Memory and the Myth of Albertus C. Van Raalte: How Holland, Michigan, Remembers Its Founding Father

These memorials honor the doctrines and deeds of exceptional men and, less frequently, women. They are also manifestations of various ideals, promoting such virtues as individualism, sturdiness, sacrifice, leadership, and vision, all essential qualities on the American frontier but thought to be lacking in today’s society. John Bodnar observes that “the pioneer was a popular historical symbol in midwestern commemorations during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. [The pioneer symbol’s] appeal to ordinary people resided in its vernacular meaning of sturdy ancestors who founded ethnic communities and families, preserved traditions in the face of social change, and overcame hardship. These defenders of vernacular culture were especially important to midwesterners who were anxious about the pace of economic centralization and the impact of urban and industrial growth upon their local places.”