Frederick C. Hibbard, 1904
The first sculpture on campus, The Pioneer was a 1905 gift of Simeon B. Bell of Wyandotte County, Kan., a physician and real-estate speculator. In memory of his late wife, Bell donated land and funding for the Eleanor Taylor Bell Memorial Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., which became the University of Kansas School of Medicine and the University of Kansas Hospital.
Bell purchased the bronze, originally titled The Corn Planter, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It is by Frederick C. Hibbard of Chicago and was cast by the American Bronze Foundry Co. of Chicago. Bell presented it to the university in hopes it might help succeeding generations “understand the difficulties and handicaps early Kansans encountered.”
In storage until 1916, the statue was first sited in front of Spooner Library. In 1920 it was moved to the west end of campus and mounted on a base donated by the Class of 1920 on the site of the present-day Chi Omega Fountain. In 1926 it was moved to the east side of old Fraser Hall; it was reinstalled in 1969 at its current site south of new Fraser, near a plaque marking the location of Civil War trenches and barracks.
The bronze, of a farmer sowing corn in a trench he is digging with a spade, is 5 feet 11¼ inches tall. Its base is 1 foot 4 inches by 2 feet 6 inches. The inscription “1856” on the base may commemorate the year Bell and his family moved to Kansas from Ohio.
The piece is an early work by Hibbard (1881-1950), a prolific sculptor who had a studio in Chicago from 1904 to 1948. His works include sculptures of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Mark Twain, and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.