Born in Elmwood, Illinois in 1860, a distant relation to President William Howard Taft, Lorado Taft earned a bachelors and then masters degree at the university before leaving for Paris in 1880 to study sculpting with some of the leading French masters of his day. Upon returning to America in 1886 he settled in Chicago and was soon teaching at the Art Institute as well as lecturing at Northern Illinois university and the University of Chicago.
In 1892 he was tasked with finishing the sculptures and adornments for the upcoming Columbian Exposition and was given permission to use women students to speed up the work. This was pioneering as up to that point only men were allowed to work on major pieces. He hired several women to help him and they became known as the 'White Rabbits', many of whom became renowned in their own right.
Today there are dozens of his sculptures dotting the landscape of the country, adorning buildings, city parks, even statuary in cemeteries. We are fortunate that many of these famous works are right here in Illinois. Last week I wrote about the Eagles Nest, his artist's colony overlooking the Rock River. Today let me tell you about the sculpted monument in courthouse square.
In 1916 Taft was commissioned to produce a monument to the heroics of the boys of Ogle county for their sacrifices in the Civil war and the Spanish-American war. He produced three sculptures, one in bronze and two in marble and today it is on the National Register of Historic Places. So if you ever find yourself in need of a day trip to satisfy bored children or you want to dive into history, consider a trip up to Oregon.