MONTANA SILVER SCULPTURE
by Wayne Bednersh
Standing an imposing 12 feet high (see notes) is the fabulous
sculpture of Justice in the Montana pavilion of the Columbian World
Fair in 1893.
A famous actress, Ada Rehan, was the model for this version
of Justitia, the Roman version of Justice, as she
holds the scales of Justice in her left hand while her right hand
carries a sword.
The expression on her face was changed to a more severe image to
reflect the idea of justice.
Under a maroon velvet canopy, the huge sculpture was guarded by
two lions and stands on top of a 2 foot sterling silver globe supported
by an eagle with
all of which are resting on a two square foot plinth of pure gold.
The gold for the plinth was mined at the The Spotted Horse mine
which is located one mile
east of Maiden on the west side of Maiden Canyon, Montana.
was borrowed from W. A. Clark of Butte, Montana and Samuel Hauser of
The statue dominated the Montana pavilion and was one of the 'must see'
items at the fair.
This was the largest and most expensive silver sculpture ever produced
in the world and was made from a life size mold created by
sculptor R. H. Park of the voluptuous figure of Ada Rehan, a
The mold was made of baked French clay which was buried in a pit.
A distinguished group of Columbian World Fair executives,
geologists and foundry workers watched as the molten silver was slowly
poured into the mold.
An hour later a beautiful white metal sculpture was taken
from the mold.
Mrs. Clara McAdow was an extremely
successful businesswoman from Billings, Montana and also a member of
delegation headed by Mrs. Potter Palmer
She spearheaded the program to raise money for the statue and the
exhibit were nuggets from fifty ounces down, gold dust and scales, and
from which gold protruded. Included were specimens of
placer gold, and two hundred examples of crystallized gold.
Remarkable quartz crystals, wire silver, and many other choice
mineral specimens were also represented.
At the end of the fair, the statue traveled to various county fairs and
stores and eventually ended in Omaha where it was consigned to a
smelter and melted in 1903.
The spoon also has a bowl picture of a miner holding a pickax
while standing upon a rock.
This spoon carries a retailer mark for
J.H. Johnston & Co,
17 Union Square
The back of this handle is engraved "MSF" in script
This example does not have a manufacture mark
A search for this jeweler yielded several advertisements for various
other silver spoons.
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Notes: The silver statue itself was 5' 10 and 1/2" high and
composed of 24,000 ounces of sterling (about 22,200 ounces of pure
silver) worth about $23,000 when it was cast and less than $14,000 by
the time it was put on display (approx. $750,000 now).
The gold plinth beneath the
statute was made of almost 12,000 ounces of gold, over 800 pounds, all
from the Spotted Horse mine at Maiden, in the Judith Mountains of
central Montana. The value at the time was $242,000, or more than ten
times the silver value. That would be over $20 million today. The gold
was lent by Clara McAdow, who ran the mine for her wheelchair-confined
husband, Perry. The plinth was returned to the Spotted Horse
immediately after the fair.
At the entrance to the Montana
Exhibit was a large specimen of ruby silver in quartz from the Granite
Mountain mine near Philipsburg. The Granite Mine specimen was 4307
pounds, 975 ounces of silver per ton.
I thank Larry C. Hoffman, P.E. for his detailed information and helping
me correct some factual errors.
Visit the Columbian Worlds Fair exhibit index