WBOC project cited in StarTribune letter on Capitol art controversy

Gettysburg painting in Governor's Reception Room
Battle of Gettysburg oil painting by Rufus Zogbaum, in the Governor's Reception Room at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Minnesota Historical Society

The Who Built Our Capitol? documentary was cited in a letter to the editor by project researcher David Riehle on the controversy over display of Civil War battle paintings in the Governor's Reception Room. (Minneapolis StarTribune, December 2, 2016, page A8)  


Here is some better context for the ‘Civil War paintings’ debate

Regarding “Civil War paintings spur war of words at State Capitol” (Nov. 30): The assertion that “[m]any of those veterans helped build the Capitol, which was completed in 1905” is not correct. The average age of a Civil War veteran of the Union Army was just under 26 years. Major construction of the Capitol got underway in 1896, when the statistically average veteran would have been at least 60, way too old for the hazardous and physically demanding construction work in that era before workers’ compensation. The six workers who were killed on the project ranged in age from late teens to early 30s.

In our research for the documentary film “Who Built Our Capitol?”, created by Randy Croce of the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, we found no workers who were anywhere near that age, nor any who were identified as Civil War veterans. Further, most of them were immigrants or children of immigrants. John Rachac, the very senior chief carpenter on the project, was in his teens when his Bohemian immigrant family’s train was held up in Philadelphia for several days in July 1863 while the Battle of Gettysburg raged.

In their rush to wrap themselves in the flag of ostentatious patriotism, the obvious failure by the New Republicans (party of Trump, not Lincoln) to acknowledge what central issue the war was fought over — the extinction of human slavery imposed on 4 million African-Americans, is hardly accidental.