Gary Stephenson of Fort Dodge addressed the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to request their permission to donate to the County, through sponsorships, a copy of a 1934 U.S. Constitution lithograph.
Stephenson is on a quest to have one copy of this Constitution lithograph placed in every county courthouse in Iowa. Of the 99 counties, Stephenson has finished 22 so far. He began this endeavor to honor his father, the late Daniel B. Stephenson.
It was Stephenson's father who began the project to get finished, matted and framed Constitution prints donated to a town's high schools, libraries, and, if a county seat so desired, also in the County Courthouse.
Since his father's passing in September of 2008, Stephenson has taken it upon himself to attempt to finish the courthouse portion of the project. Stephenson's father got the Constitution lithographs placed in 25 courthouses and in his endeavor, Stephenson has found three other courthouses with exactly the same Constitution lithographs.
Since beginning this endeavor, the first thing that Stevenson does is to get the approval of the county's Board of Supervisors. He then donates the lithograph to the county through sponsorships, in the form of recognition on a small plaque. He then has the actual framed print presented to the county by local veterans groups as a means of honoring all veterans.
The total price for this project is $700, and Stevenson doesn't ask for a dime from taxpayers or from county governments. He does ask for a $70 sponsorship from local business or individuals, and then tries to get 10 sponsors per county, although each county is different.
Stephenson does all the work, makes phone calls, and meets with potential sponsors. He stated that he is not doing this for the publicity, and certainly not doing this for the money.
"I am doing this more for people like Donald Eugene Scott, and the thousands of other Iowans who sacrificed fighting for this document and our freedoms." Stephenson said.
Donald Eugene Scott was a PFC in the US Army who was from Spencer, and he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal after being killed in action in Vietnam. His sister honored him by being a Constitution sponsor in Clay County.
The lithographs were found in a Chicago warehouse in 1987, and Stephenson's father began selling them in 1990. In 1998, the lithographs were digitally reproduced by Kenneth Atwood Hibben, the great-grandson of Harry Atwood. Their family had only a handful of the original 1934 printings of the artwork that was Illuminated by Nestore Leoni and he took it upon himself to have them "authentically reproduced" in 1998, so they could again make them available to the American people.
The well-known Leoni prints, which depict meaningful events in American History, have been in the Library of Congress for nearly a century.
The prints came about following the death of the well-known constitution attorney, Harry Atwood. M.S., in the 1930's. Atwood's widow commissioned the reproduction of the Leoni Illuminated Constitution, the original of which is exhibited in the main gallery on the second floor of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The printing plates were destroyed after a very limited number of reproductions were struck from the original engraving.
Stevenson's copy of the lithograph is 30 inches by 40 inches and is mounted on blue matting and framed with ornate gold. The Cherokee County Board liked what Stevenson had to offer and gave permission for Stevenson to go ahead and find local sponsors for the print, which will soon hang in the Cherokee Courthouse.
Anyone interested who is interested in donating for this copy of the Leoni Illuminated Constitution can contact Stevenson at 1270 7th Ave. North in Fort Dodge Ia, 50501, or call either (515) 576-2112 or (515) 573-7040.