On November 21, 1919, young Charlotte Virginia McIntire unveiled a monument honoring Meriweather Lewis and William Clark - the "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" to Charlottesville and Albermarle County. (statue inscription) To the average members of these communities, the monument merely praised two of Albermarle County's favorite sons and elevated them to the hero-like status they deserved. However, this monument possessed far greater significance than what was observed at first glance.
The unveiling of the Lewis and Clark monument revealed concerted efforts by the leaders of Charlottesville and Albermarle County to place themselves on the industrial map of America as a thriving and growing community. Thus, the monument did not stand merely as a glorious representation of the efforts of Lewis and Clark but also represented the efforts of the community to conform to a changing America - a land that increasingly valued proper appearance over reality and commerce over virtue.
The underlying significance of this monument did not die with the persons who helped create it. Indeed, the monument continues to possess great meaning to the local community. However, its significance has changed as much as the values of the community itself. As Charlottesville adapted to a changing America, so did the appreciation for the monument's artistic and historical significance. This project will reconstruct the monument's significance of the years preceding and following the year of 1919 in order to explain the flexible nature of public monuments. By explaining the motivation behind and the circumstances surrounding the Lewis and Clark monument, this project aims to show that there exists an underlying drama of society itself. This monument, like all cultural objects, possesses a plastic nature that unfolds and changes as time marches on.