Photo originally published Jan. 3, 1990

 

The spectacular five-story rotunda in Minneapolis City Hall has always been a flurry of activity. It’s hosted music concerts, news conferences, foreign dignitaries and inaugurations — all under the watchful eye of the Father of Waters statue.

Officially called “Mississippi: The Father of Waters,” the stately sculpture was created by American artist Larkin G. Mead, who was living in Florence, Italy. It was carved in marble from the same Italian quarry that supplied marble to Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. If he were standing, Father of Waters would be more than 15 feet tall; he weighs 14,000 pounds, including the base.

The statue includes symbols of the lands along the Mississippi River: an American Indian blanket, a paddle wheel, a cornstalk, a fish net, a turtle, a wreath of pine cones and leaves — and an alligator.

What? Turns out the Father of Waters was supposed to live in New Orleans (hence the gator), but when Nola couldn’t foot the bill, a dozen leading citizens and the Minneapolis Journal presented the statue to the city in 1904 at a cost of about $40,000.

The statue has seen a lot of love over the years. Look closely and you’ll notice that the left toe is worn smooth. At some point (no one really knows when) people began rubbing it for good luck. The rest, as they say, is history.

But in this photo, Father of Waters was the backdrop for the inauguration of Mayor Don Fraser, who was about to be sworn in to serve his fourth and final term, and 13 City Council members. There were about 200 people on hand as the new guard promised to “work on behalf of the city’s neighborhoods, pursue human development and to fight drug abuse.”

Fraser, as many know, spent decades in politics — state Senate, U.S. House of Representatives — before being elected mayor in 1979 and becoming the city’s longest-serving mayor.

Nicole Hvidsten