The Spirit of Detroit


“Color 16mm film with optical sound containing the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority 1959 public service informational film “The Spirit of Detroit,” about the completion, installation, and dedication of Marshall Fredericks’ titular statue outside of the City-County Building the previous year. A title card notes that the film was “photographed as a public service by: the Chrysler Corporation, Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, City of Detroit Reports and Information Committee.” The film features a narrator and music over otherwise silent shots of the events.

After a brief introduction showing the state and Marshall Fredericks, works are filmed applying a patina to the bronze-cast pieces in Norway. They then construct a frame to support the burlap-covered sculpture during its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the German freighter THOMAS SCHULTE. The camera rolls as the sculpture is loaded into the freighter by crane.

The SCHULTE is then shown being unloaded at the port of Detroit after its arrival on September 20, 1958. First Fredericks and the customs officials inspect the miniatures of the statue which were shipped along with it. A crane is then employed to lift the statue from the ship onto a Dearborn Machinery Movers flatbed trailer on the shore.

At the City-County Building, a crowd has gathered to watch the installation. Two cranes are used to lift and tilt the statue into position. Frederick and his family are shown watching the move.

The film then moves forward three days to the statue’s formal dedication on September 23, 1958. Former mayor and secretary of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority Eugene Van Antwerp presides over the occasion as the master of ceremonies. The event also features an invocation by Reverend Alan A. Zahn, a performance by the Department of Parks and Recreation Civic Center Coral, Norwegian consulate general Elvin Berg, Marshall Fredericks, Monsignor Edward J. Hickey, Charles F. Edgecomb of the Wayne County Board of Auditors, Mayor Louis C. Miriani, and a closing benediction from Rabbi Morris Adler.

The film closes after the narrator discusses the seals and the quote from 2 Corinthians behind the figure, as well as the symbolism of the sphere and family held in the statue’s hands.”


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