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James Madison

The Madison in Madison

By Tess Mulrooney, Ann Waidelich, Thom Boykoff

How the city got its name

The first Wisconsinite to publicly acknowledge the importance of James Madison and to honor him was James Duane Doty. Doty was a federal district judge and land speculator in the early days of the territory and state. Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and the nation's fourth president (1809-1817), died at the age of 85 on June 28, 1836. Doty named the paper city he created that autumn, on the isthmus between Third and Fourth Lakes, for the popular deceased president. On November 12th of that year, Delegate Joseph Teas (with Doty as a lobbyist) proposed the paper city as the site for the future state's capital to the territorial legislature meeting in Belmont. To add to the city's appeal, Doty emphasized the U.S. Constitution connection by naming the streets after its signers. It took several ballots but Madison won out over 15 other cities, real and imagined, by a vote of seven to six.

James Madison Park

Other groups and individuals in Madison have honored James Madison in various ways over the years. In 1963 the area known as Conklin Park at the foot of North Hamilton Street and bordering on East Gorham Street and Lake Mendota was officially named James Madison Park by the Madison Parks Commission. The first piece of land for the park had been purchased from the Conklin family in 1938 and the area took its name from the Conklin ice house that had stood on the site. Col. Joseph "Bud" Jackson, business manager of the Jackson Medical Clinic and leader of the civic booster organization called the Madison and Wisconsin Foundation, had for years been promoting the site as a location for a convention center in opposition to the Monona Avenue-Olin Terrace site that Frank Lloyd Wright and his supporters had been seeking. Jackson was an admirer of James Madison and suggested the name to the Parks Commission.

James and Dolley Madison Room

James Madison The Madison Public Library named a meeting room on the Dolley Madisonsecond floor of its downtown library, which opened in June of 1965, after James Madison. Adolph Bolz, who had retired as senior vice president of Oscar Mayer and Co. in 1963, donated the portraits of James and Dolley Madison that grace the room.

James Madison Memorial High School

The newest Madison high school received its name on June 21, 1965 when the School Board chose to name the new "Memorial" high school for James Madison rather than John F. Kennedy, John Muir and Aldo Leopold on a 3 to 2 vote. Col. Jackson, who had suggested Madison's name for Conklin Park in 1963, wrote a letter to the School Board supporting the choice of James Madison as the name for the new school. Although the school opened in September of 1966, there was no portrait or other recognition of James Madison in the school until 1987. At that time, the Social Studies Department, in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, placed a portrait and a plaque on the wall outside the principal's office. The plaque recognizes James Madison "for his farsighted ideas which provided a framework for the Constitution and his dedication to balancing the rights of an educated people with the power of government."

The Madison Club

The Madison Club (5 E. Wilson St.), founded in 1909 as a private social club, also acquired a portrait of James Madison at the time of the Constitution's Bicentennial celebration. "Portrait of City's Namesake Unveiled" read the headline in the Wisconsin State Journal on April 26, 1989:

A portrait of the man who gave Madison its name was unveiled Tuesday at the private Madison Club by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Roland Day. The portrait ... is a reproduction of a work by Chester Harding. In a speech to about 50 club members, Day recalled how former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger helped him to get the portrait to help the city celebrate the bicentennial of the constitution last year. "He and I chanced to meet before a display showing James Madison's role in writing the constitution. We got to visiting and I told him I had been requested by the Madison Club to find a portrait of Madison we could hang in the club as part of our bicentennial celebration," he said. Last October, Day received a letter from Burger telling him that a duplicate portrait had been found in the National Art Gallery and was being sent to Madison (for display at the Madison Club).

Celebrate Madison 1987 Committee

On March 16, 1999, the City of Madison's 143rd birthday, Professor John Kaminski, Director of the U.W. Center for the Study of the American Constitution, was the keynote speaker at the birthday celebration the Madison Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists held in the Madison Public Library. He related the following story:

"One day I was coming back from lunch at the Madison Club with Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Roland Day. He and I have known John Kaminskieach other since we served on (Wisconsin's) Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution Commission together. He was the Chairman. I asked, as we walked by the Municipal Building, if he had seen the bust of Madison because relatively few people who don't work in that building have seen it. And his response to me was: "Oh, John, I don't want to talk about that." It turns out that he was the one who was approached by the Celebrate Madison 1987 Committee and turned it down for the State! He said, "I thought this was not a serious group." He was quite disappointed that he had turned them down because it is such an attractive bust." There are only two other statutes of James Madison in the entire country. There is one in Charlottesville, Virginia of Jefferson and Madison together and there is a larger-than-life statue of Madison in the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The bust in Madison is a fairly unique thing. It is the only bust of him that I am aware of."

In 1987, the bicentennial year of the U. S. Constitution, a group of people formed the Celebrate Madison 1987 Committee. Their goal was to educate themselves and other Wisconsinites about the prominent role that James Madison played in the development of the U.S. Constitution. The committee's advisory board consisted of Ms. Rosalie Beyer of Fond du Lac, Dr. Victor Okim of Madison, David C. Tebo of Shorewood, Luis Moroney of McFarland, David Keyser of Shorewood, Bishop S.T. Mann of Milwaukee, Rev. Dale Dempsey of Appleton, and Mrs. Nancy Tebo of Waupaca.

Wisconsin citizens were asked to donate $25 to become official committee members. In return, they received a button with the committee's logo, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and an information packet about James Madison. People donating $50 or more received the previous items plus a special award certificate for patriotic service printed on parchment and suitable for framing.

On August 13, 1987, the Shorewood Edition of the Herald published an article by Kathleen Wolski on the Celebrate Madison 1987 Committee, titled "Write on! Madison To Get His Due" She wrote that what began as an informal group interested in studying the Constitution evolved into a mission of sorts. "Despite being considered the father of the Constitution because of his central role in the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Madison is often overlooked in popular history," Tebo, who worked for the American Constitutional Committee and was the secretary of the Celebrate Madison 1987 Committee, was quoted as saying. "Madison was a different type of politician than the others (like Washington and Jefferson). He was a behind-the-scenes type of guy," he added. "He deserves much of the credit for forming our Constitution and later the Bill of Rights."

James Madison Bust

An outgrowth of the Committee's study sessions was the decision to commission a bronze bust of James Madison and have it placed on public display in the City of Madison, Wisconsin's capital. On May 8, 1987, Judye Frankowiak, a Milwaukee sculptor, was chosen to create the bust. The sculpture would be approximately 18 inches high, have a name plate be mounted on a stepped marble pedestal. The cost was $7,000 plus delivery to the site.

Judye was a self-employed sculptor working out of her North Light Sculpture Studio in Milwaukee. She was educated at Michigan State University, Newark (NJ) State College, and the Summit (NJ) Art Center. Between 1970 and 1978, she worked as an exhibits sculptor under contract to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Her studio provided custom-modeled diorama figures for museums throughout the country.

The Celebrate Madison Committee wrote to the Wisconsin State Capitol and Executive Residence Board (SCERB) requesting permission to place the bust on permanent display in the state Capitol. On June 3, 1987, State Representative Dave Travis, chair of SCERB, responded that he had forwarded the request to the Wisconsin Department of Administration. As a precaution, Rep. Travis suggested the Committee consider alternative locations, such as a Madison park or the City-County Building. Up to that time, he said, all previous requests had been denied because the Board felt the original design of the Capitol would have been affected.

Two weeks later, Neal Steinhoff, then administrator of the Division of Buildings and Grounds in the Department of Administration replied. He wrote that, in 1978, placement in the Capitol of a bust of Robert La Follette was turned down, and later a Veterans' Flag display met the same fate. As a result, SCERB had taken a formal position prohibiting permanent displays of any kind in the Capitol. He, also, suggested the City-County Building as a location.

The Celebrate Madison Committee then tried to have the bust displayed in the Capitol for just one year but that idea was also turned down. Members approached the State Historical Society of Wisconsin asking for a place to display the bust and were turned away. Finally Madison Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner accepted the bust and recommended that it be placed in the lobby of the newly-acquired Municipal Building across the street from the City-County Building. It was dedicated on October 14, 1987 with a speech by Professor John Kaminski, Director of the U.W. Center for the Study of the American Constitution.

The Committee had a difficult time raising money to pay for the bust. While the subscription plan was modest, donations came in slowly. By July 1987, only $2,800 had been raised. The committee then mailed a solicitation letter stating that individuals or groups who gave a substantial amount would have their names placed on a plaque attached to the pedestal on which the bust would sit. Two years after the bust was dedicated a plaque was added that lists the following names as major contributors: American Constitution Committee, Mills Fleet Farm, IBM, Wisconsin Power and Light Foundation, TCI Cablevision of Wisconsin, Madison Gas and Electric Foundation, Pizza Pit, David & Barbara Tebo and Howard and Chieko Self.

James Madison (Special Observance) Day

In the Fall of 1999, Historic Madison, Inc. joined the list of individuals and groups who have advocated for more recognition of James Madison. Historic Madison asked Representative Spencer Black to introduce a bill (1999 Assembly Bill 601, to amend Sec. 118.02 of the Wisconsin Statutes) into the state assembly to add Madison's birthday, March 16, to the list of "special days" that schools are encouraged to observe.

The Assembly Education Committee held a hearing a few weeks before Madison's 249th birthday. Professor John Kaminski was the primary spokesperson in favor of the bill. He began his testimony by citing a December 3, 1999 article in Isthmus entitled "Madison the Magnificent." The article concluded: "...After 200 years, much remains the same. Factions (special-interest groups) still play a vitally important role in American politics. Only the magnitude has changed ... People often say that the Founding Fathers favored government by gridlock. Certainly the Constitution puts obstacles in the way of radical change. But Madison and his colleagues believed in responsible government, government by compromise, and government that serves the interests of the American people. More than anything, Madison believed that government officials must be infused with an accommodating public spirit that subordinates all personal and partisan ambition for the good of the whole."

Historic Madison wrote the following letter to the Committee members in support of AB 601:

On June 28, 1836, former President James Madison died at his home in Virginia. Several hundred miles away lay the Wisconsin territory, where the settlers were working toward statehood. James Duane Doty used James Madisonthe popularity of this president, and the notoriety engendered by his death, as a tool for selling his idea to make his "paper" city into the new state capital a reality. As a major player in the drafting and passing of the country's Constitution and Bill of Rights, Doty knew that Madison was a hero not only to scholars but also to others who were shy and diminutive in stature. Over time, as Wisconsin's legislature has revised Section 118.02, James Madison's birthday has been disregarded. March 16, 2001 marks the 250th year of his birth. Historic Madison, Madison's historical society, would like to see this oversight corrected. Representative Spencer Black agreed to sponsor this legislation for us. We encourage you to pass this legislation so that students will benefit from learning about the "Father"of our country's Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The legislation failed due to little time left in the legislative session. Had it passed, Section 118.02 of the Wisconsin Statutes would have been changed to include the italicized and underlined language:

s. 118.02, Special Observance Days. On the following days when school is held the days shall be appropriately observed: January 15, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; February 12, Abraham Lincoln's birthday; February 15, Susan B. Anthony's birthday; February 22 George Washington's birthday; March 4, Casimir Pulaski Day; March 16, James Madison's birthday; April 13, American Creed Day; April 22, Environmental Awareness Day; September 16, Mildred Fish Harnack Day; September 17, U.S. Constitution Day; September 28, Frances Willard Day; October 9, Leif Erikson Day; October 12, Columbus Day; November 11, Veterans Day; and Wednesday of the third week in September, as part of Wonderful Wisconsin Week.

Historic Madison, Inc. will continue its commitment to seeing that a bill is introduced and enacted that will revise the statute to include James Madison.

James and Dolley Madison Stamps

The United States Postal Service has commemorated James and Dolley Madison with nine stamps: eight with James Madison's portrait and one with Dolley's. On October 18th, 2001 a new 34 cent definitive stamp honoring James Madison is scheduled to be issued at the Ameripex 2001 postage stamp convention in New York City to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth. Historic Madison, Inc., the Society of Professional Journalists and the United States Postal Service will conduct a Second Day of Issue ceremony in Madison at 10 AM on October 19th in the lobby of the Madison Municipal Building in front of the James Madison bust. A special Second Day commemorative cachet (envelope and cancellation) will be designed for the James Madison stamp. The event will be similar to the ceremony (and cachet) that Historic Madison organized in 1997 to commemorate the Second Day of Issue of the commemorative stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of Thornton Wilder's birth in Madison.

The City of Madison is fortunate to be named for such a distinguished person. The memorials to James Madison within the city are appropriate recognition for his contributions to the founding of the United States of America. A Wisconsin State Journal editorial published on the quadrimillennial (250th) anniversary of his birth concluded by saying: "The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights have been copied by countries throughout the world. No nation yet has devised a better system of government than the one envisioned by James Madison. His 250th birthday is worthy of note by far more people than just the residents of this and the 25 other American cities and villages called Madison."

Copyright 2001, Historic Madison Inc.
published on the Internet with permission