On November 11, 1998, on the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I, the sculpture Doughboy, created by Alonzo Victor Lewis (1886-1946), is re-dedicated at Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Evergreen Washelli, honoring the American infantrymen of the Great War. The north Seattle cemetery straddles Aurora Avenue N beginning just beyond N 109th Street.
Originally, Doughboy stood in front of the Civic Auditorium facing 3rd Avenue N, at today's (2004) Seattle Center. When the auditorium was renovated to become the Seattle Opera House for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the statue was moved to a site behind the Opera House back wall, in front of the old Veterans Hall.
Agreements and Disagreements
The 14-foot, 3,500 pound bronze sculpture was always controversial. Seattle sculptor Alonzo Victor Lewis, well known in 1920, was commissioned in 1921 to produce a temporary, plaster figure to commemorate the Seattle reunion of the 91st Division. Also known as Bringing Home the Bacon, Bringing Home Victory, and Armistice, Lewis eventually, in 1928, sold the completed sculpture to the City of Seattle as a World War I memorial.
Lewis and the city council agreed he should be paid $50,000, but that $45,000 should come from public subscription. The subscription was never filled, partly because of the onset of economic hard times, and partly because of complaints about the work of art, itself. Almost immediately navy veterans lodged complaints that Doughboy was an army man. Others complained he carried booty in the form of two German helmets taken from the war dead, which might serve to keep hatreds alive. And the grin on his face -- it was an expression of a crazed warrior without vestige of the heroic demeanor of an American soldier.
Lewis unsuccessfully sued for damages when he perceived the city was stalling on its share. In 1932, he settled for $9,000, after collecting $4,000 in public funds from a citizenry in the process of tightening its belt.
Editing the Sculpture
When first unveiled in May 1932, the scurrilous helmets were still slung over Doughboy's neck, to the dismay of city councilman James A. Scavotto, who would have taken off the helmets before the unveiling "if he had to cut them off himself" (The Seattle Times). However, when the dedication took place on Armistice Day, six months later, the helmets had vanished. No one stepped forward to accept either praise or responsibility.
The statue suffered another humiliation in 1970, when Doughboy's bayonet was removed from his rifle, reducing the figure's overall height by 16 inches.
Today the sculpture rests in a welcome and appropriate environment, a gift from the City of Seattle. Overlooking a symmetrical field of simple, marble grave markers, the base it rests on is a columbarium for the cremated remains of veterans and their families.