Donato's 'Dance of Eternal Spring', Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Donato's 'Dance of Eternal Spring', Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

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One of the most famous legends about chocolate maker Milton S Hershey involves a fountain that he bought for his mansion in Hershey, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s.

The story goes that when Hershey saw the 'Dance of Eternal Spring' fountain with its three nude nymphs, it so offended his conservative Pennsylvania Dutch tastes that he refused to have it placed on the grounds of his home.

In all fairness, the fountain is beautiful and the model the sculptor chose for the three nymphs was one of America's great beauties of the day... Madeline Stokes.

Born Amanda Straw in Fishing Creek Valley just north of Harrisburg in 1875, she changed her name to Madeline Stokes after moving to Philadelphia and taking to the vaudeville stage. She was a much sought after model into her late 30s, gracing the cover of numerous magazines. Alexander Caldwell II used her as a model for a sundial in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park and her likeness graces a mural in the governor's reception room in Pennsylvania's State Capitol. She also is said to have danced in the nude at a night club in New York City for $5 a night.

Scandalous. No wonder Mr Hershey didn't want the statue in his garden.

However, the truth behind the story might have more to do with Hershey's legendary Pennsylvania Dutch tendency to be conservative with his money than with his conservative tastes.

In 1909, Hershey hired Philadelphia sculptor Giuseppe Donato to produce a fountain for his garden. Hershey and Donato supposedly agreed to a final price of $3100 and Hershey made a $2000 downpayment. When the work was completed, the bill was for $31,000 - 10 times the original agreement.

Whatever his reasons, Hershey refused to pay for the statue and Donato eventually won a $24,000 decision in court. Surely the legal defeat left a bitter taste in the sweets-maker's mouth and that statue sat in a crate at the Hershey railroad station until 1920 when he donated the it to Harrisburg City's Reservoir Park.

It remained there for 18 years until the J Horace McFarland Rose Garden at the Polyclinic Hospital opened. There it became a tradition for the seniors of the School of Nursing to clothe the nymphs in lingerie the night before graduation.

In 1971 the hospital paved over the rose garden to make a parking lot and the fountain was moved to another city park. At the July 16 unveiling at Italian Lake was a special guest, Madeline Stokes herself1.

1Sadly, she died a year later at the age of 98.

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