Libby Custer was born Elizabeth Clift Bacon in 1842 in Monroe, Michigan. She was intelligent and beautiful, but her choice of George Armstrong Custer as a husband did not sit well with her father, a prominent judge. He wanted her to marry a man of her own social class. When Custer was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General, however, Libby’s father relented, and the two were married in February 1864, in Monroe.
George A. Custer Statue
After her husband’s death at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, Libby Custer took it upon herself to uphold his good name, and lectured throughout the world about her life as a military wife. In 1902, she began to petition the government of Michigan to have a statue of her late husband erected in his honor. There was some discussion as to where the statue would be placed. Detroit wanted it, but since Detroit already had the statue of Governor Stevens T. Mason in Grand Circus, it was decided to give the Custer statue to Monroe.
Letters from Libby Bacon Custer
While searching through the Records of the Executive Office, 1810-1910 for a future exhibit, I came across some letters from Libby Custer to Michigan Governor Fred Warner. In her letters, Libby Custer thanks the Governor for moving legislation forward to erect a statue in her late husband’s honor. She makes it clear in the letter that she does not have a say in any decisions, but makes her wishes very clearly known, nonetheless. In a letter dated August 8, 1907, she states, “I shall answer at once that I have no voice in the selection of an artist and may not have, but what I can say to you is that I would feel very badly unless the statue was the work of a man, and one who has vigor and power to do a horse as well as a soldier. Much as I admire the work of women, there is a prettiness and weakness about their modeling that I deplore.”
In the summer of 1910, Elizabeth Bacon Custer got her wish when a fourteen-foot high, $24,000 bronze statue was unveiled in Monroe, Michigan. The statue was designed by Edward Clark Potter, who is best known for his design of the lions at the entrance of the New York Public Library.
Read a Letter from Libby!
The following four images depict the last four pages of Libby Custer’s August 8, 1907 letter to Governor Fred Warner. Continue clicking on the images to view enlarged versions.
Part of Libby Custer’s 1907 letter to Governor Fred Warner (Page 1)
Part of Libby Custer’s 1907 letter to Governor Fred Warner (Page 2)
Part of Libby Custer’s 1907 letter to Governor Fred Warner (Page 3)
Part of Libby Custer’s 1907 letter to Governor Fred Warner (Page 4)