Great White Buffalo
The sculpture of the Great White Buffalo, resides on the grounds of the Kansas Historical Society headquarters in Topeka. It was created by the artistic talents of native Kansan Lumen Martin Winter, whose other works include the completion of the Kansas State Capitol murals in 1976.
The estate of N. Clyde Degginger funded for the statue. Degginger managed his family's general store and grain business in Doniphan County. It was his wish to for the Historical Society to acquire a work of art depicting a significant event or character in the history of Kansas and to place the work on public land in Topeka. Artists were invited to submit designs for a three-dimensional work under the lines of the Degginger bequest. The Historical Society's executive committee ultimately selected Winter's concept of a Great Plains legend from more than 50 entries.
Winter, who lived in New Rochelle, New York, had grown up near Larned and Belpre. After studying at the Cleveland School of Art and the National Academy of Design he became an internationally known artist. Winter wanted to express his love of Kansas by having a three-dimensional creation of his own placed in the state before he died.
Taking almost two years to complete, the sculpture is made of eight tons of white Ravaccione marble, named for the Italian locale where it formed. and it expresses his love of Kansas. Unfortunately, he never saw it completed. He died suddenly in the spring of 1982 and his son William, working from the designs of his father, saw the statue to its completion. The statue was dedicated October 18, 1983.
The statue portrays a buffalo and an American Indian living in harmony. The man is not attempting to harm the buffalo, but rather merely signals his presence by touching the blunt end of his spear to the buffalo's back. It is this spirit of universal harmony, peace, and love between man and nature that Winter shares through his sculpture.
No one knows just how many white buffalo ever inhabited the Great Plains. They were valued so highly and killed so quickly. Only 10 or 11 white buffalo or white buffalo robes were documented. The first white buffalo killed in Kansas by white settlers became known as the Morgan buffalo. Killed by James and John Morgan in 1870, the buffalo was mounted and displayed from town to town until 1875. In 1876 it went to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, then returned to a home in a glass case in the Kansas State Capitol. In 1903 the buffalo, then in storage, was taken away by an unidentified woman and never returned.
Entry: Great White Buffalo
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2004
Date Modified: February 2012
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