Griffith Park: Palo-Kangas Sculpture – Los Angeles CA

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Federal Art Project artist Uno John Palokangas (known as John Palo-Kangas) sculpted “Spirit of the CCC” (1935) for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) WWI Veterans Camp located at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA.

Also known as “Iron Mike,” the 10-foot Art Deco sculpture depicts a young man stripped to the waist and holding a shovel. World War I veteran Robert J. Pauley of Carmichael, CA, was the artist’s model. Palo-Kangas told a reporter that the work would be called “Conservation of Man and Nature.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the sculpture on October 1, 1935. During his visit to Los Angeles, David Kipen writes, Roosevelt “saw for himself how the New Deal had begun transforming the city. […] Roosevelt’s brief crib sheet for his address to the young men of the CCC survives in the archives of the FDR Presidential Library. His ‘INFORMAL EXTEMPORANEOUS REMARKS … AT THE UNVEILING OF THE STATUE ERECTED BY CCC TRANSIENT CAMP’ last all of three sentences: ‘I am glad to be here and take part in the dedication of this great statue. It is good to see you all. You are doing a splendid piece of work. (Applause)'”

James J. McEntee, Assistant Director of the CCC, dedicated a bronzed plaster of “Iron Mike” at the 1935-6 California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego, CA.

Both the original “Iron Mike” and the bronzed plaster had disappeared by the 1990s. However, the Griffith Park sculpture was replaced in 1993 by a bronze facsimile, located at the Park’s Travel Town Museum. California Chapter 55 of the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni initiated fundraising for the replacement, which was sculpted by Kansas-based artist Jim Brothers. Its dedication on October 1, 1993, “led to the design, construction and dedication of a new series of statues,” according to CCC Legacy’s website. “The new series of statues known as the CCC Workers Statues dot the American landscape in tribute to the men of the CCC.”

Source notes

David Kipen, "How the New Deal Continues to Shape L.A. 90 Years On" (KCET)

CCC Legacy, "Statue History"

Project originally submitted by Shaina Potts on September 6, 2010.
Additional contributions by Natalie McDonald.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

5200 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Location notes: The statue is located in front of the Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park.

Coordinates: 34.1536, -118.3087

2 comments on “Griffith Park: Palo-Kangas Sculpture – Los Angeles CA

  1. Craig Knapp

    How do I access records for the CCC camp located in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.


    • Andrew Laverdiere

      @Craig Knapp You might start with the Los Angeles library. They seem to have a number of CCC books including original reports. I managed to locate a 1938 yearbook of the various camps up here in the Fresno District, so there might be copies for your district also. Otherwise, you can send requests the archives in St. Louis

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