(Italian, born Sienna, Italy, 1857—1935, active in the United States 1888–1935),
Workers’ Memorial, 1920
Granite and Bronze
Location: Main Street, near Endicott Police Station
Donated by George F. Johnson, dedicated on September6, 1920
Collection of the Village of Endicott
At noon on a rainy day in September 1920, the Workers’ Memorial was dedicated in Endicott Veterans Memorial Park. The memorial commemorated the contribution of Endicott-Johnson Company workers’ during World War I. The workers’ efforts had been famously substantial: E-J factories supplied every military boot for the United States army during the war, while the workers themselves raised over five million dollars toward the war effort.
At the dedication ceremony, Endicott Johnson president George F. Johnson, who had commissioned the memorial, said, “unique indeed this shaft does honor to a people rarely honored in this way: the plain worker, the average citizen, the backbone of the Nation.” Johnson might have added “immigrant” to his list of honorees, as over twenty countries of the world were represented at the unveiling of the monument. Thousands of workers and community members gathered in song and prayer for the unveiling, the highlight of which was a “twenty-one bomb salute” punctuated by twenty female E-J workers, dressed in costumes specific to their home countries, pulling away twenty ropes tied to the flags to reveal the thirty foot monument beneath.
Aiming to symbolize the simplicity, dignity, and sacrifice of the Endicott Johnson workers, the memorial commemorates both the 1, 710 employees deployed in active duty and the workers who remained stateside and contributed to the war through their labor. The Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti, who had relocated to Pittsburgh, carefully sculpted the monument, which faithfully reproduced sketches that were drawn up for a design apparently created by Johnson himself.
The core of the monument consists of fine granite hand selected by Morretti. Four octagonal platforms makeup the monument’s base, on which two bronze sxulptures of factory workers are seated, embracing a tablet adorned with a wreath of oak and laurel leaves. Wearing factory uniforms, the figures signify the male and female workers who remained at home to make combat boots and help raise funds for the war. The tablet the two figures hold expresses Johnson’s own recognition and gratitude for these workers’ patriotic dedication. Above the two seated figures are eight bronze tablets listing the individual names of the 1, 710 workers who served in active duty, a number of whom, as Johnson put it, “For Our Tomorrow … Gave Their Today.”
The upper section of the monument honors those in active duty. Four life-size bronze figures represent four branches of the military, each dressed in uniform. Moretti’s attention to detail adds the realism of the figures: the aviator holds a propeller and field glasses, the sailor an anchor with chains, the infantryman a rifle, and the marine a rifle and sword.
Surmounting the monument is a Red Cross nurse, which Moretti attempted three times before obtaining satisfactory results. An unrolled, ready-to-use bandage delicately weaves through her fingertips as she patiently waits to bandage both the physical and psychological traumas of war. This figure serves not only as an image of wartime service but also as an emblem of the empathetic, benevolent, and democratic character of The Endicott-Johnson Company itself (promoted locally as “The Valley of Opportunity.”) The nurse’s expression of maternal affection and nurturing metaphorically corresponds to the “Father-like” paternalistic altruism that “George F.,” as he was known, aimed to foster in the making of what he called his “Happy Endicott-Johnson Family”—most famously in the “Square Deal,” the unique arrangement in which Johnson provided housing, recreation, and other needs in return for almost total devotion from his employees. Indeed, like the elaborate dedication ceremony itself, the Workers’ Memorial served to bolster Johnson’s strategically produced image of his company as a “happy family.”
Researched by: Sara Dreimiller