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The Rhode Island Red Monument

One of the joys of travel is stumbling upon roadside curiosities. On my pilgrimage to visit a favorite hero of King Philip’s War I came across a monument to the Rhode Island Red that drew my attention. The Rhode Island Red is a hen, of course, that famously and productively laid eggs particularly well, which led to breeding of this particular character to make eggs a common and reliable staple of our diet. It seems the Rhode Island Red was first bred on a farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

In 1925 a group of Rhode Island Red enthusiasts erected this monument to the hen, commissioning an artist named Henry Norton to make it. But here’s where the story gets interesting. One group wanted the monument to be erected at the actual farm where the hens were first bred. Another group wanted it in a more prominent location in town (where I came across it, validating their choice I suppose). For a small town, this was pretty heated, with both sides trying to establish a pecking order. At the unveiling of the first monument the opposing group didn’t show up, apparently feeling the location was pretty… fowl. A year later they erected their own monument at their preferred site. The 1925 monument features a rooster, the 1926 monument features a hen. But a well-placed hen. They really showed ’em.

The 1925 Rhode Island Red Monument

The inscription on the 1925 monument reads:
“To commemorate the birthplace of the
Rhode Island Red breed of fowl which
originated near this location
red fowls bred extensively by
the farmers of this district and later
named “Rhode Island Reds” and brought into
national prominence by the poultry fanciers
this tablet placed by the
Rhode Island Red Club of America
with contributions of Rhode Island Red
breeders throughout the world
on land donated by
Deborah Manchester

This entire incident is described in the monument’s Wikipedia page in delightful detail. Not having the back story when I came across the monument, I wasn’t aware of the other monument. Now I feel compelled to return to Little Compton again sometime to find it. In the meantime, Norton’s 1925 monument quietly marks time, closing in on its 100th birthday. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, this monument to a chicken has secured its own place in history.

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