Ohio Icon: These Are My Jewels

Photo courtesy of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board

Location: On the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse at the northwest quadrant of Capitol Square. Provenance: Created for an Ohio exhibit at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, These Are My Jewels is a sculpture featuring bronze statues of seven Ohioans — Salmon P. Chase, James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Philip H. Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Edwin M. Stanton — as well as the figure of a Roman noblewoman, Cornelia Africana.

The sculpture’s concept originated with Mansfield newspaper editor Roeliff Brinkerhoff, and it’s based on an anecdote about Cornelia and her sons, the military and political leaders Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus. As the story goes, Cornelia was visited by some wealthy women who were showing off their expensive jewelry. When the women asked if she had any finery, Cornelia produced her sons and declared, “These are my jewels.”

Funded by the state of Ohio, These Are My Jewels cost $30,000 and was sculpted by Cleveland artist and architect Levi Scofield. It honored six Ohioans when displayed in Chicago, but after the Columbian Exposition closed, the sculpture was moved to Columbus and another Buckeye State gem — Rutherford B. Hayes — was added at the suggestion of Ohio Governor William McKinley.

Significance: In keeping with Brinkerhoff’s assertion that Ohio’s greatest asset is her people, Cornelia symbolizes Ohio, and the statues arrayed on a granite base beneath her outstretched arms depict Ohioans who played significant national roles during and after the Civil War. Stanton was Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, while Chase was both Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury and the Supreme Court’s chief justice. Grant commanded the Union army; Sherman’s “March to the Sea” hastened the Confederacy’s defeat; Sheridan was a cavalry hero; Garfield fought at Shiloh and Chickamauga; and Hayes, who was McKinley’s army comrade, suffered combat wounds at Stone Mountain and other battles. Grant, Hayes, and Garfield also served, respectively, as the 18th, 19th, and 20th U.S. presidents.

Currently: These Are My Jewels is unique to Ohio and has been a Capitol Square landmark since 1894. Having graced the 10-acre site longer than prominent pieces such as the William McKinley Monument and Christopher Columbus Discovery Monument, it’s possibly the most famous work in the Statehouse’s outdoor art collection.

It’s a little-known fact that: James Thurber included the sculpture in “The Day the Dam Broke,” his humorous short story about a fabricated Columbus flood. “Outside, men were streaming across the Statehouse yard, others were climbing trees,” wrote Thurber. “A woman managed to get up onto the These Are My Jewels statue, whose bronze figures of Sherman, Stanton, Grant, and Sheridan watched with cold unconcern the going to pieces of the capital city.”