We document the legacies of important historical figures in many ways, chief among them being public statues and monuments. Like all other works of art, statues can tell us a lot about the values of the society we live in. Whether evoking a patriotic dedication to freedom with works like the Statue of Liberty, a commitment to racial justice and equality with depictions of activists like Martin Luther King, Jr., or simply military prowess with memorials to Revolutionary War heroes like Casimir Pulaski, monuments serve as a unique means of communicating values across the ages. (These are the greatest generals in American history.)
A lot of work goes into creating a monument. Individuals, groups, or governmental agencies wishing to commission one have to find a site, hire an artist, choose a material (common ones include bronze, concrete, and stone), jump through endless bureaucratic hoops, manage construction, and of course find a way to pay for it all. In other words, it is a great honor for somebody to go through all of that to pay tribute to you.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that certain monuments have become hot-button issues in the last few years. Many have called for statues depicting slave owners, Confederate soldiers, and other figures with problematic histories to be toppled, and in many cases this has been accomplished.
To compile a list of the people – American and otherwise – with the most monuments named after them in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed the National Monument Audit, a study funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The report contains a universe of more than 481,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial records of monuments throughout the country. Some of the prominent monuments on our resulting list are no longer in place, but they remain famous (or infamous), so are worthy of inclusion.
There are an estimated 50,000 public statues and monuments in the United States, each with a unique story to tell. Despite the long list of possible candidates, there are some names that keep popping up over and over again – some represented by more than 100 monuments, and some drawing millions of visitors a year. (These are the 30 most popular monuments in America.)
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