Arcola will honor Ben Franklin’s broom ties with a statue | Story

ARCOLA – Forget helping to edit the Declaration of Independence or inventing the lightning rod or bifocals. In Arcola, Benjamin Franklin will be known to bring seeds of broom to the colonies.

A statue by famed sculptor Jerry McKenna will be placed in Arcola this spring to highlight Franklin’s contribution to a community that was once known as “The Broom Capital of the World.”

“I think the case is pretty strong,” said Pat Monahan, a member of a committee tasked with making the statue a reality, of Franklin’s contribution to the broom industry.

“The story is that he brought a whip broom from France which had seeds in it. He was quite a curious guy. He planted the seeds.

Although there is no definitive provenance that Franklin was the person who brought the broom seeds to the new world, Monahan said there are so many sources that tell the story that he believes it is. ‘is right.

“I think it’s a pretty accurate story,” Monahan said. “The broom seeds started on the East Coast and moved to the Midwest.”

Arcola has quite a diverse range of artwork, including the Hippie Memorial; 16 Walldog murals; the vast beauty collection of 13 oversized, brightly painted fiberglass brooms; and the Raggedy Ann and Andy Act, also crafted by McKenna.

The life-size statue of Franklin will be just the last item near the community’s preserved train depot and information center.

The statue will feature a decidedly slimmed-down version of Franklin leaning on a broomstick, perhaps thinking about what the future of “magic seeds” might entail.

It is financed by private donations.

Monahan said the story is that Franklin encouraged farmers to plant broom.

Culture has become an important part of Arcola. It hosts an annual broom festival, which in turn gave birth to the Lawn Rangers Precision Drill Team.

Broom was the main crop grown in the Arcola region in the late 19th century after Colonel John Cofer planted the first field of it in 1859.

The harvest has spawned some of the greatest brokers involved in the broom trade.

Brokers Thomas Monahan Co. continue to do business there, as does The Libman Co., which makes many household products, including brooms and mops.

“I think Arcola is really proud of its Scotch Broom heritage and its public art and wants people to come visit,” Monahan said.

Not quite a “Grandpa Moses,” McKenna, 84, who lives in Boeren, Texas, took up the art later in life – after retiring from the Air Force in 52 years. He is one of the most sought after realists. sculptors.

His work is exhibited around the world, from numerous works at Notre Dame University, where he attended college, to 17 portrait busts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to depictions of military figures and three sculptures. in Ireland.

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