“Mrs. Butterworth” (First Lady Julia Grant) statue
Location: Galena, Illinois
When to visit: Any time during daylight hours
Time needed to enjoy: 5-10 minutes
In 1860, General Ulysses S. Grant moved to the town of Galena, Illinois, on the western side of the state, near Iowa. He left to participate in the Civil War and returned a hero.
Galena created a tribute to his wife Julia with a 9.5-foot tall statue, erected in 2006 outside the Grant Home, a historic museum.
Unfortunately, many locals feel the statue looks more like Mrs. Butterworth, the famous syrup bottle, and have taken to referring to it as such. Some mock the fact that the statue doesn’t exactly make Julia look like a beautiful woman.
But site superintendent Terry Miller, who had the idea for the statue, said those concerns are overblown and pointed out that very few women have been honored with statues.
Which is a great point. So few women have their own statues… should we really be nitpicking about the statue’s appearance?
For what it’s worth, Julia’s great-great-grandson, Ulysses Grant Dietz, said after seeing the statue, “It didn’t strike me as a statue that was either flattering or beautiful in itself and possibly not the best way to honor her.”
Julia Grant Biography
The former first lady has quite a legacy that shouldn’t be overlooked. The NPS has an extensive list of her life history and accomplishments. When her husband was in office, she helped him review his mail and regularly met with legislators.
Born in 1826 in St. Louis to a prominent family with ties to the city’s elite society, Julia was well-educated and was exposed to a wide variety of cultural experiences. She married Ulysses in 1848, and the two shared a happy and devoted relationship throughout their lifetime.
Julia was an outgoing and active First Lady, often taking part in social activities, attending receptions, and traveling with her husband during his presidency. She was known for being socially conscious, advocating for equal rights and opportunities for women and African Americans.
Following Ulysses’ death in 1885, Julia continued to take an active role in society, working to preserve his legacy and even becoming a noted philanthropist.
She created the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Monument, worked to create the first veterans’ hospital in New York, and dedicated her time to several charities and organizations. She passed away in 1902 at the age of 76.
For fans of Ulysses himself, he has his own statue in Galena as well, just a couple blocks from Julia. Stop by and attempt to recreate his pose!
President Grant’s Home is open to tourists from 9 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Tours are about 30 minutes long and cost $5 admission.
Illinois is becoming known as one of the quirkiest states in the union. Consider that the state is also home to the white squirrels in Olney, the Leaning Tower of Niles, and the Rockford Sock Monkey statues.
If you’re up for a quirky road trip through Illinois, you might as well hit them all!