are carried around the base of pedestal, uniting the design, and beneath the river, it reads: A TERRITORY OF 385,000 SQUARE MILES WAS ADDED TO THE COUNTRY BY THESE MEN, AN AREA LARGER THAN THE THEN EXISTING SIZE OF THE UNITED STATES. The west face is inscribed with details concerning the men and the expedition. An American eagle with wings expanded is flanked by the United States seal on the left and the Virginia seal on the right and surmounts the names of the explorers and their birth and death dates.
What most surprised McIntire and Watson about the final model for the monument was the inclusion of the Indian guide, Sacajawea. A letter to Watson from McIntire stated," The Sculptor Keck has changed the Clark statue by the addition of a third figure, the Indian girl [Sacajawea] and also around the base of the bronze on the frieze an Indian buffalo hunt and Indian council. I think you should come up and see it...the statue is greatly improved." (McIntire to Watson 2-26-18) Her inclusion was most appropriate and McIntire praised Keck's work,"The contract called for two figures: the sculptor threw in the Indian and she is the best of the lot!" (CDP undated clipping) Additionally, Watson wrote, "Keck gave us a wonderfully square deal in this way. His Lewis and Clark had been completed but in finishing it up and before sending it to the bronze works, he improved it greatly by adding an Indian woman - he was under no obligation to do this..." (Watson to Hosterum 6-12-23)
Regardless of Keck's lack of obligation, the monument was a great success. The dedication ceremony took place on November 21, 1919. Paul McIntire's own daughter, Charlotte Virginia, unveiled the monument in front of a large crowd of observers and a group of school children singing "America the Beautiful".
From 1919 until now, the monument stood quietly in the center of Midway Park. No existing records show the monument receiving any special attention like it received in the early twentieth century. However in recent years, events outside the control of the Charlottesville community changed the significance and meaning of the monument.