Madonna of the Trail

Madonna of the Trail, Vandalia ILI took a country drive today, to photograph one of my favorite local portraits.   Although it is in the nearby town of Vandalia Illinois,  only a 20 minute drive from home, it is of national significance.

In the 1920’s the Daughters of the American Revolution spearheaded and raised the money for  a large project to highlight the bravery of the Pioneer woman.  Across the terrain  of early America the pioneer mother, traveling by foot and covered wagon, gathered her children round about her skirts,  and settled this big land, along side her hardworking man.

There are 12, ten  foot tall statues of the Madonna of the Trail which were  designed by Arlene B. Nichols Moss, and sculpted by August Leimbach, a sculptor from St. Louis.   They were cast in algonite stone (a casting material which incorporates granite as an aggregate and has a nice rosy hue to it). They were placed along the National Old Trails Highway from Bethesda, Maryland to Upland,  California. This highway was also known as the Cumberland Road.

Personally, I like this statue for its strength of form.  Nothing is weak or half-hearted.  Each element whether the woman’s bonnet, or the hand of the child clutching its mothers skirts, are thick, and strong. The side view of the skirt extended with the  woman’s bold stride, creates a triangular shape which is very grounding.

Having been designed in the 192o’s it certainly bears the formal trends of an Art Deco stylization. For me personally both this formal strength and the message of  bravery of the pioneer traveler,  speaks anew to our own time  of current crisis in America, and indeed across the globe.   It  takes  a special  courage  again to  maintain  a home and to raise a family well,  with so many jobs  being lost  across the land.

The Madonna of the Trail speaks to my own heart  about what is truly essential to live the good life.

Read more about the Madonna of the Trail at Wikipedia:


5 responses to “Madonna of the Trail

  1. do you have any idea where i might purchase a small rendition of the “madonna of the trail” statue?…thanks for any leads you may have…ld

    • sculptedportrait

      No I do not Larry, but I think it’s a worthy project. I am so enchanted by this statue, too!

      I am going to check in to see if there are copyright restrictions…..if not, I may sculpt it and offer it. Please check back.


  2. Pingback: Mile 83 – Madonna of the Trail, Beallsville, Pa. « Explore U.S. 40

  3. Hi! Just wanted to let you know I’m currently biking across the country to visit the 12 Madonnas with my 3yo daughter. You can read about our journey at or at thanks for the great info! Angela

    • How exciting an adventure! Should you be free for coffee or a juice when you reach Vandalia, please let me know. If I’m not at work, would be my treat. I am so impressed with adventurers like you!

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