Why This Statue Is So Universal at World War I Memorials
The "Spirit of the American Doughboy" World War I memorial at Wheeling Park in Wheeling, West Virginia
The “Spirit of the American Doughboy” World War I memorial at Wheeling Park in Wheeling, West Virginia. (Library of Congress)


Traveling this Easter weekend and you’re likely to run into the Spirit of the American Doughboy statue if you pass by or stop at a World War I memorial — the statue has a home in 39 states.

The E.M. Viquesney creation, which features a WWI Army soldier, fist raised in the air clenched around a grenade while proclaiming victory, can be found from Alabama’s in the deep South to the wild west of Wyoming, in city centers, as well as parks and cemeteries.

But why is it so commonplace?

Atlas Obscura has an interesting profile on the artist responsible.

Viquesney, an Indiana native and aspiring artist who served in the Spanish American War, knew people were feeling patriotic after the war and wanted some kind of memorial. But it’s a big country.

Wilbarger County, TX, Veterans' Memorial
Wilbarger County, TX, Veterans’ Memorial (Billy Hathorn/ Wikimedia Commons)


The statues, made of brick and stone, are some of the first mass-produced memorials ever created. Before the war, a long process of paperwork and funding were needed to erect a statue. All that changed when Viquesney started his own statue-making company in Georgia at the end of the war.

The artist got his friends to pose and instead of carving by hand used molds that could later be filled in with cheaper materials. And since the statues weren’t made of marble they were relatively inexpensive to ship.

No longer would people have to get permission from the land owner to construct a statue or establish a memorial committee. Viquesney applied for a patent in 1920 that allowed him to mass market the sculptures at a bargain price.

Today, approximately 145 of them stand guard around the nation.

Read the full Atlas Obscura article here.