Monument Avenue: Jefferson Davis Monument

The United Daughters of the Confederacy were the main supporters of the Davis Monument and, in 2018, it was deemed the “most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment.”

By Christina K. Vida
Elisa H. Wright Curator of General Collections
Typed table showing funds raised by the UDC from 22 states and other organizations around the country for the Jefferson Davis Monument.
Summary of UDC fundraising for the Davis Monument from across the United States, 1903, Edward V. Valentine Papers, Valentine Museum.

Within weeks of Jefferson Davis’ death in December 1889, a group of men organized a memorial association with the sole focus of erecting a monument to the former President of the Confederacy. Fundraising stalled but in 1896 the group laid a cornerstone in Richmond’s Monroe Park with the hopes it would spur on donors.  

In 1899, the mainly male members of the Jefferson Davis Monument Association admitted they did not have the capacity to furnish the monument and turned the project over to the five-year-old United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The UDC brought in funds from around the country.  

In 1903 they hired Richmond architect William C. Noland and commissioned Richmond sculptor, Edward V. Valentine (1838-1930), to create the statue of Jefferson Davis and other supporting sculptures for the monument. The UDC was intimately involved in the design of the monument, to the point of taking committee votes as to whether Davis should be depicted standing or seated.   

A design in pencil by Edward Valentine of the Jefferson Davis Monument with a tall pillar surrounded by lowered colonnade and a seated figure of Davis in the middle.
Edward Valentine’s early sketch of the Jefferson Davis Monument showing Davis seated, around 1904, Edward V. Valentine Papers, The Valentine.

In 1904, Valentine wrote to Mrs. McCullough of the UDC: “I am striving to bring to light historic truth first – then artistic beauty. I may not be as eminently successful in the latter as I would like, but I insist that that monument – that design, shall be an object lesson without an historic flaw mistake – trustworthy in its inscriptions and symbolism, any departure from actual fact would render it as useless a memorial, pitifully worthless.” 

The UDC raised funds from around the United States to pay for the monument. In the end, the monument cost about $70,000, or nearly $2.2 million in today’s dollars. 



Need to cite this?

Authors Christina K. Vida
Work Title Monument Avenue: Jefferson Davis Monument
Published October 3, 2023
Updated May 24, 2024
Copyright © 2024 The Valentine Museum